Wednesday, June 15, 2011

New Worlds -- A Workshop Presentation

Covers help establish setting.
No matter what genre you write, you need a setting. Knowing the physical and cultural workings will help keep the writing flowing, and help keep detail in the story consistent. I discovered when I wrote my first contemporary romance that settings in the present often need just as much research as any other. The facts about how the writer thinks something works may not necessarily be true and need to be verified as those details might be very important to the believability of the story. This is true of historical settings, also, or the reader might be pulled out of the story. In fantasy and science fiction – well, any incorrect details might be just part of that world’s reality. So wherever and whenever the setting, it helps to keep a journal of details. I call it my story bible.

Setting, of course, gives the reader a sense of place, and the fantasy and science fiction genres often expose ‘new’ or previously ‘unknown’  world settings. World building creates this unknown place, and makes sure there is structure in the this world, which in turn, makes it a 'real' place for the reader.  It’s all in the details.

Before you start this first round of questions, take a moment to envision what your story world looks like. I know it's there in your imagination. Jot down or sketch how you image the landscape, how the characters are dressed, and what they look like. Jot down what you see in your world. As you envision more, add to this vision.

One key to world building is to let the reader become very familiar with and accepting of the world they are visiting. This is done through consistency and planning of world's characteristics--and keeping a story bible lets you find that information quickly.

Another key is to insert detail into the entire story by using snippets of information. That means to include short descriptors within sentences, or descriptive sentences within the natural progression of events within the story. 
Why in short snippets? Because you don’t bore your reader, let them absorb the setting as they follow the plot, which will help keep them glued to the action. Also, by giving short descriptors and introductions of new setting information when needed, you can reinforce the setting throughout the story, allowing the world to envelop the story and become an integral part of it. You may want to create pages of description for yourself as an introductory step to creating your world, and certainly you should keep a story bible that includes all your setting information, character profiles and plot details, but don’t do that in the story. Your reader won't enjoy it, may even skip over that part.

Another reason to keep a story bible is that you have all that information in place for the sequel...

Workshop Questions. Jot down your answers. Be as specific or not as you chose--these topics are addressed from other workshop questions as well. These are the WHAT questions.

What is the geography of this world (draw a map if it helps!)? Mountains, oceans, waterways, deserts, plains, ice regions?

1. What are the climates of these geophysical places?

2. What locations are important to the story? Name the cities, roads, harbors, and other important locations.

3. What locations are marginally important for the story? Places where a secondary character comes from or maybe there is a historical importance to this place.

4. What are the dangers inherent in this world?

5. What is the governing system(s) of this world?

6. What is the major belief system(s) of this world?

7. What technologies and business structures are in daily use?

8. What are the peculiarities of this world's cultures? Make sure you have a purpose in these differences other than just to make this world different.
What are any peculiar problems the setting might cause within the plot line?

When you have the WHAT completed, it gives you a good overview of what you want in your in your mythical fantasy, science fiction, historical, or contemporary world. Next up: WHEN.


Lisa Forget said...

Wonderful post Rhobin!

The use of a "bible" is a great idea.

I'll be following along as you go!


Christopher Hoare said...

In my case you have me mulling over the two alternate and fantasy worlds I write in. Your point in 8 is important---there must be a story reason for the differences. This can be related to theme and not only plot.

The materialist culture in my fantasy Rast does not have wheels---they've never been invented. (Something often overlooked in our world history. Once, wheels were as novel as smart phones.) The resulting images of these people jolting along in multi-legged transporters are faintly ridiculous, thematically cutting them down to the size of the simpler culture of the people of Rast.

Nan D Arnold said...

LOVED "Crewkin"

Rhobin said...

Thank you, Nan! Love anyone who likes my books!

Lisa and Christopher, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Hope my questions help you mull over your writer's worlds.

Charlie said...

What great questions to make a writer flesh out their scenes as well as their characters. Great. I'm keeping this list close for all my stories.
C.K. Volnek

Rosalie Skinner said...

Knowing your world, from the ground up, is vital. This list is a terrific guide.
I loved Crewkin too!! Thanks for sharing this information. Now, off to read part two. When...