The Keys to the Intercom
Writers create worlds out of words. It sounds obvious but it isn’t. I didn’t realize the amount of world building that went into a historical novel until I wrote one. If you’d have asked me before I wrote Open Wounds whether I’d ever write a historical novel I’d have told you, you were out of your mind.
I just finished Garth Nix’s Mr. Monday: The Keys to the Kingdom Book 1. My son read it and told me I had to read it too… so I did. And he was right. It’s a good book. What impressed me the most about the book is the world building Nix did. He created a world in which a line of script is alive and letters changed can change life to death and visa versa. Nix’s world has its own logic to it. It makes sense out of Nothing, and Nithlings out of Nothing and Fetchers out of Nothing. It is a book that makes me see a world that I’ve never seen before – one that springs out of Nothing.
World building is not relegated only to Fantasy or Science Fiction, but also historical novels and realistic fiction. Even realistic fiction has to create a believable here and now just as historical fiction has to create a believable then and there.
I’ll give you an example. In the 1930’s-40’s the subways in New York City didn’t have intercom systems in the cars. You knew what stop you were at by the conductor shouting it out from his window and from looking out the window or door yourself. I’m betting on crowded days people missed a lot of stops. It’s a simple detail but it gives time and place and helps to build the world that Cid Wymann lives in.
When world building you create worlds out of words that readers take and surround with atmosphere, beating hearts, and long harsh howls.