We tend to think of world-building in terms of science fiction and fantasy, and it’s true that world-building is central to those genres. But all fiction requires world-building to some degree. True, if you are writing a contemporary story that takes place entirely within a known space—your local Starbucks say, or on the Spanish Steps in Rome—your world-building will be minimal. But most fiction, non-genre and otherwise, requires a bit of set creation. Some books, like Eden West, require a lot of it.
I was thinking about this as I gathered up the various bits of dead matter accumulated during the writing of Eden West: notes, research files, deleted chapters, character biographies, photos, articles, pencil sketches of characters and scenes, and maps. I felt a bit like a contractor cleaning up a job site, both wearily proud and a bit regretful at the waste. A lot of world-building work never appears in the final manuscript. That’s not unusual—most of the labor in world-building is foundation work. I-beams and cinder block are essential to the structure, but not that interesting to read about.
Eden West, set in present day Montana, takes place within Nodd, a fictitious twelve-square-mile compound, home to the apocalyptic cult known as the Grace. One early reviewer mentioned that she wished the book contained a map of Nodd. As is happens, I have such a map! Here it is, along with a detail map of the village.
Click to make bigger.