1. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    How You Learned to Create a Setting?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Killer300, Mar 4, 2012.

    Recently, I tried to create a fantasy world. It... didn't work out, and part of this was because I felt like I was going from playing in the kiddy pool(fan fiction for me was like a set of training wheels to learn writing) to being thrown into the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

    So, I ask this. Where do you start with creating a setting? How did you learn to create a setting? Did you have to slowly work up to it from genres that didn't demand as much world creation as fantasy does?(Fantasy is... quite something with that.) Or did you not have this problem, and could swim in the Pacific Ocean without much help?:p

    More seriously though, how did you do it?
     
  2. colorthemap
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    colorthemap Contributing Member

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    So many times fantasy novels are full of incredibly irrelevant information that just gets in the way. I say start small with something like the main character's home town and slowly involve things as they benefit the story. No need to develop foreign countries if you don't even have a character from one. Write you character, give him a conflict, make the conflict plausible in the world. rinse and repeat. Then you will have a truly unique and interesting world.
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I started with the story and created the world it needed. Creating a setting for say a detective novel or even a contemporary is no less hardwork. It is all about giving the story what it needs to be told.

    My world creation began when I decided I needed a made up country, then I gained a first person narration required the MC to observe something the king couldn't attend so I turned him into a falcon, the magic grew out of that. I needed a wikkipedia style/Gandalf style character so my pre-mortal (immortal until you reproduce) characters were created so I could have my 800 year old Abbot etc

    The most important question in worldbuilding is how? - keep asking how does this work?, how could that happen?, how did this come about ?
     
  4. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can say that playing various RPGs in my youth, along with reading a lot helped set the foundation.

    But really, imagination, logic, studying the examples of other writers, study of history and science, life experience and hard work mixed with attention to detail is what's helped me.

    Creating a world takes time, but you don't have to have every minute aspect hammered out before you begin typing that novel out. You should, however have the basics--what's necessary for the story and a broader structure. And remember, 90% of what you imagine, create, or whatever of the world will not actually grace the pages of the novel.

    Not a lot of help, I know, but if you wrote fan fiction, Killer300, go back to those novels and settings you so much enjoyed that you wanted to write in, and study how those writers created the world. When did they use character observations or dialogue or exposition, or interaction in the enviornment? How did they blend it in within the context of the story? How much did they reveal and why was it done when it was. Things like that, might help.

    Good luck moving forward.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Most of my stories are science fiction, so my setting development is nearly literally world-building.

    On the plus side, I have read, and watched, science fiction for most of my life. On top of that, I have studied to be a scientist, to the extent that my natural thought processes are methodically analytical.

    I have studied the physical sciences most of my life, including a course in physical chemistry at M.I.T. that focused on planetary atmospheres.

    All this background gives me the fundamentals for constructing credible planets, at least from a physical standpoint. I still have to do quite a bit of research at the time I set out to create my settings, but it helps me identify the information I need.

    The trick is that I know what the story demands for a setting, so I have to work somewhat backwards to build a planet that meets the requirements.

    But then I have to generate an ecology, and perhaps a society. The physical design of the planet is one factor in creating an alien society, but for the rest I have to extrapolate from human societies. History was never my favorite subject, so I have to work twice as hard to identify relevant human societal models.

    So how have I learned to create settings? The above is how I have begun to do so. But I am still learning, and do not expect to ever stop learning.
     
  6. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    Play fantasy games, read fantasy stories and look up information about fantasy. Maybe even explore some mythical legends from Rome etc. These all help, for me what works best is to lay down, close my eyes and listen to some music then imagine my characters and wonderfully so, the settings come along with the scene. It's like watching a movie.

    I say try different approaches and find whichever spark your imagination. It's always better for you to use your pure imagination than try and draw from somewhere else. For example, it always seem like Mags, elves and etc are based in a medieval settings. You can though take some aspects of that setting and still go the opposite direction, like have them live in the modern settings.

    Just use your imagination by picturing your characters doing whatever you're writing. =)
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Surprisingly, you don't need to do much world-creating, even in fantasy. Just start writing, and when a world detail becomes important, it will come to you and you will include it in the text. When you revise, you'll find the world you've created. Just make sure you've been reasonably consistent - don't describe tropical heat and jungle within a mile of icy cold and snow, for example (though there are ways that could work, I suppose).

    Remember that the magic of writing is that you're just putting words out there. It's your reader who's doing the world-creating in his imagination. Let your reader's imagination be your best tool and you'll find you won't need to bust your ass creating worlds. Just give the reader a little guidance here and there and he'll happily fill in the gaps.
     
  8. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Ah. Yes, what may have killed the first was expecting too much... interesting.

    As for the fan fiction, eh, I got attracted to the stories for the characters, as the settings they were in were either ordinary, or a gothic school setting that was... ehh.
     
  9. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like this list of worldbuilding questions but obviously, broad knowledge of social and physical sciences helps make it unique and realistic.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the same way i learned everything else i know about writing--by READING!

    and, in some cases, such as the abandoned asteroid mining site in my screenplay, 'sons of adam,' from film settings...
     
  11. JPGriffin
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    JPGriffin Senior Member

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    Practice, Practice, Practice. There's simply no substitute for practice. I can read a novel, see how they introduced the setting, sit down and try it, and come back a week later and still be at Point A. That, of course, is because my schedule doesn't give much focussed time to write, and maybe it's different for others. In general, though, just focus on what's relevant. Is there a river your character often visits/swims in? Is there a coffee shop that's popular with your MC? How about where he/she works? The story takes place in your MC's shoes, so what's relevant to him/her will be relevant to the readers. You can have a nice backstory for a park, but in the end, you're never going to tell it to readers unless if it's going to push the plot along, if not for simple filler.

    As a quick P.S., building a setting isn't just a required skill for fantasy and sci-fi. Most, if not all, fiction uses fake or adjusted settings to fit the novel's needs. So, again, practice, practice, practice. It's a skill that's a basic necessity to most writing, and allows for some of the most successful stories to flow.
     
  12. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't write fantasy but stories set in the real world, so I just learn as much as I can about the place and for the presentation I rely on what I've picked up from reading other peoples work. besides from that it's a constant experimenting with different ways of writing it, what should I reveal about the place, and how much? and so on.
     
  13. jc.
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    jc. Contributing Member

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    You've already received a lot of good advice, but I want to echo the reading thing. It helps so much.
     
  14. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    Reading does help, but if you read too much you run the risk of glomming together all sorts of composite worlds from different authors, and, while they may be interesting and spark neat stories, they aren't really yours. For me, the setting (if I need one) develops in my mind along with the plot, and I shape them to fit together.
     
  15. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Hmm. Well, great suggestions guys! To be fair, I didn't read fantasy before hand, however part of that was a want to... well differentiate it significantly from the average fantasy story. Granted, this didn't work out, but still, I was trying to avoid the story being corrupted too much by more traditional settings.

    With that in mind, thanks, this should help if I try to do this again.
     
  16. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it does you more harm NOT to read them for fear of being influenced. finding out by other writers how they do it and then figure out what you like about it and what doesn't work for you and mix the different techniques into your own style to me sounds like the best way to learn. Find inspiration from storytelling device and ways to describe things rather than their voices.
     

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