Worldbuilding, part 6: Finding your secret weapon.

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Did you know you have a secret weapon? Because you do.

We've talked about a LOT of different aspects of worldbuilding in these posts, and I wouldn't blame you if you felt a bit overwhelmed.  It can be pretty discouraging, looking at all the work and the research that goes into a vivid world.

But don't despair, lovely readers! I have one last tip for you that will help you streamline the process.

Find your secret weapon.

(or alternately)

Give priority to what you love.

There is something you love besides writing. Come on, admit it. Something else makes your eyes light up besides the act of putting words on paper.

Maybe it's cooking. Or neuroscience. Or making quilts. Or dancing or drag-racing or playing Scrabble. Maybe you'd never tell anyone about it, never in a million years, because you know you're not very good. But you love it anyway.

Maybe it's animals. Or architecture. Or watching heist movies.

Or maybe there's something you're passionate against. Something that pushes your buttons, that you can talk for hours about. Like human-trafficking or drug abuse or hate crimes.

Something makes you spark, and that thing is your secret weapon. That's the thing you can research for hours and never get tired of. That's one of the good ideas you can combine to make something special. That thing that you hold so close and feel so strongly about, that's what makes your world uniquely yours.

For me that thing is cultural anthropology. I LOOOOVE  learning about different cultures and social systems. I'm currently first-drafting a middle grade novel set in Hawaii, and I could research Hawaiian history and culture FOREVER. It's so cool.

So that's what I use. My worldbuilding focus is on how societies are organized, how they function, what happens to individuals when things go wrong.   But I'm not the only author with an alternate passion.

Jennifer Lynn Barnes has a degree in cognitive science. She spent years studying--among other things--pack behavior in monkeys. And when her amazing new book Raised by Wolves, came out last year, one of the things that totally blew me away was the pack structure. The interrelationships between the wolves were so subtle and detailed and completely realistic that I bought into the book immediately.

Poet/novelist Ellen Hopkins's book Crank was loosely based on her older daughter's struggle with addiction. Because Ellen had first-hand experience and was passionate about the subject, the book had a powerful impact. Ellen Hopkins continues to write novels-in-verse, taking a deep, compassionate look at some of the dark things that can happen to us, and how we survive them.

This amazingly vivid book revolves around Persian history and culture--specifically weaving--something author Meghan Nuttall Sayres  is an expert in. In fact, she does such a wonderful job, that all I wanted to do when I finished the book was go and watch someone weave.  It was fascinating.

The next time your world feels flat, or you feel overwhelmed by all the information out there, take a step back. Look at what YOU love, what makes you happy. And then find a way to put it in.

Don't just give your readers someone else's passion, someone else's world.

Build your own.

Thanks for hanging in there with this series, everyone! Have I covered everything? Do you have any more questions?

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Fabric art in the header by Carol Riggs.