In the not-too-distant future, huge tornadoes and monster storms are a part of everyday life. In the heart of storm country, Jaden Meggs attends the exclusive summer science camp, Eye on Tomorrow that her dad founded. There she meets Alex, a boy from a nearby storm-ravaged farm, and together they discover a horrible truth about her dad's weather research. As a massive tornado approaches, Jaden must trust her knowledge and have faith in herself to confront her dad and save everyone from the biggest storm yet.
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Can considering dark futures help us to build a brighter one? This question is always on my mind when I read dystopian and post-apocalyptic books, and it was on my mind as I wrote EYE OF THE STORM, a science-weather thriller and my first novel for young readers that's set in the future.
In March of 2012, I was invited to give a TED talk on imagination and society building as it relates to fiction set in the future. When I took the stage in front of 1500 people, Jaden and her friends from EYE OF THE STORM were there with me in spirit. You can read more about my TED talk here:
The concept of "world building" was at the heart of that talk. Writing EYE OF THE STORM required me to imagine a future that hasn't happened yet, so it involved a lot of thinking and writing explicitly about this world my character inhabits, its rules and challenges, and how it got to be the way it is.
For those who aren't familiar with the term, world-building is the process of coming up with all that information -- the history, rules, and everyday realities of the world in which a fantasy or science fiction novel is set. In historical fiction, we simply call this research, because the world already existed in a past time, and the writer's job is to ferret out all the details about what it was like. But when a story is set in an imaginary world or in the future, there's no real-life past to explore. It all has to be made up, but made up in a way that makes sense, in a way that the circumstances of the world are believable, given the history that created it, and in a way that's logical, given the rules you've established for the world.
Even imaginary worlds need rules. Consider Hogwarts. The incantation "Expelliarmus!" always results in an opponent being disarmed, if it's done right. As readers, we wouldn't be on board if a character used "Expelliarmus!" to disarm an enemy in one scene and then cried "DroppusWandus!" five pages later. Things need to be consistent.
So what do writers need to consider when creating a world? I created a world-builiding worksheet that felt like it help me to build Jaden's world for EYE OF THE STORM. You can see it -- and read more about the process here:
World Building - Part I
World Building - Part II
World Building - Part III
By the time I was done, I felt like I lived in the future that Jaden, Alex, Risha, Tomas, and the other characters inhabit. It was a scary place to be, but an energizing, exciting one, too. I hope you'll read EYE OF THE STORM, and I hope you enjoy your time in that world as much as I did.
KATE MESSNER is the author of Wake up Missing, Eye of the Storm, Sugar and Ice and The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z, an E.B. White Read Aloud Award winner. She lives on Lake Champlain with her husband and two children.
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