“Cities and Worldbuilding” was my book to coach writers by asking the right questions about their fictional cities. The reason I wrote it, however, is a mix of practical and personal.
First, the practical: Cities are damned complicated things to write.
Many stories take place in cities. Even when they’re not in cities, they’re city-adjacent, or cities are part of the backstory. Cities are everywhere in our imagined worlds – which makes sense because they’re everywhere in our world.
Because they’re so prominent and because we’re used to them, it’s vital to envision them properly. A poorly-imagined city may make a story or game less believable, breaking the tale’s power for us. When an author constructs a city that “feels wrong,” we know because we know cities by sheer familiarity.
When we try to create believable cities, we also find cities are incredibly complex. They take up space, both rely on and change the environment, and grow like living creatures. Cities both require resources and can churn out products and other resources. Finally, they draw upon, rely on, and change people as well – cities are giant social organizations.
I couldn’t avoid writing a book about cities. In fact . . .
There was a personal factor in this as well. That factor is cities fascinate me.
I’ve lived in many cities with long histories, large and small. I’ve watched them grow and change and occasionally make very frustrating construction choices. When I was looking for a job nationally, I visited many cities across America, each different.
Sometimes I like just walking through a city or town and getting a feel for it.
As I’ve provided career advice before, I also kept up on cities and economic choices. That is a soap opera drama all its own, with battles over zoning, public transport, and more. Sure this was important for my job and to help others, but it was also really neat.
Finally, my fiction works in the past, and my current Avenoth series are city-centric. Fantastical cities also interest me as they take all of the above and let you experience cities in new ways. The economics of magic or the culture of an interplanetary crossroads is the kind of thing that gets my attention.
This book was practical and personal, and thus very enjoyable to write. I hope it helps others as well.