1. louis1
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    louis1 Contributing Member

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    How to make your world feel real?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by louis1, Jun 23, 2012.

    I write fantasy so I'm creating a world, I want to know
    What do people need to know for my world to feel real?

    The Climate,
    The Geography,
    The population...
    What else is important for my world to feel alive and real?
     
  2. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    To be honest I have the same question. From what I've read, the things you've mentioned are imporant, but must be presented subtly, not explicitly stated. Make it so that the reader sees and experiences these things as oppose to being told that there are tall mountains to the east or a small clan of nomads in the west XD

    Also I think it is important for you to know the history of the world you create. Create a history, a culture, and a lifestyle that developed from that, even if the history isn't presented in the book. Writers must know everything about the book as they say :)

    Answer these questions as you plan this world of yours: Is there any distinction between people who live in different geograpies? Why? do they look different or spea a different language? are there different religions? Things like that presented in a subtle way -- as observed by the characters perhaps -- will help the world seem more ral because now there is a culture, things exist outside of the main action there are other people who ma have nothing to do with the story but they have lives too that could be affected :D

    I hope that helps and good luck in your writing :D
     
  3. Reptile Hazard
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    Reptile Hazard Member

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    What matters is none of the things you listed, but instead how you write them. If you're just dumping that information to the reader for the sake of it, then it won't feel real, it will feel forced and artificial. If, on the other hand, you show the reader these things through your writing, then it will feel like they're actually there, rather than being told about a place they've never been to.

    Like Andrae Smith said, be subtle about it. And even then, if the information doesn't actually adds to the story, its not worth mentioning.
     
  4. louis1
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    louis1 Contributing Member

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    I know this. but if I don't know I should describe the climate, than there's no way i'll be subtle about it. I'm not asking how to write, that I know (i think so) I'm asking what Is the basic info people need to know for my world to feel real.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    And I would have to underscore is that what Reptile Hazard was saying is that WHAT isn't important. HOW is important.

    I agree with RH completely (assuming I have not misrepresented his point).
     
  6. Reptile Hazard
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    Reptile Hazard Member

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    That's kind of the point. If you're having doubts about telling the reader about something, then that something might not be worth mentioning.

    How about this for an example: you're writing the story, then comes a part where the climate is impeding your heroe(s) to do something. In that part, you could add a "this problem wouldn't have risen if they had planned ahead, as is usual for this kind of storm to fall during this time of the year." You're not exactly telling the reader what happens and when, which would be info dump. Instead, you're leading him to draw the conclusion that, in that time of the year, rain is common. Which is preferable than going on endlessly about all the seasons of the year.

    Nah, that's exactly what I was trying to tell.
     
  7. Vision Maker
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    Vision Maker New Member

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    For me it is about living the story in my head till that is all there is. Then I spend countless hours writing, recording and cutting from the words, 10 pages good draft come from 100 pages of garbly goop.
    Less is more in writing and the easier it is for the reader the more vivid and real the world I create for them lives in their imagination. I take countless notes on decsriptions of sceans.
     
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    You don't need to describe the climate, and IMO you shouldn't. You need to know what the climate is, and that should come out in your narrative. Maybe you depict your character stuffing rags in the cracks between the window shutters and the sill to keep out the freezing air. Or stepping out of the stifling hot kitchen while the onions fry, only to be disappointed by the equally blazing hot sun. Or picking across a muddy field lamenting that it _still_ hasn't drained since the spring rains.
     
  9. louis1
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    louis1 Contributing Member

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    to me what you're doing is describing the climate. that's what i mean by describing, i don't mean ''it was very hot, with wind coming from the south,''
     
  10. josie101
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    josie101 Member

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    For me, when I want a setting to feel real, I would write about the daily life within the fantasy world and introduce aspects of your world naturally but still describing it as if it was the first time. :)
     
  11. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    To be honest, that is xactly what I was saying. little thngs in daily life that people do, make the world come alive :)
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't call it describing the climate, I'd just call it writing the story. Leaving those things out would suggest that you'd be actively _suppressing_ any information about your world.
     
  13. louis1
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    louis1 Contributing Member

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    Leaving those things out would suggest that you'd be actively _suppressing_ any information about your world. what i'm looking for is ''those things'' you're talking about, such as climate ect.
     
  14. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    The one simple rule to make it feel real is to include details that aren't plot-relevant. If every single detail advances the plot, it makes for an empty-seeming world. (And yet some people actually think that's a good idea!)
     
  15. marktx
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    marktx Contributing Member

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    One useful trick to make a fantasy world or situation seem "real" is to remember that although it is a extraordinary place from the reader's perspective, your characters don't think of it that way. To them it's just normal life. So the things we would think are strange or bizarre are things they would just take for granted.

    If someone from 200 years ago stepped into our present-day, he or she would be blown away by the extraordinary inventions we now possess. But we don't gasp in amazement about how pictures and sound come out of a device we call a television; instead we talk and debate about which shows are good and which shows stink. Our jaws don't drop when an airplane flies overhead; instead we gripe about flight delays, bad food, cramped seats, and TSA hassles. So if your characters treat the unusual realities as things they have to deal with or make use of, it can have a way of slipping the reader into the altered reality you are creating.
     
  16. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    While that is a very good trick Marktx, it only works when you have a limited number of differences and usually they are technology/magical in nature. A river that flows UP a mountain in defiance of gravity is one example that will make any reader question the author's sense unless it is shown in a particularly careful way, requiring that the 'normal' denizens of that world be unusual or requiring some background for the hopelessly lost readers. Describing strange new senses, magic and devices that violate the laws of reality, physics or space are all such things which a reader will allow a limited tolerance for, but generally an explanation is unnatural (for the characters) and a lack of one comes across as just silly. You don't call it a 'bag of infinite holding' if its an everyday item, its just 'my bag' and the moment a character pulls out something with more volume or weight then which the object can possibly contain it enters the 'uh....did he just pull out an assault rifle from his backpack?' Sorta like DBZ's capsule technology which equates to a vehicle in a fist-sized pill straight out of Dr. Mario. Its outlandish, but a few cases are fine, but good luck explaining modern technology with the dictionary from the 1800's. An ipod is something which is impossible to describe even in simple technological terms, just try explaining something to which no equivolent can be referred to. I'm sure describing the screen alone will doom even the best writer to utter lunacy. Everything is relative, but sometimes back information is a requirement to bridge the disbelief factor.
     
  17. MissLotty
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    MissLotty Member

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    People need to feel what the character feels. Imagine you are your character. Go and stand in your 'world' and feel everything your character does. Empathetic writing see :).

    It's easier to write it if you can feel it. Well, I think anyway. Hope that makes sense.

    L.
     
  18. johnjmannion
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    johnjmannion New Member

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    I think Andrea brings up an important point here. Knowing the history of the place will add significantly to the world you are creating. Again, as others have said, this history is the norm for the characters in the story, but unique to the reader. So it has to be presented in some way so that both the reader can learn and the character can interact normally with the history.
     
  19. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You, the author, should know as much detail as possible about your world - architecture, history, culture, clothing, trade, how the cities and towns are sustaining themselves, religion, education, geography and political relationships with surrounding areas, any symbols that are important. When you have knowledge of these things, it'll come across when you write without you even meaning it to.

    Make sure it's not infodump. It's not the reader who needs to know everything about your world - that won't make it more real to them, only boring. It is YOU, the author, who needs to know everything about your world.
     
  20. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I wouldn't add anything that doesn't help the scene or move the story forward , the best way to let your reader grab information about this new world is to experience it with the characters.
    Think about the Empire Strikes Back - which has just plunged the audience into a world that isn't like Star Wars' desert planet of Tatooine. It's an icy planet called Hoth and rather than mess around with introducing us to this planet - the action has set up it's own 'introduction'
    Luke - doesn't make it back in time for lockdown. ( showing us how deadly the temperature is ) He battles a furry snowbeast called a wampa. ( animal life on the planet. ) He crawls into his dead tauntaun for warmth ( showing us how to survive this terrain. ) It's exciting , informative and most important not bogged down
    with a lot of details.
    A screenplay isn't the same as a book - but this framework is still helpful. During the downtime between the action - Princess Leia's wistful vigil , Luke waiting out the night - other tidbits about the planet can be woven in.
     
  21. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    There's nothing wrong with a few details, which might include climate, not serving to advance the plot; if details only serve to advance the plot, then everything assumes a utilitarian feel. The richness of a world is often conveyed by its trivial details. If the world in your head is well-defined, the details should mesh to convey a focused impression of it.
     
  22. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    How is your world different from Earth? How is it the same? How you present these factors is important. As others have previously noted, you need to introduce these factors as matter-of-factly as possible and not hit your reader over the head with a sledge hammer about it. You might note that a character stuffed his hands inside his jerkin to warm them against the unseasonably cold weather or that he shed his coat as the temperature climbed.

    But there is, obvously, more to an environment than temperatures and snow and rain, etc. Perhaps there is a somewhat acrid, sulphuric essence to the air. This is an important factor and would have an effect on, not only the atmosphere but everything living there.

    What do the trees and other plant life look like? Are they similar to Earth plants? Then there is probably little need to make note of them. If they are drastically different, it might be more important. Are there rivers or does all water run underground only to pop up here or there in a spring that spouts water but the land is so arid the water, unless captured, is sucked back into the ground again only to be spit out once more through the springs? What about the sun? Or is there more than one? And is there a moon? or two? or four? or more?

    Does the climate change from one part of the world to another? Does the temperature/atmosphere change significantly between day and night? There are all kinds of things we tend to take for granted on our planet that you need to be more scrupilously aware of when creating your world. And all of these factors could have an effect on the appearance of the people who populate your planet so you need to take that into consideration as well.

    Did any of this even begin to answer your questions?
     
  23. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd say that what matters is anything that has emotional impact for your character. I don't mean huge emotional impact as in, "These are the gloves that grandma gave me, I miss her so much!", but even minor impact, as in, "It's so nice that I have my own gloves, and don't have to borrow from Cousin Louise any more." That fact may reveal the fact that girls were expected to wear nice clean gloves on formal occasions, Victorian-style, and that those gloves were an expense that not everyone could afford, and all sorts of things. But the motivation was the character's feelings and thoughts, rather than a desire to explain those facts.

    So rather than making a list ("climate, clothing, table manners, cuisine, architecture...") and making sure that you touch on these things, I think that a better plan would be to explore what your character would be thinking and reacting to, and detail that. In the case of the gloves, you might assume that your character is worried about her clothes for this event, and then you take the opportunity to detail her worries. She might be worried about her table manners; you can detail that. She couldn't care less about the sidearms that the male guests are wearing, so you don't write about that. And so on.
     
  24. noodlepower
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    It's been mentioned before but including all those things, a history too is needed for your world to feel real. I think you need to map out your world. First, what lands are there in your world? What type of people live in these lands? What is the weather like in these lands? How can these lands be reached? What cities exist in this lands? Are the population growing, steady, or declining? How is the government run in these lands? If magic exists in these lands, how does it work? Do people get runes engraved in their skin or are their special amulets that allows people to wield this magic? How magic even created in the world in the first place? What are the different people's religions? What are the laws of the different lands or do they all follow the same general rules? Are the nations at war or is there peace? If there's a war, what caused it? If gods exist, what their legends and myth? If the world is at peace, what is threatening it? What kind of occupations exist in the world?

    Those are all things that I would consider when writing a fantasy novel to help make the world seem real. Now of course, you wouldn't go devote 5 chapters to describing all that. Instead, once you have your world mapped out, you can start telling your story, introducing small bits of the world as the characters go on their journey.

    Here's an example of one fantasy country (from an RPG I belong to) to show you what I mean:


    Name: Ceridia

    God: Cerid, God of the Harvest

    Capital: Ninovan

    Geography: Ceridia is a rich, fertile country, yet its inhabitants seem hardly
    to notice that they occupy the finest farmland in the world. Cerid's people seem
    simple, but their uncomplicated exterior hides a sensitivity to nature that
    other nations can only guess at. The Ceridian continent is vast. Ceridia is
    comparable to the United States and Mexico, with lush sub-tropical forested
    peninsulas in the southeast, more arid in the southwest, temperate throughout
    the center of the continent, and colder coniferous forests in the north.
    The capital city lies almost in the direct center of the continent, as the
    center is where the most agricultural developments have taken place, and there
    are the most maintained crops. What is grown in the various parts of Ceridia
    depends largely on the climate, but corn, tomato, peppers, beans (including the
    cacao bean), peanut, tobacco, and squashes are the principal domestic crops,
    however grasses such as wheat, flax, and barley have been imported from Terra
    and Jinn and have been integrated into the Ceridian agriculture. Ceridia is also
    rather well known for a certain crop which is harvested and used as a
    recreational and medicinal tool, the common name of which is Yellow Holly. The
    Ceridian continent employs a method of agriculture that is totally sustainable
    and as minimally devastating and degrading to the natural environment as
    possible.

    Inhabitants: Humans

    Cities: Besides the capital, Ceridians have no true cities. They are a somewhat
    tribal people, and prefer to live in small, self-reliant communities, often in
    forests, valleys and other protected areas.....

    ---

    Now there is other stuff, like the Ceridia's relations with other countries and the culture of the people who live there and the history of their god, Cerid. Once you have stuff like that all mapped you, you can begin to write stories of your character's travels through there.
     
  25. Kaylin
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    Kaylin Member

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    People will be able to relate to your world if the characters are emotionally invested in it. The world is being perceived through the eyes of the POV character. So stating things as he/she would see it would be an improvement on objective details. If the character has given up on hope, she'd see things differently. A grand place that to other people would be spiritually uplifting with high vaulting ceilings, crisp atmosphere, and a polished marble floor might appear agoraphobic, chilling, with an ominous echo of footsteps.

    Characters' viewpoints will change and when they do how they see and interact with their environment changes as well. You can use your setting to mark your characters' growth or un-growth. In this way, the story world almost becomes a character itself since they have active relationships with the characters.
     

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