On Urban Fantasy Worldbuiding

April 2, 2019

As part of the launch tour for my new book, UMBRA, the lovely Megan O’Russell asked me to share five things that drive my urban fantasy worldbuilding.

So without further ado, here are my top three engines for writing urban fantasy!

 

Factor Number Three. Go back three generations

When I start world building, I force myself to go back three generations and think up the backstory that got the world to the present day. In UMBRA, there’s a new authoritarian government that just took over ruling the United Americas. Why did this happen? I’ll outline all this, but the detail never shows up on the page.

 

A big thing from this back-planning was the lack of new manufacturing in my version of Earth. If you wanted a shirt, you need to go find it in a landfill. So the main character from book one, SCYTHE, worked in what’s called a reclamation center, which is a fancy way of saying she picked through garbage for a living.

 

Factor Number Two. Get inside the alien’s head

The main character in UMBRA is an alien from another planet called (you guessed it) Umbra. I thought for a long time about making the planet super-high tech and all stainless steel, but I don’t think that’s what a futuristic society would really want. I decided that when you’ve been incredibly high tech for a while, then you’re want to pretend you’re back in simpler times. So the planet Umbra is made to look like the Wild West, but is actually made from tiny filaments that are packed with technology. Touch a wall and it turns into long fibers that part to allow you to leave, that kind of thing.

 

Factor Number One: It’s not fantasy for your characters

One of the hardest things about intense world building is the desire to shout on every page, guess how I solved this problem? Want to know the history behind that character? But my characters aren’t interested in yelling their backstories, they simply want to live their lives. So the trick is placing in enough info dumps that the reader knows about this foreign world, but not so many that it pulls away from the narrative.

 

So there you have it – the three biggest factors I consider when building fantasy worlds. I had a blast making this list and hope to return on a future tour!

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Megan O'Russell

Fantastic Worlds. Unlikely Heroes.

Megan O'Russell

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