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J Bennett Builds a World…Or Might Die Trying

August 12th, 2017 3 comments

So, I’m writing this new novel. No, it’s not ready yet. Sorry ‘bout that, but you’re just going to have to hold your horses and let me do my thing. So, new novel. Writing it, that’s what I’m doing. Thing is, it’s some pretty slow going. I really wanted to challenge myself with this WIP. Work in progress sounds so lame. The book doesn’t have a name yet, so let’s call her Sleeping Beauty.

Where was I? Oh yeah, this thing is hard. (Don’t take that out of context.) The challenge is that Sleeping Beauty has a bit of science fiction going on and a bit of fantasy as well. (Yeah, I’m a whole lot of excited about this, too.) It takes place on a totally different planet, and the people on the planet have been doing their own thing, evolving, creating traditions, making up their own looney sports for over a hundred years. Basically, I’ve also got to create an entire planet and all the people on it!

Enter The Planet Construction Kit

It’d be so awesome if there were some kind of manual to create your own planet. Fortunately, my fairy godmother was good to me. She built a time machine (she’s handy like that), went back in time, and convinced a guy named Mark Rosenfelder to just such a manual. And just to make sure I wouldn’t miss it, she somehow convinced him to name his book, The Planet Construction Kit. (Let’s not ask what my fairy godmother had to do to get that favor.)

Planet Construction Kit by Mark Rosenfelder

This book is awesome!

To put it simply, this book is awesome. Rosenfelder is basically the smartest person in the universe. Need to know how two suns would affect a planet? He’s on it. Want to know everything there is to know about making fabrics? He’s got your back. Need to create a whole new language? Well, he actually wrote a whole separate book about that!

In some regards, The Planet Construction Kit is a little overwhelming. There’s just so much here, but Mark’s true genius, I think, is that he forces writers (along with video game developers, conworlders, and D&D Dungeon Masters) to recognize that everything on a planet is interlinked. A planet’s environment is going to affect what foods the people eat, what clothes they wear, and even their attitudes. A society will likely develop a completely different hierarchy and belief system based on if resources are rare versus abundant.

In turn, a society’s social mores will affect what people do, how they act towards one another, and how they evolve as a society. We are all products of our society one way or another (whether we reject normal social mores, embrace them, or seek to change them). Every person is also a product of their own history and so is a society. American culture is still affected by our Protestant roots and by our fight for Independence from Britain. We still also struggle with the implications of how we treated African Americans and Native Americans in the past. Our past illuminates our present.

A fantasy planet is no different. Its people will have a history. That history will affect their current condition. That current condition will play a role in the perspectives and motivations of every character.

Trying to Make Sense of It All

It’s a lot to think about, and it’s one of the reasons I’m plodding so slowly on writing Sleeping Beauty. I want to build my planet the right way, with lots of rich history. I need to take time to learn about the agriculture for the different kingdoms, the leadership structure of their societies, their wealth, their morality. Then I need to figure out how it affects all the characters.

I’ve never done anything remotely like this before. Both of my previous series, Girl With Broken Wings and The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles, layered a slightly altered reality on top of our own. I didn’t have to stretch my imagination very far; certainly not to the extent that Sleeping Beauty is asking for.

It’s a big challenge, and truthfully, I’m intimidated by it. That’s a good thing. I’m of the mind that if you aren’t at least a little scared of your next big project, then it’s probably not big enough. Sure, this book might go down in flames. (Hell, that already happened this year,) but I’m willing to risk it to try and be a better writer and to give you an awesome, unique story that will be worth the wait.

Thanks for your (forced) patience!

Categories: Essay, Writing Tags: ,