Once upon a time, and for a very long time, I kept note cards around. When I got those sudden bolts of inspiration we all get, I would grab a note card and hastily jot down the new idea for a story, a character, a line of dialogue, etc. Then, being perpetually and grotesquely unorganized, I would promptly lose the card. Poof! Inspiration was gone into the ether.
My latest work in progress requires world-building, both metaphorical and physical. The story, even though it is set in the future, has an alternative history, which requires me to invent variant cultures, languages, religions, economies, and technologies. Whew. That’s a ton of details to keep track of. Soul Enchilada was similar. I had to keep track of various myths, languages, cultures, and bureaucratic rules that governed The Abyss. Imagine how many note cards I lost with that one book. There had to be a better way for me.
You’ve heard of Wikipedia. You may have visited a time or two, and although it’s not a good source for research because anyone can edit it, it excels at giving readers a platform for summarizing novels and describing the worlds built for the novels, such as the page for Speaker for the Dead, which hyperlinks to all sorts of details large and small about the world the author created for the novel.
Back it up a minute.
Wikipedia. Hmm. Easy to edit. Easy to access. Is there a way to create a private page on Wikipedia, safe from inquisitive eyes by still easy to edit. Yes, there is. Could an author use the wiki to create pages for world building to keep track of all those note cards? Yes, he or she can.
So I did. Or I am. As I work through the first draft of this novel, I’ve found that creating a wiki had been invaluable at keeping track of world building, but it has also allowed me to see my story unfold from a macro view, making it easier to spot structural problems and develop character arcs.
Interested in doing this yourself? Go to Wikipedia and create a user account. Your private space will be created for you. If you have your own server, you can install MediaWiki, the wiki software that drives Wikipedia, for free. Or you can use any other wiki program. If all goes well, who knows, maybe one day you can release the world you’ve created into this one.