For the book I’m currently working on, my world is an unnamed future after America has fallen and been rebuilt into a new country with different borders and with provinces instead of states. My MC has grown up in an independent city, free from the government’s reign and influence (a la NBC’s Revolution), except she is living in a scavenging city that lies outside an abandoned province.
What I did here, is basically take an entire chunk of land (similar to a modern state), and leave it abandoned in the wake of a war. I’m going to track through a few of the problems that I’ve faced, and what I did to approach a solution.
The Size Of Places:
I wanted to have the entire province be set up so that it was contained within a valley. Then I did a bit of Google Earth Mapping, and realized that the small series of cities I had imagined to comprise an entire province was a gross underestimation of how much space a province would actually take up. Apparently, it’s bigger on the inside (reference to Doctor Who, if you didn’t catch it at first). That’s how I feel about creating a world, too. It’s always a much bigger task than you initially envision.
The solution: If you’re world is based off of or located on Earth, it helps to do some straightforward research on size, and get a sense of that size. Want to know how long it takes to get across a soccer stadium? Go to a stadium and go for a walk! Plus, it’s good exercise.
What Caused The War:
Otherwise known as what happened before this story starts? It’s easy to get wrapped up in the Here And Now of what your MC is up to. It’s very important to have a solid foundation for the world you’re going to ask a reader to join you in. Especially since a lot of the information that drives my MC to act comes from what happened before.
The solution: I like to come up with the story and back-story as I go along sometimes. If you’re like me, that’s totally fine. Just be aware that it can lead to a lot of heavy revision once you finally make the decisions.
Just be sure that when you include back-story and history, it runs the risk of bogging down the reader with too much information and not enough story in the here and now.
How Much Has Changed In 20 Years:
It was easy for me to say “The valley has been abandoned and unused for twenty years!” But then I had the issue of actually needing to put my characters in that valley. I needed to do some research to figure out what the condition of the buildings would be, what sort of animal wildlife would have taken residence and in what sort of places, what sort of dangers my characters could face, and how much time it would take to traverse such a place.
The solution: Watch a couple episodes of “Life After People” (History Channel Gem, found on YouTube here).