I Don’t Know Why I Love You – World Building with Holly Lisle

I love Holly Lisle, always have, always will. She’s one of the biggest influences on me as a writer. Not on my writing style – that’s all me and my other influences. No, she’s the biggest influence of my writing processes, which are an even bigger influence than those on my style. Want to see an example?

Holly generously posted the first chapter up of her forthcoming world building book – Create A World Clinic – for all to use and play with for free: click here but be warned! Results may surprise you!

You can find my post containing my results for this exercise here, plus the results and comments from many others. It makes great reading.

The exercise basically involves asking yourself / your Muse a series of questions. Not censoring the answers and trying to make sense of what you get back, is an integral part of the exercise. In that sense, it is very close to how I work and also to how I teach. I flatter myself, of course.

So I met my Muse again tonight and she freaked me out. She always does, I think it’s her job. I think she thinks it’s her job. In fact, I think she knows it’s her job. (And the song is about her by the way, not Holly. I know why I love Holly :-) it’s my Muse that I have this love / hate addiction with. Kicks me when I’m down, indeed.)

Anyway, this is what she came up with. It’s obviously to do with We Are The Pigs. And now I need to write this section of that novel. A very visceral need that I didn’t realise I had until I did Holly’s exercise. (Update: Well, at first I thought that this must be about We Are The Pigs. But, after a night’s sleep, I am starting to think that it could be about the upcoming zombie series that I have been planning. It just goes to show that I mustn’t be too hasty in jumping to conclusions in these matters.)

Holly, this exercise should carry a health warning.


My results:

What else is in the room?
A window

What is unusual about this window?
It is underground, and looks out onto dark earth and rock.

Why did somebody put a window in an underground room?
Because a window makes a room seem normal.

OK, but this is not a normal window. Why is there no view?
It is a normal window. The view is of dark earth and rock.

Whose room is this?
It isn’t used any more.

Why isn’t it used any more?
The people who were here went away.

Why did they go away?
They finished what they wanted to do here.

What did they do here?

What was unusual about these experiments?
Children. (Images: Lost souls, abandoned, didn’t know any different, morose, listless, nobody visits, cold, watched by doctors for signs, all of them are dying, the doctors fight back tears, the work has to be done, soon they become detached, these things are not human, deaths are unimportant, the work must continue.)

Why did the work stop?
They found the answer.


Well, it freaked me out anyway.

On another thread over at Holly’s site there is an ongoing discussion of the forthcoming book. The Beta-testers have been invited to comment as they go, so that the likes of you and I can see if this book is for us.


I cannot emphasise this enough. Holly has been working on this for a long time and targets something that all writers do in every story. Here are a couple of extracts from the thread to help you understand why I’m saying this:

One of the Beta-testers (Kari) comments that:

What I expected from the book: Honestly, when I was first made aware of the book, I thought it would be more applicable to people who were writing fantasy and sci-fi, where you created whole new worlds instead of using Earth as it is.

What I got: Ways to figure out how to fix stalled stories I’ve had for years and ways to come up with new stories instead of resorting to having to have that moment of “inspiration.” Instead of waiting for the story to come to me, I can throw some ideas together and work out a story from that.

THAT is how I’ll use what I’ve read. I am fascinated by the possibilities that I’ve got now.

Later on Holly replies to another comment with this:

:D This is the reason most writers don’t realize they worldbuild. (EVERY writer worldbuilds.)

Writers come up with a process that includes worldbuilding in the start of their story, and never realize that they need to separate the worldbuilding from the writing in order to know what their world is and how to make it live for the reader.

Now, this has a lot in common with the processes of juxtaposition, grid-creation, and Y-cubed questioning that I use extensively in my own writing and teaching. There’s no reason at all to stop you from having and using BOTH mine and Holly’s processes though – the two are very complimentary.

But I hope that you get it: this book is for you. It’s about what you do, every time you write a story. Every time you think of a story and don’t write it to completion.

I’ll see you in the queue to buy this when it finally comes out 😉