My Return: Dismembered Kittens, Second Brains, & Worldbuilding

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Worldbuilding
Return Key on Keyboard

I know. I know! I’m back full-time, and it’s glorious. I’m finally settled enough in my new home, new job, and new city, to return and write. Being away from my blog is similar to leaving my sick kid at home to fend for himself while I go to work. And by sick kid I mean Ferris Bueller. Whenever I’m on hiatus from writing, wanting to get back to it hovers on the brim of my mind. There is a certain level of havoc it wreaks if I don’t give into its tantrums. I don’t mind enabling it though because I love getting back into the rodeo, wrangling the wild beast of imagination, and sharpening the pencil to beat a story out of it. I stand by the fact that even if I never become a successful writer, in terms of society’s standards, I’m in it for the love of the process.

One thing I’ve noticed with this blog is that the ideas for posts come about more organically than previous ones. I don’t have to chase down the topics I want to cover so much as they seem to bubble up from things going on in my life. This particular blog post stemmed from a dream. . .about kittens. Cute, right? Except it doesn’t have a great ending, or at least I’m not sure since I woke up before I would’ve ended it. Bear with me, as this does loop back to writing, I promise. I dreamt that I was at my parent’s house, and they had just brought home a new kitten. Now I’m more of a dog person, but this kitten was essentially cuddles on toast: a wispy, white living cotton ball with crisp blue eyes and a patch of black fur on one ear. For some reason, we were all outside with the kitten. We were watching it weave its cuteness multiplier spell by doing things that are mostly mundane, but when a kitten does them it’s too cute to even be real.

As we crowded around the white fluff ball, a kite blew into the front yard with a string attached to it. The kitten, attracted to fast-moving things, did what most felines do. He swatted; we laughed. That was cut short when his claw got stuck in the string, and the kite carried the kitten away. We tried to save the kitten as the wind twirled the kite around violently in the front yard. It was a failure rescue, and the kite rose progressively higher, flew over the house, and barreled into the back yard. His helpless meows faded in the distance. I dashed around the side of the house, and I really thought the little guy died. Fortunately it was alive, although missing an arm. I’m guessing it yanked off during turbulence, but the kitten was alive! Obviously the next step was to take it to an animal emergency room, but apparently my dream self had other plans first. I pulled out my phone to Google whether or not I should put its detached paw on ice, most likely in the hopes of the animal surgeon being able to sew it back on. I’m not entirely sure, because after that I woke up.

I’m not one to find too much meaning in dreams, yet I couldn’t help but wonder how I—or my dream self rather—seemed to lose my common sense at that moment. My theory is that technology has afforded us that luxury. With smartphones essentially as common as clothes, we are using them as second brains. Really, first brains for many people. By outsourcing our brains, I think we’re losing some of our ability to figure things out. Dismembered kitten dreams aside, it’s common to GPS our way through the world, rely on Google reviews or Yelp to help chose our restaurant or bar for the night, or even consult message boards for questions about anything. We don’t problem solve so much as we lookup the answers. I wonder how much of that translates to actual learning, and I couldn’t tell you.

What I can tell you is when we write, we have to think about the effect of technology on society. Actually no, not just technology. This could just as easily be magic or philosophy or law—anything with far-reaching impacts in your story. Holding to the constant questioning of how things you put in the world you’re crafting affect its people, will make a true living and breathing setting. In my WIP, a fanatic religious group took magic out of society. I have to think about the impacts on a society essentially taking steps back in their magical leaps and advances. In that world, before magic was purged, it was so commonplace that it created an entire ecosystem. To the point where a standard language formed and unified the world because of the trade of magical goods and services across borders. Now that the religious order has taken away that platform, I have to think about the impact on society:

  • What happens to people who still try to practice magic?
  • What happens to the now underground economy of magical goods?
  • How do people cope with having to do things in a manual way that was once accomplished easily by magic?
  • Has taking out magic from society been mostly good or bad, or does the answer differ by person or region?

Worldbuilding can be daunting when breaking everything down into cause and effect, so I would suggest containing it to the most important parts of your book. That will give you the highest return on your creativity investment and prevent you from getting worldbuilder’s disease. To make a well-rounded story, make sure you think about the consequences of worldbuilding from a variety of angles.

[Featured photo credit: Elenchos]

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