Worldbuilding is a daunting task. If someone had told me I had to create an entire military with ships and rank, a society with a class system, develop 700 years of history, and envision a cast of characters surviving on the Edge of a galaxy on the brink of war, I probably would have never started writing. But the beauty of it is that you don’t have to do all of that at first. Oh, you need some ideas about your world, sure, but it’s the story and the characters that determine your work. Like a spider building a web, you throw up your mooring threads and then start weaving the spiral that becomes your universe.
I had no advice for how to build the Spiral and Edge in The Rush’s Edge, but I drew upon a wealth of gaming history rich with worldbuilding and settings. I have played in many different systems and in many different worlds created by the fabulous DMs and GMs I had the honor of sitting around a table with. When I began to run my own games, I developed the worlds gradually, usually starting in one place and expanding outward like that web.
So, this is how I began writing The Rush’s Edge. The initial worldbuilding was pretty bare. I started with that bar where Ty and Hal are working a deal to buy some information about a prime salvage location for their business. It was where Hal sees Vivi Valjean fall off her chair as two goons try to kidnap her. Then I realized my characters were in a bar on a space station. In an almost organic way, I worked outward from there. Hal has a hard time because he’s a vat (a genetically engineered, lab grown solider who has been released from service in the military) and he gets hassled outside the bar where the fight happens. He is quick to get into it, but Ty is a guiding hand to keep him out of trouble. That one beginning scene became very important in setting up the difficulties that Hal and other vats face in just living their everyday life.
From that scene came the realization that I had to structure the way the vat supersoldiers in my book are trained, put into service and released from the Armed services of the Coalition of Allied Systems (the ACAS) to live a short, lonely, brutal life on the galaxy’s edge. The ACAS takes these incredible people who have given their all to their government and turns them out on the Edge to die. This took some time to wrap my mind around as I explored the friendship between Ty (a natural born) and Hal. It was about this time that I began writing my worldbuilding ideas in a blank book I bought for that purpose. It was in that book that I made the first starmap of the Spiral and the Edge, and it was in that book that I detailed my characters out and described the military.
As the writing went on, the larger conflicts in the Edge became more important to the plot, and I discovered more things about my world. I had to work on political situations, alliances and the reasons behind them when our brave crew meets the leaders of the Opposition, a loose network of vats and nats from the Edge systems who have decided to resist the grasping hand of the Coalition.
It became hard to find time to handwrite everything in my blank book, so I took a break from writing to type it up in the file that became my Rush’s Edge Omnibus. If I mentioned a planet, it went in the Omnibus. If I mentioned an ACAS ship, it was likewise chronicled by class, type, weapons and physical description. I have to say, organizing the ACAS was the hardest part of my worldbuilding, which is why it was nice to have a person with a military history degree (my husband) in the house to consult with.
Then I got back to work writing and updating as the need for new information occurred. I added timelines, corporations that had an interest in the Spiral’s and a detailed chronology of the war that had occurred between the Mudar (a sentient race of AI’s) and the humans 100 years before. If I mentioned it, it got added to a chart or history I was keeping. So, as you can see, the entire thing grew exponentially in complexity like a Fibonacci sequence.
My own opinion is that there was absolutely no way I could have envisioned the complexity of the world of The Rush’s Edge from the very beginning. If I had sat down to develop everything I needed for the world, I would have quit before I began. I allowed necessity to be the mother of invention. If I needed something, I invented it when the need became apparent. I’ve been told that my world is easy to slide into, and maybe that’s why. Starting a book with a long history of the war in the Spiral and the development of the Coalition of Allied Systems would have been boring to write and, more importantly, boring to read. I made an investment in the characters up front and allowed them to dictate what direction the world grew in, and it worked for me.
For my newest book, I’ve been investing in different apps to keep track of my world. Scrivener is a favorite of many, as well as Plottr. I’ve personally found that the best worldbuilding app is the one with the least restrictions on what I can add. If something’s too specialized, I’ve found it doesn’t work for me, but don’t let that stop you. No two writers work the same or plan the same. Find your own path.
All in all, for me, worldbuilding was completely about the characters. I let them guide the story and invented what I needed as I went. I was quite the pantser for The Rush’s Edge, but with my next book, I’m learning the beauty of planning a bit more before I get started. However, I know the best parts of my new world will just have to wait to be discovered along the way.
About the Author
Ginger Smith has worked as a record store employee, freelance writer, bookstore assistant manager and high school teacher of English. In the past, she has played in many tabletop RPG groups and even run several of her own. She collects vintage toys, sci-fi novels and comic books, as well as mid-century furniture. She currently lives in the southern USA with her husband and two cats, spending her free time writing and watching classic film noir and sci-fi movies.
Angry Robot: https://www.angryrobotbooks.com/our-authors/ginger-smith/