Just wanted to let you know that Marissa Meyer, author of Cinder and Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles series) will be in the UK on 26th March in Bromley and if you can make it, you should totally go! Unfortunately, I am unable to attend due to work commitments and so I've got the next best thing - please help me welcome Marissa Meyer to the blog today to talk about world building. Take it away, Marissa.
World-building is a long, somewhat slow process, one that I never feel is entirely finished. I don’t know if there are writers who can envision, wholly and completely, a brand-new fictional world on the first go, but I’m certainly not one of them. For me, the world comes in layers. Many, many layers, made up of many, many details.
When I first started planning The Lunar Chronicles, I wanted the series to have a global feel—largely because many of the problems facing the characters, such as a worldwide plague pandemic and an approaching war, are global problems—but I was worried about the series getting bogged down with politics, diplomats, and governmental processes. So I decided to simplify all that early on by conglomerating all of Earth down into only six countries. I looked at a globe, decided what those countries would be and what land each of them would incorporate, and ta-da: an instant map, a brand-new Earth.
But world-building is so much more than drawing up territories and giving each of them a name. Although The Lunar Chronicles will span three different continents throughout the series (each with their own world-building challenges, as I’ve discovered), I’ll focus on The Eastern Commonwealth, where Cinder begins her journey. The Commonwealth comprises most of Asia, the Middle East, the Pacific Islands, and Siberia. Because there are so many rich and unique cultures within those areas, I wanted to touch on as many of them as possible. Yes, Chinese is the central focus point (the capital city is New Beijing, after all), but I also wanted readers to grasp that the Commonwealth is made up of Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Indian, Thai, and oh-so-many other cultures, traditions, and histories. To integrate them all, I might mention a style of clothing, or a location-specific food dish, or cultural symbolism, and hope they all work together.
And then there are issues of world-building that come strictly from one’s imagination. The hatred people feel toward cyborgs and Lunars (and where that hatred came from). The technology that has infiltrated so much of Cinder’s world. How a society might react to the ongoing turmoil created by the plague and how that would influence everything from economics to population.
With every decision we make in the building of our worlds, we’re adding another layer. Another detail. And it’s those details, I think, that truly create the world. Not the maps or the country names or the intricate history we’ve created. Rather, it’s the hum of magnets beneath a street. The smell of antiseptic in a quarantine lab. The chatter of video advertisements in a crowded city square. Small bats embroidered along a mandarin collar—a symbol to bring good luck. The details start to come to life on the page. They start to work together to create something rich and interesting and real. And then, suddenly, we realize we’ve created an entire world for our characters.
If we’re lucky, it becomes as real to the reader as it has to us.
Thank you Marissa!! Cinder was published on 5th January, 2012 and Scarlet was published on 7th February, 2013 in the UK. To find out more about Marissa Meyer and her books, please click here to visit her website.
And....just in case you can't make it to the event, here is the lady herself.