World-Building and Quick Research For #NaNoWriMo

I am finding that I have not done enough detailed world-building to write my WIP as fast as I would like. My novel requires a real-world suburban neighbourhood, a parallel fantasy world – including fantastical creatures, and magic that works in both worlds.

The real world neighbourhood is the neighbourhood I actually live in with modifications and the realistic scenes that happen in that world are easy to write. The rest of the worlds, including the fantastical elements that intrude into the real world are challenging because I am not yet comfortable with the details of the world.

I had intended to spend October world-building, but life got wild and my preparation got slighted.

I have developed a quick research approach to support me during NaNoWriMo while allowing me to push forward on the story without filling my entire manuscript with notes like the following:

[Needs a magical herb for protection against evil that smells distinctive when boiled.]

My trick is to let myself type the basic description of what I need into a search engine and pick an answer from the first page of search results. By refusing to visit other pages for more information, I am using the search results as a writing prompt. I may later choose to change some of the details, but for this first draft, I am picking details from a limited set of choices and forcing my imagination to work them into the story.

The herb I wanted in the example above didn’t come to me as I was writing, but after checking out a search engine, I came back to my writing and wrote a scent-inspired memory for my main character that fleshed out her experience of the main scene.

Sure, it’s slower than I want, but I keep churning words out. I also feel like I am serving the story, not merely putting words on my page. I’ll let you know during revisions whether these details still serve the story. I think they will.


About Kate Arms-Roberts

Posted on November 12, 2010, in This Writing Life. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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