No matter how real or fantastic it is, your story world needs to feel like a place you’ve known your whole life. You are the kid on the block who’s explored the gutters at two in the morning because you can’t sleep. In your world, you’re the one who knows every ally and shortcut. You know the parts of the city, town, forest, planet, building or ocean that your characters haven’t even heard of. You are the god of this world. You create the storms and bring out the sun. You know how the characters’ actions will change their environment. You know whether the seeds they plant will flourish or die. You know every brick, stone and sewer pipe.
When you know your story world that well, you know, as you write, what story will work there and which one won’t.
You will know that the story you are building there won’t work any where else. It belongs in that world. The one you created.
So if something in your novel or short story isn’t working, maybe it isn’t the characters or the plot. Look instead to the world they inhabit. Is the world fully formed? When you close your eyes and explore it, is it clear or foggy? Do the locals let you in? Or when you walk the streets are they empty with the doors barred? What do your characters do when you walk into the bar? When you’re not writing, but just exploring the place, what do you see? Who do you talk to? Who talks back?
Your characters inhabit your world, but they will only come out to play when you are willing to do your world justice.
Do you get what I mean? If it’s a little off-weird, I apologise. Or maybe I don’t. Maybe I just need to invite you into my world so you know what I mean.
Get your boots on then…