From a character came a whole world

A few years ago I devoted a great deal of time to developing a fictional world, complete with language, history, characters, politics, geography and much more. I still have most of the documents on my computer, though I haven’t looked at them in a while. It’s a hobby which comes and goes depending on my time and moods.  I don’t know if I’ll ever return to the first world I created, the stories petered out and all that was left was to continue to trudge through my lexicon as I attempted to make more and more words.

Much more recently, I’ve had a world blossoming in my head, all from the simple concept of a character. The setting is “Steampunk,” a term used to describe a world without the internal combustion engine, when steam power provides all. Sometimes that world involves magic, but not always. Usually clockwork and steam power has advanced such that it can now mimic much of today’s technology. It’s often Victorian or maybe western in settings, but not always. With this setting in mind, I came up with a character named “Silas Strauss.” A young, barrel-chested man. As my image of him came into a more clear focus I realized that Silas worked in the blue-collar realm, not a Prince or nobility of any sort – he worked and enjoyed it.

His work though eluded me for a long time. Did he work onboard an airship? Or on a train? In a factory? What was it. Eventually I realized he worked either shoveling coal or laying rails for the trains to move on. And from there the world exploded around him, it’s amazing when you discover the key element how much more can come to you. I quickly had to grab a pad and scribble notes to myself.

“Silas Strauss – Burly and barrel-chested. He is the Serviceman of the 7th Rail Squad for the 4th Battalion in His Royal Majesty’s Exploratory forces, his duties alternate between laying railroad and shoveling coal on board one of the engines.”

Imagine the times when we had to first lay railroad rails across the US, exploring into the deep unknown. But imagine if the land was even bigger, what if it had been the size of Asia? One railroad track would obviously be too few as the forces would be huge, laying track for multiple trains only made sense! If your kingdom was big enough and you had the supplies, you could lay two, three or four tracks simultaneously allowing trains to run supplies and keep the forces mobile. Your supply line would be crucial for this large of an exploratory force.

And Silas is a small cog in the machine for these forces. How would life be? He’d work day in and day out. He wouldn’t suffer the fear or questions explorers on the high sea might, the tracks would always be behind you, meaning you could always find your way home. But you’d also know just how far you’d be from home.

The world grows more and more in my mind, my notes in the Google Docs folder are piling up. I guess a story might come out of this. At the least, I’m hoping to put together a steampunk costume for D*Con.