Writing Steampunk: World Building
I'm continuing my blog series about writing steampunk fiction. One of the most important elements in steampunk is creative and retro futuristic world building. Usually, steampunk fiction includes environments that are larger than life. It uses industrial backdrops that are almost entirely powered by steam. World building can be one of the most challenging elements writers because it's daunting. Where can you possibly start? Never fear because it's not as difficult as you might imagine.
Don't overcomplicate the situation. Build your environment with one component at a time. Remember the most important parts of a steampunk environment. Think of it like a massive Industrial Revolution. You're going to see factories, rotating gears, steam powered vessels, iron machinery, clockwork mechanics, boiler rooms, and so on. I find it easier to build retro futuristic cities first and then add the smaller elements. What does a city need? How can you use steam power for the citizens of these cities? A city needs electricity or some source of energy. Perhaps you can use steam power as an alternative energy source. Cities need buildings and infrastructure. Think about your architecture. Many steampunk authors take influences from Victorian architecture and incorporate it into their cities. You'll also need transportation. It's very common to see horse drawn carriages and steam powered vehicles like trains. Your scenery needs to appear practical for the characters, even though it's rooted in fantasy. If you're going to include huge steam powered submarines, you need to find a purpose for them. It's easy to throw in too many trinkets and gadgets. You have the right to create all kinds of steampunk inventions, but make sure it makes sense for your storyline and characters.
Like I said before, steampunk is a highly visual genre. Fortunately, resources are easily available. The simplest beginning is to use Google or another search engine for steampunk designs or scenery. There are many drawings and graphics that illustrate massive steampunk environments. Even though every artist has a unique take on steampunk, you'll see a lot of common themes. Reading steampunk novels can be helpful because writers are usually very descriptive about their backgrounds. I also find steampunk movies and video games helpful for those who enjoy such hobbies. In cinema and gaming, you'll see huge open world environments that provide a plethora of elements that could be useful. Concerning films, I recommend The Golden Compass, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Victor Frankenstein, The Time Machine, and Van Helsing. For games, I prefer Dishonored, the BioShock series, and Thief. When it comes to steampunk media, you'll probably notice that some environments are bright and shiny with an utopian theme. Other steampunk environments are dark, gritty, and gloomy. Either type can work, but it depends on your plot and thematic material. More recently, some authors and media are adding post-apocalyptic elements to steampunk. For example, Cherie Priest's Boneshaker book series takes place during a zombie infestation in the United States.
My book series also has a post-apocalyptic element. It's actually the reason why I chose steampunk as my primary genre. I wanted an excuse for mankind to rebuild the United States in the wake of a post-apocalyptic event. A great Industrial Revolution seemed like a good choice. After I chose steampunk as my genre, I had to find creative ways to build a Victorian revival. Some people believe taking elements from the past is a great way to build a better future. Once I figured that part out, I crafted the way my cities looked. Then I added the little gadgets and gizmos. See how it works? It needs to be a macro structure first and then you can create the micro elements. Is there a particular invention you created, but you can't find a purpose yet? That okay. Make a side note for yourself. After you start writing the story, you'll eventually find a purpose for it.
This should help you guys get started. If you have questions, leave a comment. I would be happy to answer your questions and I'm sure other steampunk enthusiasts could help as well. Stay tuned for future blogs about writing steampunk fiction. Have a great weekend and I'll find more topics to talk about.
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