Worldbuildin’! (OR: Building Switchville, Part 1)

August 13, 2009

I really like Worldbuilding! From everyone’s pal, Wikipedia:

“Worldbuilding is the process of constructing an imaginary world, usually associated with a fictional universe.”

I’ve found that I have a lot of ideas for this world I’ve been thinking about, “Switchville”, as seen before here and here. I’ve realized that, after doing these two stories and experimenting a bit otherwise, I kinda want to try outlining at least part of the world, or maybe a broad outline, and seeing how that helps me in writing stories within the world. Plus, it’s just plain more fun, and kinda vindicates all the daydreaming and imagining you did as a kid. So! This one’s gonna be a little weird–I’m basically going to describe the world, as if in endless early exposition in a novel. I’ll probably do this in a few parts over the next week or so–not entirely sure how entertaining this is going to be, yet. If it gets really boring yell at me and I’ll confine it to off-blog writing.

So…

Switchville is like a city that was abandoned as soon as it was built. I say “like” intentionally, because no one in Switchville really knows, and frankly, I doubt anyone gives any sort of a damn about how it first came about. As far back as anyone can remember the city has always just been there–Dark at night, grey and cloudy during the day, with a consistent feeling of near-abandonment at any given point in time. When you come upon another person in this town, it’s always a surprise, almost a shock. Often you’ll share a surprised stare for a moment with the other person, in which time you hurriedly try to figure out what to do about the situation: Quickly but carefully walk away, down some darker alley? Attempt to talk with the fear of an attack looming just overhead? Just stare, stare at the only person you’ve seen in the past month? It is incredibly confusing, to the point that sometimes, just sometimes, you would rather trade confusion for prior loneliness. [This is something I want to expand on a lot in stories about this place–the concept of the barriers of impersonal relationships being broken down, with maybe a few parallels to our own world in that sense, with this world serving as a sort of exaggerated running metaphor.]

For being such a big area, the city itself isn’t very well divided, at least not originally. Some denizens can recognize the different ways certain parts of the city are run-down; buildings that have fallen down a certain way or rows of city blocks that were all burnt in some forgotten fire long ago. In this sense, there aren’t very many discernible divisions of land, but locals to a certain area at least know one landmark from the other in their respective areas. Even this perception is limited, though, since most people are very nomadic, searching for food and supplies in different areas that haven’t been completely looted yet. No one knows how the stuff got anywhere, either. There is not enough room for wonder here.

One might wonder what lies on the edges of Switchville. For the most part, with a few special exceptions that are known to very few [foooreshadowiiing], it’s a fairly simple border setup: To the north and the west there is shoreline. The northwestern corner houses the Switchville docks, a place with a greater population density and the most near-semblance of organization among fellow people. For some reason it’s considered very dangerous, even though there’s an incredible amount of food and supplies to be found from lost ships and gigantic cargo canisters that line the vast spaces between half-demolished brick warehouses. (Don’t be fooled, though–this is still no real civilization.) On either coastal side of the docks are concrete-walled shorelines, as plain and endless as the dark blue, murky seas that lie beyond them. These are incredibly empty and devoid of notes of interest, which makes them excellent places to safely travel, for the most part. Finally, to the south and the east, there is incredibly, incredibly thick forest. No one goes there. Why would you, anyway? There are no buildings to find food or medicine in, no broken water pipes to drink from, not even a vague semblance of sunlight that pierces Switchville’s cloud cover in dots and strips of the sky. Just the unknown. No; it is better to stay here, to wander, better to live out your long but few days in these strange, endless streets.

[Wow, I love that last part. What do you think?]

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