1. DeNile
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    DeNile Senior Member

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    World Building Tips

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by DeNile, Apr 11, 2011.

    I'm in the process of creating a large scale futuristic fantasy type world. Not Sci-Fi, I've figured out the differences after having some huge Sci-Fi scholar chew me out for an hour calling this thing Sci-Fi.

    Anywho, this world is huge, and by huge I mean HUGE. There are tons of different races, cities, and civilizations. Add on to the fact that I think there are battle grounds for the war that is being fought and well... it's a big job. So I have a question, does anyone have any world building tips? Any things to help me get moving on instead of staying stuck where I am?

    I have a few things I use:
    1) Use a character to describe a place they are unfamiliar with.
    2) Use a character to describe a place they ARE familiar with.

    ...And that's about it. I notice that when I use multiple characters that all the descriptions come out differently, but that's my intention so I think it's good. Now, I know maps are a good idea too, for some people. But I have a hard time coming up with layouts, I prefer to picture everything in my head. Much more vivid that way.

    So, how do you build your world?
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I build mine as I write mostly - I do make scrapbooks of what it might look like.

    Out of my first two books has come a world capable of sustaining four or five series of stories (three YA, one spy/action/adventure and one time travel) not to mention other short stories, and I have only really investigated one country so far. It comes complete with races, whole new science and religous system. I basically designed a living breathing universe that makes up the body of the Universal Father or God.

    I just turn on my inner three year old and ask, why, why, why, how, but why, how, but why, but what if, can this happen if i do this etc
     
  3. Yandos
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    Yandos Member

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    I have been world building my current story for over 5 years and like you, I was getting stuck trying to figure out all the logistics.

    One piece of advice that helped me a great deal in the last two years was this:
    Start with the food and work from there.

    Your world needs to be fed. When you understand how much land and resources are needed for your world. The layout and structure of your lands will start to take shape. However, as your world is 'HUGE', I would recommend creating a file and map to keep track of whom, how and where these resources are. How these resources are moved, who controls them, cost and quantity. You shouldn't need to explain this in your story necessarily, but this will help you understand your societies much better. Unfortunately, the larger your world building gets the more complex the politics of your lands will become. This can only enrich the diversity and how immersive your world will become. Just try not to get bogged down by too much 'tweaking'.
     
  4. DeNile
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    DeNile Senior Member

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    Politics? That's actually what a good chunk of this story is about. Hmm... resources? I didn't think of that, they'd get affected greatly wouldn't they? Well, now my world has lots of new ideas to be added onto it, and a whole new dimension of things the war is messing with! Thank you~
     
  5. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    I tend to start with a map. Okay, no I have a place in mind first. Then I map it, then I map the world around it. Then I figure out how the first place interacts with the other places. I ask who is in charge, why are they in charge and for how long? How do the people they are in charge of feel about it? What kind of resources do all of these places have? Where do they get their salt from? their steel? Where are the danger spots? Where are the ruins of previous civilizations? Are there different languages? Different races and cultures? Where are my urban centers? Who are my 'good' guys and where are the evil empires? For starters. I usually get all of that by starting with my map.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You need to start by asking yourself: Am I in this to construct an intricately detailed world, or am I creating a story?

    If world-building is really your end goal, why waste time crafting a story? Consider it analogous to building model railways or painting detailed scenes.

    But if your goal is to write a great story, only do enough initial world-building to give yourself a good sense of the setting. Let the rest grow as the story develops. That gives you the flexibility to adjust the world to fit the needs of the story. Even more important is that you aren't using the worldbuilding to procrastinate starting the writing.
     
  7. DeNile
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    DeNile Senior Member

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    ^Part of the whole intricacy thing is that I love to world build, even if I find it difficult. But there are stories to tell as well. I wish to tell them, in fact everything is already falling into place as I draw up locations. Even obscure caves in the middle of nowhere have a purpose here. So I'm in this as much for the world building as the writing. That's half the enjoyment for me. As for procrastinating? Nah, when I stop writing anything at all I know I'm procrastinating.
     
  8. clockwise
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    clockwise Member

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    I agree with Cogito about doing too much word-building... in some books it seems like the author's using the story just for the sake of showing off this cool world they've created. Those are usually the kind of books I end up never finishing, not because their ideas weren't good enough, but just because they generally get too boring. But if you can do tons of world building without letting it upstage the story, more power to you :D.

    Personally, I kind of go through the general things a civilization needs to sustain itself (or not, if that's the goal)... air, food, water, shelter... the things a civilization needs, like a way to create laws, a way to enforce laws... what the terrain is like - desert, tropical, etc., what lands are there, how are they divided up, what's each's relationship to its neighbors... I guess I get there by asking tons of questions, basically, from the general to the more specific xD.
     
  9. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    This is what I think:

    Readers don't want to read an atlas. If I pick up a book set in 1770s Russia, I expect to be entertained by a story, not feel like I just picked up Russia: The 18th-Century Atlas.

    Just set up world-building to the point where you get a general feel for what the setting is, like Cogito said. Same with characters. Set up their history so you get a general feel for what they are. As you progress through the story, their life will unfold for you.
     
  10. Enerzeal
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    Enerzeal Member

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    The way I am doing it is first I write out a timeline for my story, its vague first time round. I go back far enough to buffer the start of my book and get a basic set of elements in place. For example year -1000 Nation X goes to war with Nation Y.

    Now I know a war is going to take place and I need two nations and perhaps a significant battle to take place in the world history, from those two nations you can extrapolate further backwards, how they started, why, which races, did they annex any other civs.

    As the war between two nations was important to my story, I craft in a set of elements, for example one is destroyed and the other lives, which explains why in my story there is one super power only. But now I can set up smaller elements based on this lost civilisation. What race, survivors, cities they had which are under occupation.

    Another tip would be the sandbox idea from online roleplaying games.

    In a sandbox tools are supplied, basic towns are drawn out, and the players are given free reign to do what they can with the world.

    Take a blank piece of paper and draw out your geography, then decide where the best towns and cities would be placed. In the case of a sci fi, draw out a star map, and decide which your central planets are, your outerrim planets, then begin to add what seems logical to that setting, dungeons, temples, space stations, asteroid belts, dust clouds etc.

    The way something starts will, depending on the outcome of wars, famine, prosperity etc, dictate how it looks thousands of years on from that point.
     
  11. DeNile
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    DeNile Senior Member

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    Look, the whole reason I build worlds to begin with is to learn their stories. The fact is, I start to build worlds with no thought in mind. As the world grows I start to learn about it's characters, it's inhabitants. Those are the people of the story. I myself NEED to develop these things. I don't tell people any of this stuff. 95% of what I world build and people build never hits the books I write. But I develop this stuff, not to write an Atlas, but to satisfy myself.

    I will always ask why, how, where, when, what and who. I'll never stop, I'll never be satisfied. That's the thing with me, I do these kind of things for myself, and it reflects in my writing. At a certain degree of knowing my writing picks up. My inspiration hits levels it doesn't hit when I write modern-day general fiction.

    That's why I do it. Not to write an Atlas, but to satisfy my curiosity. So please, when you respond, don't tell me about Atlas' and what the reader's want. I understand that much.

    I'm just curious how you all build your non-Earth worlds. 'Kay?
     
  12. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    A fair portion of my worldbuilding is under fantasy in the short story forum. I can dig them out for you if your like? I tend to write scenes and short stories to build mine. I also have other bits of questions about.

    Everyone is different - I know at least one lady who's book made it into the NYT bestseller list who builds her worlds and even did an encyclopedia to go with it.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Why ask the question if you don't want to listen to the answers?

    My tip was to stay on track and don't overthink the worldbuilding, or if worldbuilding is your true interest, don't waste a lot of time writing.

    Both of these are pastimes that can consume your free time and then some.

    My interest is in writing science fiction, and I make it as plausible as I can from a scientific/technological perspective. So believe me when I say I put a lot of thought and research into my worlds.

    But my initial research is only to set the broad parameters. The last thing I want to do is create detail I have to destroy and recreate to fit the needs of the story.

    The less you nail down up front, the more flexibility you have in keeping your story and setting growing inb harmony.
     

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