I hate buzzwords but what the heck—here’s one hot writing buzzword these days: ‘world-building.’

World-building is a term used to describe the process of describing, for the reader, the imagined world they are experiencing the narrative in, as an end unto itself—describing ‘trees for the sake of trees,’ as Tolkien once put it.

Any genre of fiction can world-build but sci-fi and fantasy are uniquely suited for the task because they tend to take place in worlds that don’t exist, therefore there is an opportunity to delight the reader by describing the details of said world, even if the mechanics of the plot do not directly depend on the descriptions.

I thought I’d do some world-building—give you a sense of my world:

I sit in an atrium mostly made of glass and almost a perfect cube, attached to a series of gray office buildings, wedged between a relatively minor state route and a major highway. The company (network of companies) houses and produces data: customer data, legal data, government data, etc. There is one whole building on campus that is a gargantuan computer that has the data. My seat is on the ground level on the front side of the series of buildings, facing the front parking lot and the Indian restaurant across the street. On days like today, when the road is wet from light rain, the state route looks like a metallic blue ribbon.

In January the trees which dot the parking lot are bare and ragged; the bushes are red-brown and tawdry; it’s not snowing but it would be dirty snow if it was.

There is not much to sneeze at around here, geography-wise. The Ohio ‘valley area’ runs a steady gradation down into the Ohio River but is hardly noticeable. Mostly what one notices is just how little there is to look at. Long stretches of grass, sub-divisions, a mall that smells like an armpit, apartment complexes, and winding highway exit bridges that loop above other roads.


© Daniel Douglas


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