Before I started writing The Prophecy, I spent months creating my world. I sat in cafés dreaming of Terrestra 3500. I worked out how people lived, what they ate, how they dressed, how society was organised, how they travelled around, what they believed in, what they did for fun and what the physical attributes were of the planet. On top of that, there were also the normal thoughts about character and plot.
Now, I’m revisiting all of that and thoroughly enjoying it. One of the editors at The Red Telephone has suggested that I provide a glossary of characters and setting features for readers of Babel as they may not remember it all from The Prophecy. He has a point. I’ve had to look up some things myself.
However, I’d never suggest using a glossary instead of setting everything up correctly. It should be obvious what certain things are and who certain people are from the way they are introduced. It would be wrong to bore readers of the second volume who knew the first for the sake of the handful who go straight to volume two. I’d like to emulate Oisín McGann who is a real master of setting up worlds, especially in his novel The Gods and Their Machines. There are no words of exposition. He simply shows us his world. This is extreme showing not telling.
Another writer who does this successfully, this time in an historical context, is Caroline Lawrence in her Roman Mysteries series. The first time you meet a Latin word or a little Roman culture, Lawrence makes her meaning transparently clear. She also includes these items in a glossary at the back of the book in case you have forgotten what an expression means the next time you meet it. For those readers who are really interested in Latin words and Roman culture there is more on her web site.
Yes, I’m really enjoying writing the glossary about the world I have created. It’s also reassuring me that my world works.