DC Green’s Monster Writing Tips on World Building

Monster School zoom 1PT, the Swamp Boy, is terrified. Mafia goblins threaten to murder him – in his first class. He is saved . . . by the meanest monsters in school – AND – a vampire with attitude, a socially-challenged zombie and a  giant spider called Bruce!

Now PT is really sweating. If the Dead Gang learns his secret, he’ll spin on a kebab stick before recess. And wait until Kalthazar the dragon finds out!

All this and more happens in DC Green’s new action-packed adventure, Monster School, Book 1 in his City of Monster’s series.

DC Green is an acclaimed children’s author and award-winning surf journalist. His latest novel, Monster School, has won two pre-publication awards and been hailed by Ian Irvine as ‘a wild, wise-cracking ride’.  It features amazing monstrous artwork by Danny Willis.

Today DC is going to share some fabulous writing tips on how he built the story world for his new series.

dcWorld Building: the City of Monsters

By DC Green

Building a world in fantasy or speculative fiction is a largely invisible ‘off-page’ creative process. It is also essential – and soooooo much fun!

World building might seem intimidating, but piece by piece, brick by brick, suburbs, towns and entire continents can be created – or, in the case of Tolkien, entire languages. Yet it all begins with a foundation stone: a single idea. Often, the more imaginative and outrageous the concept, the better – that is, as long as everything ties together and logically works. Changing just a single element of something that exists in the real world with a bold ‘what if’ can also lead to innumerable more changes that telescope into whole new paradigms, worlds or universes.

So it was with my latest children’s novel, Monster School.

My basic change was taking a city – and filling it with every known monster type from every human culture. From that simple conceit, I constantly referred back to the real world for inspiration and guidance to assist my urban planning. For example, many cities are divided into ethnic mini-cities, having a Gypsy Town or a Chinese Quarter. I figured monsters of a feather would also likely flock together, so I roughly divided my city into quarters: one each for mythic creatures (giant spiders, ogres), dead citizens (vampires, mummies), goblins (they have their own quarter as their numbers are so great) and ex-humans (people and monsters that have been enhanced with bionics and cyborg parts, like the Terminator or Robocop, or genetically modified, like Frankenstein’s monster).

I roughed these quarters onto a map and added a chain of mountains to help with the sub-dividing. The peak of the main central mountain, Castle Mount (the construct of now-extinct giant ants), became the home for the dwindling human population. The middle section of Castle Mount became the logical central location of the city administration, mostly run by the mafia goblin clans.

Many of my expansion ideas turned out to be unviable or dull. Some ideas worked or were interesting, but I was still happy to replace them if a superior idea strutted along. So my city map gradually darkened with details…

The richest real estate in Monstro City is Holly Hill, the artificial mountain where celebrity monsters and the mega-rich live in gated luxury (such as Dracula, a now legless Godzilla and King Kong’s descendants). The city’s third major mountain houses but a single monster – the awesome dragon, Kalthazari.

Gradually zooming in, I wrote a fake census for all of Monstro City. I tried to allocate every monster type to a particular suburb or quarter, giving each:

– a population number (Ogres, 32,000, as an example);
– their own primary profession (Ogres are the most valued bodyguards in Monstro City);
– an HP (human points) rating – basically a measure of their strength (Ogres, 6);
– a list of their special powers, hopefully with a modern scientific(ish) explanation (To become bodyguards, ogres must first graduate from the Ogre Academy with skills in fighting, military strategy and multiple weapon use.);
– their own history that also entwines with ancient, pre-flood history and Monstro City’s ‘modern’ 600 year history. (Ogres moved into the bodyguard industry in the Twenty-third Century as goblins proved too puny and treacherous for the role);
– their own values, traditions, songs, languages, sayings, religions and leader (the Ogre Pope heads a conservative, militaristic, reticent and merit-based culture);

The primary profession question proved the most complicated (and, the most fun!). I knew if Monstro City was to become a functioning metropolis, it would require a wide range of workers and skills: farmers, doctors, teachers, bureaucrats, police officers, tax collectors, garbage collectors and more. Filling in the gaps was surprisingly easy. Planning ideas crept into my thoughts on long road trips, while showering and, of course, at 3 am! Every new idea and job allocation stirred fresh connections, possible conflicts and story-lines. So my city rushed to its own completion.

All up, planning Monstro City took 18 months of my life, including 200 plus pages of background notes and a small shelf of monster research books. My backdrop ready, I felt confident – and brimful with zeal – to launch into my novel at last.

Yes, the vast majority of my city planning did not make it to the final printed pages of Monster School. I was fine with that; back-story is, after all, the handbrake of fiction. I knew my readers didn’t need to know every city detail; as long as they felt confident I knew, that I hadn’t taken any authorly shortcuts or left any gaping plot or logic holes. I hope I’ve earned such confidence and that readers enjoy the rich backdrop that is woven throughout the City of Monsters.

Now back to finishing book two!

Thanks for sharing these great tips, DC.

Where to buy Monster School
Monster School, the first book in the City of Monsters series is available in good book-stores or online at the links below.Ford Street Publishing (for Monster School orders): http://www.fordstreetpublishing.com
Amazon.com (for a kindle Monsters): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FDKBTVQ

More about DC Green
DC’s blog, with all the latest blog tour updates: http://dcgreenyarns.blogspot.com.au/

DC at Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4527538.D_C_Green
DC’s facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/DCGreenAuthor


Tuesday, October 1.
– Buzz Words. Super sneaky peek!  http://www.buzzwordsmagazine.com/
– DC Green Yarns. Welcome to the Monster Blog Tour!
Wednesday, October 2.
Dianne Bates. Wacky author interview. http://diannedibates.blogspot.com.au/
Thursday, October 3.
Dee White. World building. https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/
Friday, October 4.
Erin O’Hara. Zany question time. http://www.erinmoiraohara.com
Saturday, October 5.
Tania McCartney. Monstrous author interview. http://www.kids-bookreview.com/
Sunday, October 6.
Ian Irvine. Plotters versus Pantsers. http://bloggingwithianirvine.blogspot.com.au/
Monday, October 7.
Pass It On. Groovy reviews. http://jackiehoskingpio.wordpress.com/
Tuesday, October 8.
Michael Gerard Bauer. Writing the perfect first page. http://michaelgerardbauer.wordpress.com/
Wednesday, October 9.
Robyn Opie Parnell. Writing a 21st Century Lord of the Ringshttp://robynopie.blogspot.com.au/
Thursday, October 10.
George Ivanoff. Writing monstrous characters. http://blog.boomerangbooks.com.au/author/givanoff
Friday, October 11.
Wrap party with prizes at my DC Green Author page! http://www.facebook.com/DCGreenAuthor

2 thoughts on “DC Green’s Monster Writing Tips on World Building

  1. Hi, Dee
    Thanks so much for squeezing my visit into your crazy schedule. I hope this article didn’t ramble on too long.
    All the best with your trip!

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