A few years ago, I went to a panel on world-building at a con I was kind of cautious because my experience with any kind of world-building always started with this recommendation:
Buy a 3-right binder and a pack of tabs. Take this list of questions and answer every single one about your world. Only then can you write your story.
Pretty much a huge turn off to a pantser like me. It was one of the reasons I didn’t do speculative fiction for a long time. By the time I did all that recommended world building, I’d have lost interest not only in the story but even the world.
But this panel did something different, and I was reminded of while I was working on a scene. They said, first just start writing the story, then world build…because otherwise it’s possible to never get around to writing the story.
They also said to think about why cities or towns were built in a particular location, and this got really interesting because I hadn’t thought of cities like that before.
With a lot of the modern cities, it’s not always that obvious. If you walked out to Alexandria, VA today and looked around, you would never know that it was site of bustling tobacco trade in the 1700s. Now pleasure boats are hooked up to the docks and people feed the ducks.
There are also ruins in Egypt for places that no longer exist because the Nile changed course and that part of the world dried up. Clive Cussler did a novel called Sahara with something similar where there was a river in the 1800s and a Confederate ironclad got into the river. Shipwreck in the desert!
Still one of my favorite books. But I digress.
I wandered in this direction today because in my scene I have a town that’s kind of in the middle of nowhere. And it really is about connecting the dots and making sure all those connections get into the story. I was surprised at how many pieces were already there…creative brain was just sitting back and laughing at me until I figured it out.
For your reading pleasure, some interesting reading on why cities are built where they are.