When I was looking up the background on author Steven Brust for my recent Cool Theory of Literature post, I found his live journal with an entry for "How I work". It is very similar to how I work, and, in light of an admittedly cursory reading of recent discussions on Speculative Faith suggesting that world building is bad if it comes out of faith issues, I thought this would be an appropriate counter.
Brust's method of world building is largely intuitive -- I'm not the only one who builds the world to tell the story. Connie Willis described doing the same thing at a writing conference I attended. Like Brust, and me, she does only enough research and world building to make it work in the story. As Brust says in his journal, the intent is to "1) Encourage the reader to buy into it sufficiently that it won't detract from his enjoyment of the story, B) provide a nice backdrop against which the story can take place, and, iii) insofar as possible without messing up 1) or B), create a vehicle to explore such systems in our world, or the attitude toward such systems, or (in the case of magic especially) the thing for which the system is a metaphor."
The very fact that I can manipulate the world to make the point is why I like writing in this genre. The world is always for me only background. I could care less about building a vast, complex and detailed sub-world. My focus is the characters and the story. Faith issues come in automatically. They're part of who I am and how I think. And what I want to emphasize.
If you want to read Brust's entire post check A Bland and Deadly Courtesy
Scroll down (or click on a new page, if necessary) to
Saturday, July 29, 2006 How I Work Part 2
See also, Tuesday, July 25, 2006 How I work
I have now spent three days working through Chapter 2. I think it might be nearly done.