Last time out I suggested a wiki was the single best way, hands down, to organize any project that has its own world. Now comes the thornier question: how exactly do you do that?
The same thing that makes a wiki powerful—the ability to make an article out of absolutely anything—can also be its undoing. When I first created my internal wiki for Flight of the Vajra (the project that inspired this whole series of articles in the first place), I was tempted to treat the wiki like Fibber’s Closet, just throw in everything I could think of first and find a way to sort it out later.
Thing is, this turned out to be a not-half-bad approach. I could stuff things into the wiki as I remembered them—at first as s simple stub article (“Henré Sim is the creator and pilot of the Vajra. [tags: stub]”), and then later as a full-blown piece with internal structure. The hard part is remembering to actually go back and expand on all those provisional entries, lest you end up with nothing but a wiki full of undeveloped stubs and no actual organization.
When the number of entries reached about thirty, I decided to stop stuffing and start organizing, by taking the material I had so far and assigning it to a number of proper categories. The first five that came together were this:
People. Actual characters in the story, divided into major, minor, walk-on, and mentioned-in-passing.
Places. A list of locations where story action takes place—cities, worlds, people’s habitations, etc.—as well as a list of locations that are mentioned and which need some descriptive data attached to them, but are never actually encountered directly.
Things. Devices, vehicles, products, foodstuffs. This also includes technologies; almost no world-building goes on in any story without some discussion of the technologies that are used in it. I was originally tempted to break technologies out into their own subcategory but I left it as-is for the time being.
Universal Background. This one’s a bit tricky. It’s a term I coined to encompass big, overarching topics which fit four basic criteria:
1. They affect the entire setting in some normative way.
2. These are things which if you pull on them, the whole universe falls apart. (Without them, the universe we created doesn’t function.)
3. They are what gives this story its unique flavor. (Without them, the universe we created doesn’t stand out all that much.)
4. They define extremely general concepts that do not easily fit anywhere else.
There can be some overlap here with the Things category, but for the most part I used it for key concepts: money, space travel, law enforcement, information technology, etc.
So far, so good, I told myself. Then things started to get … abstract.
And more on that adventure in the next installment.
-- Serdar Yegulalp