1. hrdoyle3
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    hrdoyle3 Member

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    Process of World Building

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by hrdoyle3, Mar 25, 2013.

    I was just curious about your process of world building...is there a list of questions that you make sure are answered? do you plan it all beforehand, or as you go? etc. etc.
     
  2. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    First of all, I let my story (and world) simmer in my head before I even begin to put the first few words down on paper. Usually, through doing that, your mind begins to wander in random directions (but make sure you don't wander too much - it still needs to be about your world) and questions are brought forth by your mind. Sometimes you can answer them immediately, whilst others need a bit more thought. So for example, asking myself where the novel is set may be obvious to me, but asking why it should be set there could (and possibly should) take more time. That's how I begin.

    Next, I build up my characters. As I enjoy writing science-fiction, I would ask what planets my characters are from, who their parents are, etc. When you are doing this, again questions should arise that flesh out your world - why can people live on that planet? Is there enough oxygen? Maybe people can't live there, and my character is in fact a morbidly obese alien. Question things, and answers concerning your world will emerge.

    Step three: I just write my novel. Complete it. Some world-building questions I asked earlier may be stated and answered in the manuscript, others may not be. In fact, a lot of my questions about the world are answered through writing about it, so go ahead and do the same. Then make a second draft.

    Finally you want to really critique your world after your second-draft has been written. Be harsh. Is everything explained clearly, or are you being too wordy, or even too simple? Is everything the reader wants to know answered in the book (this rule can be broken, especially if you want to create a sense of mystery, but don't overdo it: leaving out too much can bore your reader and turn them off)? When that has been completed, write your third-draft. Now things should begin to take form and shape, and a real world should appear from the fog.

    Hope I helped, and all the best with your writing. :)
     
  3. Shannonpeel
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    Shannonpeel Member

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    I usually have a real world setting to draw from and have my characters notice things that are important to them when telling the story. For example if a man and a woman walk into a room they each will notice something different about that room. The man may notice the hockey trophies while a woman may notice the smell of used hockey equipment in the corner. This also helps with characterization because what each person notices tells something about what is important to them.

    I will draw some settings on paper to help me understand exactly what a character is seeing for future reference. I use this technique only for really important settings that I know I will be coming back to again and again. I usually end up pulling different details from the image for different characters to notice while building the setting in the story, which results in more details being added to the picture.

    Having a real world setting to work off helps a lot. A mountain pass through the Rocky Mountains will look different in my story then when I drive it in real life.
     
  4. Shmendrick
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    Shmendrick Member

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    I write fantasy so for the world I'm currently working on I started with a race and I'm in the process of fleshing them out and figuring out their mythology and so on and what their relationships are with other races in my world and how they interact with each other. I've found that doing that helps me to understand the geography of the world better. I like having that done before I start writing personally. I used to work out the geography and go from there but that never worked as well for me. I also try and read about other cultures, so I can use their mythology in my work as well.
     
  5. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    I tend to either put the characters or story first and write the world to suit their needs: There are very few instances where the world is the selling point of any experience, especially one that is read. Exceptions would be instances where the world can be established over a very, very long time (Terry Pratchett's Discworld), where the setting is satirical and thus is able to provide value without wasting too much of the reader's patience (Shrek) or where exploration plays a big part of the experience (The Elder Scrolls and Fallout)

    There's also the matter of what you're comfortable with: I prefer fantasy settings because it allows me to create the important chunks and rationalise the details as I go along (magic is its own explanation, as is science. SCIENCE!)
     
  6. PyrZern
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    PyrZern Member

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    I start with characters and actions first.
    Let's say; let's have some guys sabotage a factory.

    Alright, what's the point of doing so ?
    They want to eliminate their competitor.

    How would they sabotage it ?
    Plant a C4... (Modern day)
    Leak deadly chemical... (Post-industrial society)
    Rig reactor core to send out EM blast, knocking all devices offline (sci-fi)
    Jam the cogs and gears with with pipe (Pre-industrial stage / steampunk)
    Lit fire on wooden wall (fantasy)

    O o'
     
  7. The Peanut Monster
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    The Peanut Monster Senior Member

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    I spend alot of time on world building. For me, it's one of the most exciting parts of the writing process. My current setting (an underground city) is growing all the time and the questions etc, I have asked are kind of connected to my emphasis. Some of things I've done to help in my process:
    - research people's artwork of underground settings/look at pictures of underground bunkers
    - identify key elements I want of the setting (an administrative area, storage area, etc)
    - Identify the social structure that exists, and what sorts of people I want to populate that structure
    - Start to think about the specific individuals that fill in those spots; how they got there, why, etc..
     
  8. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    This is not world building, this is plot development. World building refers to the setting and not the actions that take place in that setting.
     
  9. heal41hp
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    heal41hp Contributing Member

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    I've really only done this once and it's an ongoing process (after nearly 4 years). It was rocky at first (you should see some of my older notes!) but has gradually gotten to a more refined place. However, I've still got a lot to do...

    Figure out what sort of climate and geography you want. Do you want it to be cold? Hot? Temperate? Do you want it to be near the ocean? Inland? On islands? Once you've figured that out, draw a map (or maps). Include lakes, rivers, mountains, bogs, plains, and all that stuff you want. You'll also need to consider your level of technology, more advanced forms having an influence on the geography (artificial lakes, dams, drained lakes/bogs, diverted rivers, etc.). That technology will also tell you what demands these people have of the lands. Do they mine heavily? Do they farm? Are they great mariners? Those questions will also start to give you an idea of the society of the people (well, it all does in its own special way). I also highly recommend researching the plant and animal life available to the climate you've chosen, as that can affect quite a bit. In my own book, the land's not warm enough for cotton so I can't use cotton for anything. Most cloth is either wool or flax (linen). You should consider whether these people are great tradesmen and if so, what do they get from trade and from where? Because if they're trading with other locations, there's going to be cultural contamination (causing all sorts of crazy things). Knowing the flora and fauna also allows you to know what food, clothing, and housing is available. If there aren't a lot of trees, houses may be sod and there may not be paper and technology could be very different from what we're used to. Boats may also not be possible with a low supply of wood.

    There are all sorts of questions. It's crazy. Basically what I'm saying is to build the place literally from the ground up (I've even researched how different metal and mineral deposits occur so I can figure out where they are).

    So once you've got a map (lol) you can then put in political boundaries. Add cities and towns. I, personally, added the capital and the four biggest cities then added smaller places as I needed them. Consider how those cities and towns function. Is their economy primarily reliant on fishing? Timber? Mining? Pottery? Metalsmithing? I base this generally off the surrounding geographic features. One of my cities is a port city and is heavy into trading and fishing. Another is nestled in a valley and is heavily reliant on produce and horses (oh, beasts of burden for the location are an important thing to figure out when looking into the animals available to your chosen climate). You'll get a good sense for locations through this as well as the general population that inhabits them.

    So once I've eventually gotten the geography down, start focusing on the people. How is society set up? Is it a monarchy? A patriarchy? Is the country (or empire?) run by a council of elders or elected officials? Flesh out the government. Consider religion. Monotheism? Polytheism? Atheism? How does the religion (or lack thereof) manifest in the country? Are there churches, altars, shrines, or any such things? Are there church officials? Consider the hierarchy of the religion.

    I guess I also go from the biggest things to the smallest. :)

    Once I've got that, I'd start breaking it down more. I came up with names for positions and garb for positions. I considered how different positions affect life (for example, one of the gods in my world presides over domestic affairs and thus the priests of that faith are heavily involved in the workings of life in general).

    If you're going to incorporate magic or other races, though, you have to do that early on. It affects a lot. Culture is going to be very different with these two things. Flesh out the races first and come up with as much as you can in the same fashion as you've done it for your main focus. Don't worry about whether any of it shows up in your writing or not. Every little detail is important because it will affect something. If, for example, a people thinks the soul is stolen by cameras or by being painted or something, they're going to frown on photographs, photographers, paintings, painters, etc. Some individuals could even strive to destroy these things because they fear or hate them so much. Simple little details can have huge impacts. Don't ever forget that! :) But once you've got the other races down, as well as how everyone interacts, then turn to magic if you've got it. Figure out the nitty-gritty details. Is it based off elements? Are items needed? Are special materials needed? Is it all up to the imagination? Do spells have to be learned before they can be cast? What is the energy that fuels magic? Does that affect anything else in the world? Where did magic come from? How powerful can it be? What does it require to use magic? Is it a natural talent thing, does it have to be in your blood, or can it be taught/picked up by anyone? Each of these things spawns more questions, of course, and you need to keep asking questions until you've got nothing else! Try to fill in as many holes as possible. I advise against using a system that isn't fully intact (I don't suggest coming up with the most basic things and then running with it and seeing what happens). Does the magic come from nature? Gods? One of the other races? Is it basically science? So many questions.

    So once you've gotten all of that and, in theory, know your land and your people, I suggest coming up with the history. Well, this should really be done a lot sooner. Positions of towns, the state and shape of politics, and, well, everything is affected by the history of the land. Did the people naturally evolve there? Have they been there as long as history can recall? Did they come here from somewhere else? If so, did they take the land from someone else by force or by negotiation? Were there conflicts? Wars? Famines? Natural disasters? All of these things help shape the country and the people. If a place is prone to earthquakes, architecture is going to be very different. People are going to be accustomed to organizing stuff so damage is minimized or eliminated when a tremor hits. There would probably even be mythology about what the earthquakes are caused by. Is a god angry? Have the people sinned? Are they signs that the gods are paying attention to them? Maybe earthquakes cause damage to the land and allow people access to rare minerals or ores and the tremors are rewards for good behavior. There are just endless possibilities. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of creating the modern-era (the time in which I'm writing) of my world before doing the history. That's caused some problems but I'm working them out. It's also been incredibly rewarding because I get to see how much the history affects things. I have a new racial group running around and, consequently, racism. My people have become more proud of themselves. I've discovered how adept they are at seafaring (which is going to be a serious pain to reconcile). There are now monuments to "old" gods and ruins scattered throughout the land.

    Most importantly, question everything. I watched an episode of A Game of Thrones at one point and wondered if there were knights in my land. I looked up the history of knights as well as the etymology of the word. Both were inextricably tied to horses. My people came from a place where there were no horses, and thus primarily developed without them. I had to create an alternative, which turned into a wonderful experience for me (and gave me a good story :)).

    Another thing I highly suggest is researching other cultures. Pick up some anthropology books. Learn about different cultures and religions. I've gotten so many ideas from that! The more you learn about anything, the more thorough you're going to be able to be with your world building. Learning about tea opened up all sorts of interesting things for me. Learning about linguistics gave me a lot of ideas, too.

    When I had a week off from school, I ate my way through Wikipedia. I wanted to know what kind of cloth would be available in my land so I started researching types of cloth and what it's made of and where those things came from. I was able to figure out what was and wasn't available. I also found out about some interesting foods and livestock. I tried making a list of different plants and animals available but I didn't have the stamina by the time class picked up again. I plan on doing it still. But what really helped me there was finding an actual geographical region I could model my land after and take cues from there. Of course, you can mix and match, it's totally up to you.

    I think my approach is a little unorthodox but I think it's worth the effort. It gives you a fantasy world that's real. However, if you're not wanting that, and wanting something completely fantastical, I think there's still some worthy advice somewhere in this behemoth of a post. :)
     

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