1. Avyrra
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    Avyrra New Member

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    Building Your Story's World

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Avyrra, Feb 23, 2016.

    Hello. First thread on these forums, so before I start, just want to say hi. (Even though I've been a member for a while :p) Anyway I'm Avyrra. Sup.

    I got the questions at the bottom of this big chunk of text.

    Anyway, I've been working on a story of mine for a while. Maybe three or four years in. I can't really remember how long. And actually, I've finished my first draft in almost exactly one year. Ya know, started in may, ended in may. And it's evolved since then... a lot. Like extremely. That if I were to go back and read my original draft, I would vomit on it in the most gruesome and vivid way you can possibly imagine. So what's holding me back now?

    You'd probably guess it's what's in the title. I'm not satisfied with the world that my story takes place. Which is a huge problem since the characters need to interact with it (you know how it goes.) It's not as complex as Tolkien's world though. It is Earth, but I've written my lore into the unforeseeable future, pretty much an unknown amount of time, that the landscape (mostly similar) can be the same and the technology can be very different.

    So here's what I've got. It takes place in what's currently the East Coast U.S. NYC has deep vastly unexplored ruins with torn buildings being vacant, visible but out past the shore. Landmarks are unrecognizable and the place is mostly unexplorable, but the knowledge that it was once an Island tells a bit about the story's lore. Most of the reachable cities that haven't been flooded have been torn down and rebuilt, yahdayadayada and it's run by a tyrannical government. Put short, I'm going for a bleak atmosphere. Dark souls style but with people. Where things can be dreadful and beautiful in the same universe (our universe.)

    My problem is two things, how the new world government operates, and the technology they use. In my original draft, there were trucks and fancy shmancy vehicles that were super expensive and rare, but I decided after reworking it that this was not gonna cut it. I needed something less interactive where I can place more dynamic events such as fights and dialogue. So I introduced trains. All cool, except now my characters could use something slower.... hmm... how about a cool fancy shmancy vehi- no. How about carriages with horses. Okay cool, now what exactly is my stories technological era inspired by.
    I've tried everything. Steampunk, cyberpunk, industrial, Victorian, Edwardian, second industrial, 50's, 2000's, 2010's, a mix that makes somewhat sense, a mix that makes no sense. I've tried distinguishing between AC and DC power, quantum power, should there be an internet, and everything else that came down to it. Trying to figure out the tiny details even if it wouldn't make it into the story itself but simply to help me build the technological level that humans have achieved in my story.

    My government operation problem is a little less severe as I kind of know how I want them to be, but it's simply that I don't know too much about politics and government and all. But anyway I don't want it to be the land of the free. I want it to be the land of the people who think they are free but some people see through it and start a rebellion. Yeah, big info drop right there in the previous sentence, but anyway they're sorta my bad guy here. My first draft was modeled after a republic/empire. Sorta like how Rome was. But I figured, this isn't so much tyranny as it is just a bunch of politicians being dicks. So I kicked it up a notch, now it's a monarchy with a hereditary line of leaders along side a council that manages the people into four different provinces. Cool, but where does it start getting bad enough that the police brutality kicks in everywhere? I kicked it up one more time, but maybe a little too far? Like, I roundhouse kicked it up Chuck Norris style several notches and based it off of North Korea. We've all heard the stories so I'm trying to knock it down agian. It's gotta be brutal and bleak. But it can't be such an interference with the people. Having my characters just live how they've always seen it. Extremely careful of the law, but not afraid because it's how life always was.


    This thread's getting pretty long so I'll wrap it up here. I feel like a went a bit overboard with my explanations and story, but it's kinda therapeutic to type it all out.

    Anyway, I'm not asking as much for suggestions on how my world should be build since it's a pretty broad and suggestive world and also I'm a bit rude when it comes to that sorta stuff.

    I'll simply ask, am I overthinking it?
    What are some things you do when it comes to building your world be it starting off or polishing it?
    What are some things that you do to get inspired when it comes to creating your story's setting?
    I know I didn't give too many story details, but from what you've read, what do you think of my setting ideas?

    Also, I guess if anyone would like to share their world building problems and/or solutions as well, I welcome it on this thread as suggestions may also help me.
     
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  2. NeighborVoid
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    NeighborVoid Active Member

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    There is no such thing as overthinking when worldbuilding if you have no time constraints. I currently have over 85 pages of pure worldbuilding on my WIP, and I haven't even started on the plot.
    My approach to worldbuilding is the writing equivalent of thumbnail sketching. I write down notes in incomplete sentences and random order using a basic text editor, preferably on a mobile device. Focus on structure distracts from the creative process.
    I don't actively try to find inspiration. It's usually random daydreams about things like politics and technology that produce the best ideas.
    Some military technologies like GPS eventually get adapted for civilian use. For transportation, people could use powered exoskeletons that enable increased speed and vertical movement.

    Future tech shouldn't be based on that of the old unless you're writing retro-futuristic science fiction. I suggest that you research current innovations in technology and think of possible societal applications.
     
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  3. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    Two questions:

    What is your story actually about? What sorts of ideas or messages do you want to discuss? (I gather that rebellion is going to be important here.)

    Why was the prior world destroyed? What happened to cause the cataclysm?

    An early suggestion: tech needn't be consistent from place to place or social position to social position. If you're dealing with a power imbalance, those in power may hoard "artifacts" from the old world.
     
  4. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I may have a general idea about the world I'm writing about but I don't think out all the details ahead of time. I generally shape the world and the characters as I write. There are plenty of times when an idea comes that requires me to go back to the beginning and adjust things but I like doing that anyway. By the time it's done I've re-read every line a hundred times and re-written many of them several times.

    If you're looking for a governmental system that treats the masses like shit there's plenty of systems that can do it. Even a seemingly altruistic democracy can be riddled with corruption so the people in power can take advantage of those who have no power. Also keep in mind that military power is not your only option. A government can control people just by controlling one needed item, like food or fresh water. They can also control through religion if you want to set up a theocracy.
     
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  5. Avyrra
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    Avyrra New Member

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    For ideas and messages, I'd say its that a single person could affect the lives of all others. The butterfly effect. And that a single person can change the world for better or for worse.
    So as a quick overview of my story, the Government is controlling but very few people see through it. The ones that do form a rebellion that can be seen as a bit extreme for many, composing assassinations and propaganda against the government. My MC dwells a bit with both sides and due to both parties fault, her family is harmed and is seen by thousands causing a second rebellion that hates the other two.
    All this happens while another character, the President's/King's/Whatever's daughter is seeing all this, heir to the throne, and she's doing all she can to investigate and stop it. She's actually a cause for a lot of the conflict in the first half of the story and attempts to resolve it in the next.

    As for the prior world. It was our world. What we live in today. So it could be WWIII, terrorism, a natural disaster. And my current civilization is from the ruins of what was left over with very limited communication outside the borders. My reasoning for the limited technological advances is purely that they were not as important as merely surviving for decades as more people were worried about who's got the bigger stick. I'd say the biggest loss in technology has got to be that of computing power. If I do decide computers should be a thing, they'd be very limited.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2016
  6. BoddaGetta
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    BoddaGetta Active Member

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    You can usually only achieve so much by planning it out so specifically before you fully realize your characters and plot. I used to do all of this extreme world building and fill up pages and pages of random facts and trivia about my setting, only to have repeated issues come up when I actually started writing. I also spent so much time brainstorming facts and features that would never be touched on or relevant to my story without being a dump of interesting but superfluous information. By the time I'd finally finish crafting the world, I got sick of the material. Or how the plot worked out just would not make sense

    I'd also gain more inspiration by actually writing other scenes involving your characters that isn't part of the central plot., and more insight as to where to go next.

    You have to do a very delicate balance between planning and "pants-ing" [aka just going with it and writing actual prose] to help build your world into a believable one. It can be the most scientifically correct world and creative environment, but if no one you care about is in the world, then the setting breaks down. Alistair Reynolds is a PhD physicist that is also a sci-fi author, yet even he has to constantly balance interesting narrative and characters with hard science and setting. Even as a professional in both he still struggles. You learn more about your characters by writing them in certain situations than by listing their personality traits and features.

    I had to learn to not be such a control freak, then my settings actually came to life and were believable. But you do need to do research and have a general idea of where your characters and story are headed. As I said before, it is a precarious balance.

    Point is, you finished an entire story, and who can say that? Not many.

    Also, how long has it been since you've touched it? If it hasn't been long, leave it hidden for at least 3 months, even more. Come back to it after writing on something completely different. Fresh eyes bring fresh perspective
     
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  7. Martin515
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    Martin515 Member

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    I started my WIP some years ago, and focused heavily on world-building at the time.

    My process? I’ll share:

    I started with a rough world map and picked a spot and zoomed in and detailed it (mountains, rivers, forests, deserts...) I then placed cities and territories in what seemed like logical places and started developing the cultures. Everything is derived from the geography from the various factions’ economies and the building materials they use, to their world-views and theology.

    As I was writing the story to fit this world, I realised I needed a tonne of back-story to explain everything that needed explaining. It wasn’t going well.

    I have since taken one back-story (of many) and am trying to write a short story based just on this event. This is going far better! It has allowed my writing to be more character-driven, whereas before it was driven by the world and my characters were just devices I used to convey the world I had created, which was never going to make for a good story.

    To answer your question – I think I did over-think it in my case, but it’s given me something to work from, so no harm done! It’s all useful stuff anyway, just don’t let it take over the story – the characters should be the ones driving it.

    A piece of writing advice I came across once: “Write what you know!”

    Monday to Friday I design buildings. When I write, I am quite thorough in detailing the built environment as the story setting. I define my story’s various cultures by their buildings and their material-science/technology. To give an insight into my WIP, the main political powers are the castes of Masons, and Smiths. One faction in a region of clay soil are great brick-makers and their whole city is red brick.

    Not sure if any of that helps at all, but I hope you can find something useful in there!
     
  8. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    Worldbuilding is a bit of a sensitive topic - there are those who chiefly build worlds to place stories in and there are those who write stories with the intention of creating the illusion of depth. That is, in a gross simplification, the nature of the beast. Personally, I find the biggest issue with the latter because they are not worldly and the illusion is easily dispelled with a single blunder.

    I kind of got self-conscious about my worldbuilding when I decided to undertake what is essentially a 200 page reader's guidebook to single society in my setting. To explain a point Martin made (I am also into architecture, so it was an easy point to jump off) - my setting has numerous types of architectural styles by geographical region, age, materials and utility. An astute reader is likely to guess the age, original purpose and history of various structures by their development and possibly the architect's identity for key ones. The spider's web of connections is terrifying, but I am quite comfortable with such a beast.

    Worldbuilding is really a reflection of the depth and breadth of your own knowledge - and the ability to keep everything working. Though all of this is pointless if you are going to use your world as stage piece for the action.
     
  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think worldbuilding is a lot like doing research. You do enough to get started, then you write. If you hit a snag, you need to do more research (or worldbuilding), and try to work your way out of it.

    The fact that you've got a first draft completed is impressive. Has anybody else seen it and given you feedback?
     
  10. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    I do a hell of a lot of worldbuilding (and even intermittently update a worldbuilding blog) - but it's very important not to get trapped in worldbuilders' disease. Unless you're Tolkien (don't be Tolkien), your audience is always going to be more interested in your characters and your plot than your world and its history. Even in sci-fi and fantasy, your audience is more interested in the fact that Luke's own father is trying to kill him, and less interested in the Great Migration of the Mighty Kozarax in the Seventh Millennium - that way lies all the worst stereotypes of shonky '30s pulp.

    So try to make your setting work with your characters and your story - what are you ultimately trying to say with your piece? What message is your story actually channelling? What things about your world help with that, and what are just background details?

    The thing is, it's lovely to have all this information - but all you really need is a sense of how things work, not a complete tourists' guide to your universe. Readers can fill in some (but not all) gaps on their own - but you still have to give them some indication of how your desert city manages to keep its population fed and watered without it being too appallingly expensive to be viable; how your nuclear wasteland can actually support a high enough population to have a distinct civilisation; how your near-omnipotent magic users can be relatively rich and poor.

    It's nice to think about all the little bits of your world (particularly if the intent is to set a number of works in it), but no reader wants to wade through twenty pages of worldbuilding before getting to the plot and characters, so just think about what is strictly necessary to your plot and work from there.
     
  11. Avyrra
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    Avyrra New Member

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    A lot of posts since I last checked this thread so I'll try to go through each post one by one.

    -Martin515
    I like building my world in such a way to start. In fact, getting into the details right away is how I started my story. I drew borders and forests and started adding towns and cities. I began thinking about who lived in those cities. They're families and conflicts. Eventually settling on a character I liked and saying, "hey! This could make a great book." So I plopped her in the middle of a very small town and gave it a name with a latin root cause it translated nicely. When I finished the story, I felt like where I left off in the world building felt like Technology Ex Machina. So here I am trying to fit the world with the story and bending the story around a believable world.

    -Inks
    Now that you mention Architecture, it wouldn't be a bad idea to dig deep into how I want the buildings to look. Maybe after picking out my favorites, I'd decide "hey, this reminds me of this and that era or this and that game or movie."

    -jannert
    Building the world up as I wrote was sorta how I went about it and it kept me busy enough to really immerse myself into my world. However, be it a few years later, finally out of school and know a lot more about storytelling it's hard for me to look past my own flaws. I actually did have a guy I went to. Where he'd read five chapters of my story at a time (I'd be currently writing 5 ahead of where he reads) and tell me what he thinks. I'll be honest here, my original setting was very anime influenced and he was a big anime fan so they kinda went hand in hand. When I was almost done with the story, I decided that the anime inspired parts were useless and only a distraction to the story, so I finished it without mentioning them for last fifteen chapters which is when the coolest parts began to evolve.

    -terobi
    I agree mostly with what you have to say, particularly the worldbuilder's disease. I like the idea of having a world I can always revisit and it makes sense where I can throw my story directly into my prebuilt world. Not that I'm gonna be one of those guys that write thirty main installments to a series, three prequels, and fourteen spin-offs or anything. Purely because I know how sickening it is, but I would most likely want to throw in one or two more one day (maybe I'll be sneaky and not even directly say it's in the same universe.) Anyway, I do agree with you. It's better, for example, say a character from Fallout to ask your MC to help fix the water purifier rather than to say "well we support our entire district with this awesome water purifier that we can probably produce a lot of in the twenty years that it takes for them to finish that giant one over on the other side of the river." It's more fun and immersive to fill in the details xD.
     
  12. Wolf Daemon
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    Wolf Daemon Active Member

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    I suggest just sitting down and thinking:

    Think about what government you want to have then think: How did things get this bad or to this point? And if there was an apoc-event-ish thing (as you said things have been flooded over and such) then figure out how people, in and out of your tyrannical government would try and fix the world.

    If you still can't figure it out then watch a couple of shows or movies about governments or apocalyptic events and such to just get your mind going.
     
  13. King_Horror
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    King_Horror Member

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    I don't think much about the world my stories are set in, since I usually write stories that take place in modern day Earth.

    However, I do create fictional towns, and schools. So I may place a few details here and there to give the reader a basic idea of what the location looks like. I keep it simple really, no need to use complicated architecture in my setting.

    Though, when I write horror, I choose to write out realities not comprehensible to the human imagination.
    Muwahaha! Oh, um, excuse me. I got a bit loose there. :supercheeky:
     
  14. Jared Carter
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    Jared Carter Member

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    I've been trying to finish editing my manuscript before the end of this month (not the first time I've tried this either) so that it may be presentable to my parents and a possible critique group, but I'm finding myself continually building upon the lore. For example, just a few days ago I finally conceived the name for my planet's solar system, as well as its neighboring planets. It especially doesn't help that I'm adding stuff that isn't even relevant to this particular book, but rather will serve a purpose in possible sequels/spin offs.
    Its not a guarantee that this book is going to be published and sell like hotcakes, so I should probably draw the line more often and focus mostly on what's relevant to this book and its settings. Ain't like the characters are going to be visiting other planets anytime soon anyways.
     
  15. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    Possibly true, but a fictional town needs the same "feel" as a real town in order to come to life. Not just a few quirks here and there, but the feel will be completely different according to the history of the town; my hometown grew hugely as a mill town in the victorian era, and slumped in the early 20th century. The result? A lot of the major businesses in the town operate from old victorian weaving sheds and warehouses that have been converted into offices. A lot of the houses are old victorian terrace houses. The streets are narrow, some cobbled, designed for pedestrians and horse-drawn carriages rather than cars. There are canals and the disused lines of old freight railways.

    That feels completely different to, say, one of the Post-war New Towns, where streets are straight and designed as a single piece to disperse traffic and operate as efficiently as possible. The streets are wide, built in a square grid layout, houses and office buildings are built according to a few small number of blueprints by the same architecture firm and according to the same design.

    That's not just "a few details", that's an entire feel of the whole place, informed by the history of the town.
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2016
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  16. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    You might want to look at how some actual societies evolved in the aftermath of calamity... Europe after the fall of Rome is a good one. A societal collapse means that a lot of technology is going to be lost, because technology development depends on surplus wealth and leisure time, both of which just vanished. And with the lost technology, the ability of a government to control people over a wide area can be very limited, even non-existent. More likely you will have a lot of local warlords exerting control over small areas, like the Franks, the Visigoths, the Vandals, etc. As time goes on, some warlord may go about trying to consolidate control over a larger area; this seems to be about where you might be in your story. So look at Charlemagne in @800AD. He tried, and was moderately successful, in establishing control over a variety of tribes, reinstituting some education, literacy and technology, though far below what had been in place around 400AD when Rome fell.

    A collapse of the US is likely to be as cataclysmic as that of Rome, and will also cause other societies to crash worldwide, so take a look at how that trajectory might proceed. You might try reading "A Canticle for Leibowitz" which followed the reconstitution of America and the world after a nuclear war... it took about two thousand years to get back to the 60s level of technology and government, and of course in the end, they repeated the same mistake!

    You have a good story line, and most importantly, like Jannert said, you finished it! Please don't vomit on it, just rework it as necessary.
     
  17. King_Horror
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    King_Horror Member

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    I'll keep that in mind. :superthink:
     
  18. Jeni
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    Jeni Member

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    There are websites that discuss technology of the future. Maybe visit the sites to see if they offer any plausible technology that might be found in your world. If you don't find anything that catches your eye, consider combining things. If you see a future robot in the works and a future pill that can alter dna and structure. Combine them into a pill that inserts a robot into people allowing them to change appearance and even have super human strength. I always do a lot of research to try to make it as real as possible unless fantastical is what you are going for.
     
  19. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    This is a good approach - a lot of writers use developments in science for inspiration for sci-fi stories (particularly if they're going for the harder side of sci-fi). The drawback is, of course, that the market gets a sudden explosion of most of them shortly after the discovery is made or becomes high profile - to the point where some submissions guidelines specifically mention them.

    Personally, I think a much more interesting approach is to look at social trends, rather than technological ones. You're never going to guess the future right (still waiting on that hoverboard, Zemeckis!), but you can push one aspect or other of our society to its extreme, and design technologies that would lead to/maintain that system.
     

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