Guest Post by Guy T. Martland

Thrilled to welcome author Guy T. Martland to our little Sith universe today. Guy is the author of the novel Scion, published by Safkhet Publishing. He’s sharing some of the lessons he’s learned about one of my favorite topics: Worldbuilding.

Author Guy Martland
Author Guy Martland

About the Book

The aliens from your nightmares are coming. The colonies of Earth are next. And it looks like nothing can stop them.

A blue star, a dying friend, a kidnap and the dusty contents of an old room: Septimus Esterhazy’s life is about to change. As he blows cobwebs from the manual of an old spacecraft, hidden for decades, a Pandora’s box creaks open.

Little does he know that the universe’s very nature is being threatened by a powerful alien race. Nor does he know that he is somehow involved with why the Wraith, destroyers of worlds, are coming.

The self-proclaimed ‘Protectors of the Known Universe’, the Sassrit, are trying to do everything they can to thwart a Wraith attack. But time is running out and resources are stretched.

A Sassrit agent, one of the shapeshifting Jarthiala, is recruited to help. The path he follows leads to the doorstep of a planet called D, an Earth colony, above which a blue star hangs, its light reflected in the eyes of Septimus below.

This is a journey which will change Septimus Esterhazy forever. It will make him question his nature. He will uncover secrets about his family that have lain dormant for years. And it will test the loyalty of those closest to him.

But first he has to watch his best friend die.

Guest Post: What I’ve learnt about Worldbuilding

Creating a world which your characters inhabit is an important part of writing any fiction, whether it is SFF or ‘regular’ fiction. But writing SFF makes this harder in one important respect – the amount of information you have to convey, imparting your ideas of this other world, can cause problems. I’m by no means an expert at this stuff – I learned most of it the hard way when writing my SF novel ‘The Scion’ and the (never-to-be-published) novels I wrote prior to this. But here’s my two pence/cents:

Don’t info dump

We’ve all seen this in fiction. And when I write now, I still have to keep this in check. You throw in some characters, get them to start doing things and then suddenly the description of your beautiful world takes over. But this causes a big problem. Firstly, it stunts the pace of your piece. And secondly, you can lose you readers – expecting a reader to stop engaging with your characters and take on loads of descriptive detail, no matter how it relates to the plot, is a big ask. So it is important to drip feed this where possible. But this can be harder than you think.

Suspending belief

It is a given that for SFF, particularly Space Opera and Fantasy, you have to suspend your belief. Bombarding readers with a whole load of exposition can puncture that bubble you are trying to create. The ideas won’t wash and your balloon-like creatures which dwell in the upper reaches of a gas giant will deflate, to then be consumed by the roaring storm of ionic particles beneath. This point is of course related to the info dump. But the madder your scenario, the more this becomes important.

A believable world

You have to know your world. And this means everything about it. Recently I presented a piece of fiction to the Milford Writers’ conference and one of the group said of my piece: ‘I want to know more about the world, I want to know about their social system, their agriculture.’ I thought this was a bit crazy at first, but she was right. You have to know all the details. If you can believe it, then your readers will.

The devil in the details

So think about your world. Live it! Think about its climate, its atmosphere, its geography, transport systems, economy, political systems and religions. Consider its history. How do the natives communicate? Are the physical laws the same? For example with the latter question, this might just mean altering the gravity a bit; but if you do that it will have a knock on effect on everything else…

And it is probably best to think about these things when you outline your plot. Or at least early on when you start building your world. I didn’t when I wrote The Scion and then had to change timelines, communication devices and so on. Which was a challenge.

One thing which I did find helpful was drawing up a crude map of the planet D, where much of the action in the book happens. Now, I am rubbish at drawing, so this was pretty crude. (It was a far cry from Tolkien’s efforts, that’s for sure.) But it helped enormously and when I threw my characters into the map, they danced around like dice in a casino.

An old notebook containing a map of the planet D which I drew when writing The Scion.
An old notebook containing a map of the planet D which I drew when writing The Scion.

The law of everything

So, to paraphrase Le Guin: You need to know everything. But you don’t need to tell everything. Your reader won’t necessarily want to know all the intricate details of a lesser family’s heraldic crest, or the particulars of the agricultural drainage system of a world. But if you know that, it will inform the rest of your book. It will give it heft, gravitas. Your world will be bigger than the book. (And if people ask you questions about the agriculture, you won’t feel an idiot for not having thought about it!)

Listen to your characters

Finally – listen to your characters. Give them freedom to roam through your imagination. Make your world work for them and they will reward you. This is where they live. And don’t forget, no matter how wonderful your world is, it is your characters which make the story. Not the other way around.