Rachel McLean

– Thrillers That Make You Think

World Building – Not Just London, But Parallel Londons Too

I love world building.

If you write any form of speculative fiction, it’s what you do instead of research.¬†Unfortunately for me, it’s what I do as well as research.

I like to write what I call twisted realities – versions of the real world as it would be if you gave it a bit of a twist. In my first book, Thicker Than Water, the twist is that Britain has been subject to catastrophic floods (which were supposed to happen in December 2017 – thankfully I was wrong), and in my Division Bell trilogy (which begins with A House Divided), I imagine a Britain where the Government responds to the terror threat with extremist measures.

In the Multiverse Investigations series, the twisted realities are the parallel worlds that Alex and Mike travel to (if you want to know who Alex and Mike are, see yesterday’s post). There are going to be six of them. I won’t reveal them in full here – I’ve got plans for doing that over the summer – but I will tell you that in the first book, they’ll be travelling to a version of London which is incredibly high-tech. Something Alex loves (she’s a geek, after all) until she realises the high cost that people are paying for it.

I’ve been using a technique I learned from the ‘Five Things That Everyone Knows (In This Culture)’ workshop led by Jeannette Ng at last year’s Sledge Lit writer’s festival. It helps you get to know a world you’re building and the people who live there by imagining five of various things about your imaginary world:

  • five things everyone takes for granted
  • five ways of insulting someone (think mudblood from Harry Potter)
  • five ways to compliment someone
  • five beliefs
  • five things everyone has an opinion on.

I’ve been identifying lots of ‘five things’ about all my universes, and also thinking about the imagery to capture each of them, including a version of London’s Coat of Arms – see my Pinterest board for some of the images I’ve been collecting.

So the great thing is that for every book in this series, I get to build a new version of London and sometimes of other places in Britain too. I can’t wait!


If you want to follow my #novelinaweek progress, here are some links:

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