Building a world or universe can be an interesting process. Sometimes knowing where to begin is the challenge. When one’s brain has a tendency to bounce all over the place and to overthink, it can get even more complicated. My speciality is not physics, and I don’t have access to a lab. Therefore, I can’t create a Big-Bang to start a universe. Further, I am not sure how to develop an alternate timeline for Earth. Oh, wait, that would be actual world building, not building for works of fiction.
As I read about different ways authors construct worlds, I realized that hard-and-fast rules for methodology do not work for me. I’ve been finding that the short stories I’ve written lately are as important to the world building and shaping as planning out timelines, entities, society, and so on. My method is my own.
While trying to figure out what would work for me, I looked at using notebooks and pen and paper to write my world-building notes. Then I laughed. Keeping track of papers and paper notes is not a strength for me. So, I thought about how to use the computer to make and store notes, plan, and build the world. That got me overthinking. Then I started to overthink the overthinking.
I have been using Scrivener since 2013 or 2014 for my writing. It works well for me, and Version 3 is a distinct improvement on prior releases. The question became one of how to keep track of timelines, characters, and other important aspects of the world. I thought of trying various notes programs. One Note is okay, but not enough for what I wanted to do. Evernote is another tool I have tried, but found it never really worked for me. I need the flexibility of being able to bounce around and, occasionally, visualize in a chart, mind-map, or timeline in order to piece events and the overall world together. After discovering information in various online groups and forums, I found a couple of tools I wanted to evaluate.
One is Scapple, by Literature and Latte, the same people who produce Scrivener. It’s a mind-mapping and diagramming tool that is quite flexible. More significantly, there is a thirty-day trial available. Literature and Latte’s policy on trials is thirty days of using the software, not consecutive days. I’m still on the trial and finding it is working for visualizing relationships.
The second program is Aeon Timeline. It is a timeline program that helps place things in time and space. There are limitations, but so far it looks like it will provide a good compliment to Scrivener. A timeline can be linked to Scrivener projects and attach notes about events, entities, and people to documents in Scrivener projects. For the way my brain works, this might be the closest I come to a good tool for timeline.
Having said all this, the way my brain works means that at some point I will want or need to change how I do things. I will not give in to the temptation to create my own tool. It would not be a good use of my time and energy. I would overthink developing the tool, or get distracted and never finish it because it’s not part of what I do overall.
I enjoy writing, I enjoy world building. Figuring out methods that work for my brain? That’s a mix of being interesting, frustrating, fun, perplexing, confusing to others, and a source of humour. Accessing how my brain and body are working together—or not working—contributes to the challenges of actually writing, but world building is more about what my brain is doing.
Now, time to go off and see if I can find tools to start another Big-Bang . . .
Editor’s note: The Spoonie Authors Network does not receive payment to endorse products and those recommended in this article are solely based on the user-experience of the contributor.
Talia Johnson is a multi-faceted woman who is transgender, autistic, Jewish, queer, and more than the sum of her parts. She lives in Toronto, Ontario. Her work centres on bridging faith and queer communities, facilitating workshops, educating, speaking, writing, and one-on-one coaching, counselling, and mentoring.
She is an academic, poet, and short story writer.