Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The process is not as difficult as it appears...

     I know the process of world building seems to be a daunting task when you break it down in the number of sections I have.  Especially since I kept this guide as simple as I could for my own process.  There are far more areas that can be fleshed out in each section, and I will be going into more detail soon enough.  For detail oriented people, this guide is just a beginning, but what about the non-detail oriented people.  The folks who enjoy writing a story, and don't see a reason to have all this information about the world they're writing if they're not going to include it in the story itself.

     I've given a lot of information on how I break down world building, but I never actually explained my process.  I don't actually start with all the questions and phases I listed here.  I really just start writing a story, and as I go, see if there's something in the world building I need to define by referring to the questions in each section.  I never fill out or answer all the questions in one section, just the ones I need to finish the story.

     If I'm writing some dialogue, and a character mentions something about the "city state" being a certain way, I'll often stop, and spend a little time designing and defining that portion of the world.  If I introduce an uncommon, or original creature into a story, I'll stop, and start to write a basic description of the creature, sometimes even going so far as to do a simple sketch of the creature.  If I'm having my character(s) travel across the land, I'll often stop and draw a simple map, so I know which way they're going, what terrain or obstacles they might encounter, and what possible creatures might exist in the areas they're going to go through.  The questions are answered while I'm writing, not before.

     After I finish a story, I sometimes have to answer questions asked that I skipped, because I knew the answer to them and didn't think they needed to be defined.  I know in my first published story, the editor of the magazine loved it, but there were things that needed to be defined.  I did several edits addressing each concern, and in the next to last message they said they didn't like the ending.  I often describe the exchange as a boxing match.  We exchanged multiple blows back and forth, most of mine hitting their mark as the editor appeared to like the changes I made.  The ending change, I think, was the editor's attempt at a K.O.  I took it as a challenge, and delivered my own K.O. punch.  The editor's next message to me was "I'm sending this to the copy editor."

     Basically, what I'm saying, as a writer, you don't necessarily need your world built before you begin writing the story.  Most all of my stories begin with the characters, and the world grows around them.  Nothing I write is finished once I hit "The End."  There will always be edits to be done, and questions to be answered, but if you get them answered, whether before you start, while you're working, or after you finish a draft doesn't matter, as long as they get answered.

     So, don't be intimidated by the thought of building your own world, instead write your story, and let the world "build itself."  XD

Sunday, November 30, 2014

World Building - Question 10 - Division of Land

10) How is the land divided?

The number of nations that occur in your world can play a large factor in your plot and story. Multiple nations on one continent can have border disputes, or be at war with each other. They can also band together to fight a common enemy.

Some important questions to ask about nations are:

1) How many nations occur on the continent? (One, two, ten?)

2) Are the nations enemies or allies? At war or at peace?

3) Is one nation envious of another? (More land, more water, etc.)

4) If there is more than one nation, is there more than one type of government?

5) What natural borders exist between the nations. (This helps with and when drawing a map of your world)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Interactions - Peace

To put it simply, peace tends to be boring.  In most fantasy and sci-fi stories there is some war going on somewhere, and the characters somehow get involved to where they have to end the war to stop the bad guy.

Even so, peace can be useful.  Maybe there's soon to be a revolution and the story starts in the "calm before the storm."  Then the characters get caught up in the storm and have to find their way out.  Whether that involves stopping the revolution or helping the revolution achieve its goals.

Peace is just the lead up to the conflict that drives the story forward and forces your characters to grow.  And no, you don't need a drop down, drag out, country vs. country, citizens vs. government type of war.  That's just an example.  :P  But conflict is necessary, because a story about a character who lives in peace all the days of his/her life is a non-story.  There's no point to it.

Now, even though you're going to have a conflict begin, you need to know how your characters are going to act in peaceful situations.  Peace effects a number of things that would be outside your character's control, and these things affect how your characters will act throughout your story.

Are their prejudices going to come out when they interact with a person of a different race, or are they going to treat them with tolerance?  Do they like to make noise if things get to peaceful?  Do they like to make conflict where there isn't any?  If something (bad) happens right in front of them, do they just let it happen, or do they try and rectify the situation?  Or do they join in on the fun?  >:-)  Are they champions of justice, and does that justice apply equally to all, or just to a few?  Do they enjoy the increased trade, or bemoan it?

If you decide to have peace between your races, you need a conflict to drive your story.  Whether you make that something limited to the character, or you extend it to your whole world is up to you.  Just be sure you have your peaceful interactions defined before you jump into the war, since how a character acts during peace can be drastically different than when they're at war.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Interactions - War

If the people in your story are at war, there are a few things you might want to ask yourself.  For starters, why are they at war?  Does anyone remember, or has it been so long that no one remembers or cares why they're fighting, they just keep fighting?  Is the hatred based on an actual slight by one of the people, or just a simple disagreement?  Or is it just because they don't like the way the other looks?

Knowing this helps define both the story line and your character's motivations.  Your villain could be out to continue the war just to continue the war, or because he's looking for something that the war would reveal.  Your hero/heroine could be seeking to end the war, one way or another, or to keep that "something" out of the villain's hands.

Your hero/heroine could have conflict about accepting help from the other side, even though he/she might need the help, or be captured by the other side and then have to find a way to freedom before he/she can finish his journey.

Maybe he/she finds out the war is nothing more than an argument over the price of cheese, and manages to find a compromise that not only ends the war, but stops the villain.  Or maybe the bigger problem was an assassination that one side was blamed for, but, in reality, had nothing to do with it.  Speaking of which, I need to finish that story.  XD

Sunday, November 9, 2014

World Building - Question 9 - Interactions

9) If there is more than one type of people, how do they interact?

Yes, this relates back to question 8, but it is such an important piece to the puzzle that it merits it's own discussion.

Let's go back to the humans and elves from the discussion of question 8. These are considered two very different types of people. Humans tend to be driven by technology and the desire to possess more than another. Elves are the opposite, sharing all they have, driven by nature and the protection of the natural world.

Looking at these two peoples you can tell there is some major conflict brewing. Here is where you can center on social conflicts to drive your story. For whatever peoples occur in your world there are several important questions to ask.

1) Are they friends, or foes?

2) At war? At peace? In the process of bringing about peace?

3) Does one not know the other exists? (Elves are myths and legends to Humans and vice-versa)

4) Are they two completely separate societies? (Each knows the other exists, but they have little to no interaction)

5) Do they exist in one society, equally or not equally? (Elves slaves to humans, or humans slaves to elves.)

The answers to such questions can help define the plot of your story and help develop your characters' ideas and opinions.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

People - Characters

Now that you know what kinds of people populate your world, and have an idea of what they might look and act like you can begin to build your characters.

Me, I let my characters come out as I write the story.  As long as I have a general idea of what they look like, I run with whatever comes to mind.  Some writers actually do character sheets, where they draw out every little quirk and characteristic of their characters.  From their hair color, right down to their favorite snack of chocolate covered sardines.  XP

If you're like me, you keep all the character information in your head, but, if you're also like me, you sometimes have so many characters in your head you have trouble keeping them straight.  Especially if you're like me and work on more than one story at once.

Even though I don't always like to, I will sometimes use a basic character sheet, although most of the time I just use a list of my characters' names.  My character sheet looks like this:

Character's name:


Hair color:

Eye color:



Favored weapon (If applicable):

Birthmarks, moles, tattoos, or other identifying marks:



You'll note that the last two are fairly broad categories.  This is where I try to flesh out something of my character.  Stuff that you wouldn't see with the general description I start with.  In those places I like to put stuff like, if the character tends to be a bit of a know-it-all, or if they have a "hair trigger", or if they flip their hair a certain way.  Little things like that may not come out when you look at your character, but should come out when you write what your character is doing in the story.

It is in the last two categories where knowing the different kinds of people, and having them defined, also goes.  This is where I put if they follow the norm of their race, or if they go against.  Say my character is an elf, in a world where elves and humans don't get along at all.  Under temperament and habits I would note if my character was more likely to stand on the side of a human, or if they would side against a human.  Some little things may or may not come out in your story, but the bigger things, like how they might act around another race, would, and it can be a benefit to have them all written down in one place sometimes.  ;-)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

People - Descriptions

Once you have decided the types and number of people that are in your story, you need to define them.  The way they look, how they may act in general, and even how their society might function.  I may have already gone over some of this, but it never hurts to go over it again.  ;)

I'm a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to the people that occur in my stories.  Humans are typically humans.  They live in some sort of monarchy, since that is the time frame I tend to write in, that may or may not be central to the story.  If it is, it's because the king is a primary character of the story, if it's not his story.  If it's not, I don't usually worry about it until it needs to be addressed in the story.

Where I like to play is with the other races of people that I use.  In one story the elves look just like humans, except they have feline or cat eyes.  To get by in a human society they have to hide their eyes.  In another story the elves are normal elves; slight builds, long, light, fine hair, and pointed ears.  They typically live in some sort of monarchy, just like my humans, but that's normal for elves.  Sometimes they have a limited monarchy or republic, but Monarchies are the norm.

My dwarves are often shorter than humans, but they could be stocky or slightly built, depending on their trade.  Obviously, the miners would be the short and stocky ones, but if they don't need the bulk for their work, they sometimes look like short elves.  Because they tend to be workers, I like to have my dwarves in a communal or tribal society.  Everybody works, so everybody earns the same regardless of status, or they live in small groups that work one area or around one mine that is their "tribe's" territory.

When I have animals, or animal-human hybrids, they are completely different for each story.

All that being said, these differences make the interactions of your people.  Whether both(all) races live in a monarchy, then perhaps they have the same problems and can commiserate on it.  If they don't, then one side could spend their time trying to take over other races so that all would be under one rule.  Whether by arguing how much better their government is, or by going to war with the neighboring lands.

The difference in height between a human and a dwarf would make humans more likely to look down on dwarves.  Whether that translates to them being considered "inferior," or just the height difference, comes out in the story.  For the elves that look just like humans except for their eyes, anyone who might hide their eyes would be considered an elf, and subject to the prejudices or benefits of that story line.

To sum up, the more details you have about your people, the more you know about what will happen when they come into contact with each other, and how that can drive your story and define your characters.