1. Walshy1595
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    Walshy1595 Member

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    World History

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Walshy1595, Aug 22, 2012.

    OK, so with my current WIP which is a fanatasy novel, I've already mapped out the world that I want the story to take place in, as I find having that in front of me is a good point of reference. However, along with that I've decided I want to create an entire (and I mean entire) history for this world, starting from the first known records that the archaeologists and scholars of my world have discovered. There's no real use to this as far as I can tell, but I feel that it will both bring the world to life more as well as give me a better understanding of how things have progressed to the state that they are in. i.e What kingdoms once existed, how did they rise to prominence and how did they fall, why are the names of some of the more interesting locations what they are etc.

    I just feel that this would be both fun and a helpful tool to have as another reference point, just like the world map. So, my question is: Does anybody else do the same? If so, how did you find it helped/didn't help, and do you always do it.

    Thanks guys
     
  2. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    Nope, don't do it. Question however, an "entire" world's history? You do remember that it's taken literally thousands of people to map out the history of this world, and it's highly debated on top of that, right? May I suggest instead, that you map out only the backgrounds of the people you're dealing with, and only in the ways that they might or might not be affected? I just worry that if you get into it, you'll drown in the history and never get (back?) to the WIP.
     
  3. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    I say go for it, that's what i'm doing right now on my fantasy project.
     
  4. Walshy1595
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    Walshy1595 Member

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    I probably used the wrong words here. When I said an entire world history, that might have been an exaggeration, but what I was trying to get at was a history from the very beginning, to what's happening now. Not necessarily all the gritty details (because that would take longer than I'd like to even know), but just a detailed step by step timeline of sorts that goes through each major event in the history of the world, which eventually leads into how the world is in the present day.

    I hope that clears it up a little :)
     
  5. Cynglen
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    Cynglen Senior Member

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    Setting up a general history of your world would help add some depth to your thought process/writing. I wouldn't go for excruciating detail, which I guess you're not, but something along the lines of "These were the first five kingdoms, then in this year they all fought and became two, then they split up again, then..." and so on. I'd say a level of detail adequate for a middle-school history class would be a good place to start, then you can fill in the extra details where you want/need them.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It's a great way to avoid ever starting on your actual writing.
     
  7. Walshy1595
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    Walshy1595 Member

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    Yeah, I started to do it in what was probably a little too much detail, and then swapped to just giving a basic outline, with details scattered here and there (for stuff like notable people).

    I get that, but I really just wanted to know the world a little better before I dived into it. I thought that the result of my writing might be slightly faster and easier because of it, but who knows. It might go to plan, it might not. We'll find out in good time
     
  8. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    Slow but steady wins the race. Look at Tolkien.
     
  9. Audiomeleska
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    Audiomeleska New Member

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    Robert E. Howard did an historic overview of his world for Conan in his essay "The Hyborian Age." I don't remember anything more detailed than a handful of cultures and their wars as well as some of the geography. Nowhere near the background that Tolkien had. I think it can serve as a good foundation to reference and keep things nailed down. On the other hand, if you are not going to reference these things, it would likely be something to put off writing the actual story.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that there's a big risk of (1) never getting to the actual writing or (2) getting into a perfectionist state where you're so invested in your world that you're no longer willing to make any changes, except the story needs changes, and you never get anything written.

    I'd suggest forcing yourself to write as you world-build. You wrote a history of a war? Write a story that takes place in that war, before you let yourself build another piece of world. Yes, that story might not be perfect because you didn't write every bit of preceding history. So be it. Accepting imperfection is important for avoiding paralysis.
     
  11. Miguel Bartelsman
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    Miguel Bartelsman New Member

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    It depends on each person, personally, I love worldbuilding and not so much writing, I like characters that fit into my world instead of a world that fits around my characters, I think it gives them life.

    Right now I'm working on a huge project for a fantasy world but I've not gotten past the magic system and the basic background of the world.
     
  12. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't overestimate your abilities...and your time on this world. Tolkien published The Hobbit when he was 44, and he wrote The Silmarilion for 60 years and NEVER finished it.
     
  13. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with this - a reference chart with important dates, places and events - like the world map. You can, if you NEED, go into specific details about specific time periods and events. And the need should come from your actual story-line. Don't bother yourself with every border skirmish in the last 1000 years, but only with those that are important for your characters.

    And always be ready to rewrite your reference history during the writing of your prose. Don't stick to it like it's actual history and you're writing a historical fiction.
     
  14. Anthrax
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    Anthrax Member

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    Are you planning on publishing your novel anytime within the next decade?

    Another problem is that once you do this you have created a set of rules you now have to live by. You won't be able to make history fit your story, you'll have to start making the story fit the history. If you write your story and you want the history to be a part of it, write the history as you write the story. Unfold the history as you write.

    I used to do this when I was younger. I would create an entire world, but what I found was I was busy creating all the characters and back story because I was afraid to actually write the story.

    My advice, forget the detailed history. Have a shell, know the history of what's important, but get to writing.
     
  15. Fivvle
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    Fivvle Contributing Member

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    I tried it once. My advice? Don't do it. I haven't used one iota of the historical stuff I wrote. The most intriguing pieces of history and whatnot that I have come up with resulted in the process of actually writing the story.
     
  16. AJ Oatsvall
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    AJ Oatsvall New Member

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    I say go for it! I have created an entire fantasy world and evolved a history (though incomplete) for it. Mostly I worked on the human city-states and kingdoms and left the the background for my elvish and dwarven kingdoms a little more vague. When I originally began working on the project that has become my present fantasy novel I planned an entire world with at least three or four continents, each with its own history of wars and nations. But I then decided to focus the story not on "an adventure around the world" but only on one continent and after three years (full-time jobs took precedent, of course) I finally establish the principal setting and after a lil' rearranging firmly set the five human city-states in their current form. Even after completing the rough draft of the novel, I have gone back to edit the history. Again, though, this is only the human history as the story (and sequel) primarily take place there. Its always a battle to find that happy medium where you have the story written but also have developed a background that is full and rich with detail. Some of the details that I am still working on cannot be fully developed until the next story is written, but my goal is to work out the history of this fantasy world so that the events of the story make sense (such as the reuniting of two city-states into one kingdom, and the war between two other countries, etc). I recommend that you work out a basic historical outline, and after you've completed a majority of your story go back to it as needed. The only reason it took me so long to work out the history of my world was that I also invented an entire pantheon of gods and demigods with their own cults and followings, as doing so helped develop the individual cultures of each city-state in my novel and provided identities for the many peoples of my world. Sometimes creating a history for the world in which our stories take place isn't so much for the readers but for the one who is writing the story. I have every intent of incorporating as much of the history I have written into my next novel and the possible third, though with the amount of "data" I have created I will also be publishing a compendium as I feel that with a little more tweaking my setting and histories could make for a good DnD type tabletop game.
     
  17. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    With any story, do what is neccesary for the plot. Is it that important to the plot that we learn the specifics behind a war between two feuding families a hundred years ago? If it is, then write background information about that. If it's not, then don't.

    But write first. Write, and develop. Write, and develop. They both work together. If you spend all your time building your world, and only that, then you won't get anywhere. You'd just have a bunch of paper with background information, but nothing about Chapter One. Nothing about how the characters start their adventure.

    For example, my story is set in Colonial America. Do I research every detail about Colonial society from the first English colony in North America to 1776? No. Only what's important to the story or the characters, such as tavern life (my MC is from a tavern), or their understanding of medicene (as one of the key characters is a doctor)
     
  18. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    It is great fun. It helps to develop your world. You learn all kinds of stuff about your world, the heroes it had, wars, kings, kingdoms, etc. On the up/down side, you end up with an entire library's worth of stories to write. Which, for me, is cool because I am slowly working my way through them. :)
     
  19. cybrxkhan
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    I disagree (respectfuly!) with some that world-building is a waste of time. It's as much a waste a time as planning your plot or writing notes about your characters or writing the same chapter over and over again.

    It can be distracting, sure, as I've experienced myself. But that doesn't mean that's bad. If your story needs background, good. If you yourself need background so that you can understand your story's setting better, good.

    There's also, I think, another reason why having a well-developed world helps. It basically allows you to pull reasons out of nowhere. Think about it this way. Let's say you're writing your average fantasy story, and you want to figure out what your bad guys are like. You could just say, "oh, my bad guys are bad because they decided to one day go on a genocidal rampage and they're evil because they kill babies and eat puppies." Or, you can look at your world's history, and see why a group of people - or a person - would want to do such a thing. For instance, maybe these "bad guys" are actually just refugees fleeing from another region and have gotten into some conflicts with the locals. Maybe they are ideologues trying to restore the former glory of their kingdom (sort of like Hitler and the Nazis in WWII). Or maybe they are trying to avenge some national injustice brought upon them in an earlier war (sort of like France's attitude towards Germany in WWI, as there were still strong feelings over their loss in the Franco-Prussian War). You can even carry this onto characters. Why is that guy just another snarky, cynical bloke? You could just have some vague background about "oh, his family got killed by evil hordes when he was young and he lived poor for the much of his life." Or, you can look at your world's history and politics, and figure out a good reason why. Maybe his family were farmers who starved during a great famine, and only he survived. Maybe they used to live in a border region where the two empires constantly raided each other.

    Stuff like that.

    I consider world building second to my writing, but I still spend a lot of time on it. Sometimes, you know, through the process of world building, you even start to design new stories, stories that were better than the one you started with.
     
  20. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    Well you must realize that Tolkien was a snail's pace writer and had many things to do in his lifetime that got in the way of his writing so it was quite hard for him but he did it. Also notice he spent a LONG time developing an entire elvish language which took him many years to complete. Mass Effect is a prime example of vast world building and it's only 5 years old. Imagine that in 30 years like Star Wars. Mass Effect started out with only one writer as well so it all depends on how fast the writer is or where he/she wants to go.
     

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