When I was a child, one of my favorite toys were the bags of plastic farm or zoo animals. Anyone remember playing with those? My cousin and I, when given the opportunity to pick a cheap toy on grocery shopping day would inevitable pick one of these bags. He usually liked the dinosaurs or army dudes.
Soon as we returned home, the two of us would race out the back door and into the yard where we'd find a shady spot and begin our fall into the imaginary worlds these figurines opened the doors to.
Looking back, I'm amazed at how the hours zoomed by. I'd lose all sense of where I was at, except for the urban sounds of cars passing by our house, or birds chattering in the tree above where we hankered over our little characters. Occasionally a roar or sounds of blasting bombs came from my cousin as he wrecked havoc on his little people.
From me, nothing. I usually worked quietly and methodically as I collected twigs and rocks to build my little animals shelters. Grass was yanked out of the dirt to form little roads or cover a hiding place for a fox family. As I worked, I decided where they fit into the scheme of things. Stories formed for each of them. Nothing I ever wrote down. This was before I started trying to capture the tales that were always swirling around in my head. But by time I finished building my little world, I would have come up with where the black bear had come from and why he was in that particular spot.
And about the time I was done creating that little world, it would be time to go in for supper. My cousin would have usually already grown bored with his army men who'd been blown all over the yard and hung from the lower branches of the tree. I, on the other hand, would collect my little figures, return them to the bag and be okay with it.
Why? Because creating the world was what I really found the most fun.
I'm not so different even today.
I sometimes think that the reason I love not only writing series, as well as reading them, is I love falling into a new world. I still enjoy building worlds, such as the world of Alburnium. (Pictured above) Everyone has a place, and each place has it's own history. It's own story. I might not write it down, but that information is floating around in my subconscious.
Many Rivers was established by a small band of Kingdom people who wanted to provide a place of refuge for those traveling along the White Path. There's a town that over looks a valley of farms and rivers and small ponds. It's a safe place, a place of refreshing, a place of healing if you need Marya's Healer services. I can picture in my mind the grand Meeting Hall with it's white stone walls and sprawling wings where people come to trade goods, hear stories about King Shaydon, or read about the world in the library.
Over the past nine years, since the idea for Illuminated first hit me, I've enjoyed quietly and methodically creating the world of Alburnium. At first, I mapped it out as I followed Alyra along on her first journey. My early maps were penciled in sketches, kind of like the one pictured below of a new world in the making. (More on that in a minute).
I'm sure every writer goes about building their worlds differently. I read that J.R. Tolkien took years to develop his, all the way down to creating a new language. I have nothing on him. But I find it kind of funny, as I look back on my childhood, that this little thing has always been with me. I wonder, when we watch our own kids play, if somehow we might get a glimpse of how they might one day fit into this big wide world. Or maybe, if we are wondering where we fit in, that if we look back, perhaps there might be little clues in the games we played while growing up.
As I said earlier, I'm in the process of creating a new world. Not a fantasy one as in the White Road books. This little world is contemporary and surrounded by real places. I visited them earlier this summer when we took a trip up to Michigan. With each lakeside town we stopped at, another piece of my own little pretend world fell into place.
Below, you can see my early sketching of Madison Creek's layout. Each number represents a business or shop owned by a particular person with a story behind them. Mallory's diner, owned by Mallory Carson, a single girl, a little wild but a hard worker. Flirty, compassionate and tough. Across the street is Beaty's Automotive, owned by the brothers Bob and Bill. Bill is quirky and kind of funny. He's also single as is his more serious, business minded older brother Bob who just had a major break-up with his long time girlfriend.
Stories: People, Places. Communities. Worlds. I think I know why I find it all so intriguing....
,In a novella story I was just working on for a Christmas collection, one of my characters got up and said something that really struck home with me. She said that it takes all of us to build a community and to make it strong.
And I think, deep down, that's why I love the world building so much. Deep down, there's a yearning to belong, to be part of something bigger and greater than myself. And I think this is something, a thread if you will, that tends to run through all my stories. That joining together for the common good, casting aside your differences and personal needs and working together to build something substantial in this world. And in turn, finding where you belong and where you are most effective in this life.
There's so many forces trying to divide us. Don't you think?
I love my church. It's probably one of the greatest basis for my belief that there's safety in numbers. You know? It's not the teaching. Most I've heard before or can get by reading my Bible. No, it's more than that. It's the community of a variety of personalities, and preferences, all banding together to build a sanctuary for people to find shelter, to find provision, to find healing from the big bad world. The more we band together for the common good, for building up the Kingdom of God, here on earth, the stronger we become.
That's why lies behind all those books in the White Road Chronicles, the friends going out and telling others about King Shaydon's plan to defeat the cruel fake King Darnel.
That's why I see building up in my Madison Creek stories... a town on the brink of demise begins to band together and rebuild. And they do it by pulling together and helping each other out.
My heart sings when I think of seeing this play out in reality. I see it in my church. I see it other places, too. But I want to see more. And it starts with kindness. If you want to build a better world, start with simple kindness.
One small act at a time. None of us can save the world. We're not meant to. But we can each do little things to make it a better place.
In my sketch above, there's still a lot of blank area. I intend to fill it in with each story I write in Madison Creek. I love world building. I love the idea that we can take something broken, on the verge of death, and revive it. And we can. We can do that... if we take a notion.
Don't you think?
Before I go, I want to mention one more thing, and that's a sale that's going on this week. If you've not ventured into the world of Alburnium, here's your chance to try out the first two books for only $2. Oh, and if you are a fantasy lover, be sure to check out the Virtual FantasyCon week going on. Lot's of fun stuff going on there.
Blessings and Peace
Be kind to each other.
Jackie Castle is an author, artist and dreamer. She lives in Texas with her husband, two grown children and her dog, Banjo. She looks for the extraordinary in the ordinary in everything she experiences.