The winners of the VW#2 giveaway are:
Writing Books Stack: Leah Braemel
Goodie Bag: seanachi
Winners, please send your full name and ship-to address to LynnViehl@aol.com, and I'll get these prizes out to you.
Welcome, everyone, to World-Building Within Reason. Today I have a special guest here at PBW to help me present the first part of this two-day workshop. Akela, why don't you introduce yourself?
Because there are no sisters here, and I don't waste my time talking to humans.
You talk to me and I'm human.
No, we have conversations in your mind and I'm really not sure what you are.
Never mind about me. Your king is half-human. So are you, in a manner of speaking. Now stop baring your chelicerae and introduce yourself.
Oh, very well. I am Akela of Branif Keepe, King's Consort and first among the Black Branch. Laugh or disrupt this workshop and I will take your hides.
Ah, Akela, did you forget all the rules I gave you this morning?
No. You told me that I may not bite them, blind them, hunt them like the vermin they are or feed them to my darkmare. You said nothing about skinning them.
Right, well, you can't do that, either. Look, just go sharpen your throwing blades or something until I need you, okay?
Hurry up. After this I have to go and kill something for dinner.
II. The World According to You
Building a world requires a starting place. Many writers build the world first and then populate it with characters; as usual I do things completely backward -- I start with the characters and build the world around them. I don't think either method is wrong, it's just the way the process evolves for the writer. It also has something to do with personal storytelling style as well. If your stories tend to be character-driven, that's probably where you'll start building. If you're more into setting or situation, that'll be where you break ground.
As you've already seen, Akela is quite a character. She's the protagonist of my fantasy short story Red Branch, and both she and her story were born one day when I was reading an old mythology book. As I was skimming, this old illustration of Arachne snagged my attention.
According to the official myth, Arachne was a poor but gifted human weaver who kicked Minerva's ass in a weaving contest, and ended up being turned into a spider. As it happens I don't particularly like spiders, and I've never liked the story of Arachne, so the image of the prostrate half-spider half-woman really got to me.
At the time I already had an idea for a story about an assassin simmering in the back of my head; I had planned to base my description of the protagonist on a female warrior I'd seen in an old Luis Royo print. The Arachne illustration and the Royo warrior merged and became Akela, armed to the fangs and ready to tell me her story.
Since Akela actually lives in the world I built, I'm going to let her take it from here (and please, be patient with her; she's still dealing with some hostility issues.)
III. The Section in Which I Teach You to Build Something Useful for a Change
I do not have issues with humans. Not for long, anyway. Now, as for the rest of you: pay attention because you're not telepathic (for which I am eternally grateful) and I haven't all day to pound this into your heads.
To craft an imaginary world, you must properly define it for your readers. Like you, they are not telepathic or particularly clever, so you must write with clarity and purpose. You may sit and daydream about your pathetic imaginary world all you wish, but when you tell its story, you must use those details that directly relate to the characters and the events that are happening in the story. Otherwise you'll simply muck it up like everything else you do.
First, define the world itself with the following: name, history, time period, major players, origins, history, cultures and languages, habitats, socio-political status, current time period's major conflicts/encumbrances/achievements, biosphere including major flora, fauna, other, and climate conditions, available technologies and who uses them, and timeline of story plot. All of these definitions should relate to the characters and events in the story.
You will need examples. Of course. Goddess forbid you understand something immediately. My world is called Ravelin; from a human word used to refer to a type of medieval fortification. Ravelin's various human infestations date back some fifty thousand years, but due to all the problems caused by letting too many of them breed and squabble and spread like vermin across the land, the current era is still quite choked with backward and underdeveloped human settlements; roughly equivalent to that of your twelfth century on Earth. Although there are a dozen different lands and hundreds of settlements on Ravelin, only two relate to my story: my noble Sisterhood, and the humans who continually annoy us.
As for defining the multitude of infestations in your world, well, all you humans look alike to me, but you must identify and organize the ones fouling your story. Draw a map, decide how your characters squabble with each other, which are enemies and which pretend to be allies, what plants and animals they attempt to cultivate, what manner of sun and rain fall on their heads, if they have any useful weapons or tools that can keep them from being massacred or starving, what portion of your world's history will be taking place during this story, and so forth.
IV. The Section in Which I Teach You Not to Populate Your Story with More Idiots than You Need
It seems you must have one central troublemaker, known as the protagonist. For this fool you must create a personal profile (name, description, personal history, relatives, current life situation, past details, strengths, flaws, goals, how s/he relates to the world, how s/he relates to other characters in the story, how s/he reacts and responds to conflict.
Before you plague me with more questions, I will use myself as an example. If you have forgotten, I am Akela. My name was inspired by the species name Aksellan, which are the noble arachnid miners in my writer's StarDoc novels. Why she does not kill off all of the other characters and simply write about them, I cannot say. Perhaps she is human after all.
I am a black-skinned female Spinner with a bald head, four limbs, fangs and poison sacs. I am first among the Black Branch, the Sisterhood's assassins, as I am very good at what I do and never make mistakes. I am the only daughter of my mother and I have not yet bred myself. Until I met my King, I was not precisely content with my life. I was not sure I wanted a child. Even in the company of my sisters, I felt lonely. I also despise humans and, if not for my King, would still use you for target practice.
Once you have created details such as these for your protagonist, you must do the same for the antagonist. Once this is accomplished and your tiny brains have not exploded, then create simpler profiles for the supporting characters and any other idiots stinking up the air in the story. Beware of over- or under-populating your story. All of the characters should do something beside stand around and look stupid. See to it that they do.
V. The Final Section, Thank the Goddess
Once you have done as I've told you, you have but to finish by deciding on what details about your world that you will incorporate into the story. Choose the most interesting aspects, I beg you; if humans become any more boring than they already are I may break my vow to my King and slaughter a few villages.
For this task, you must select and develop a reasonable number of the most interesting and relevant cultural aspects to highlight in the story. You may decide which these are by their similarities or contrasts to the counterparts in your own world. Also you must define your characters' most unique personal qualities to make use of those as well. I doubt they have any, but try.
Some final examples: My Sisterhood would have nothing to do with humans (other than occasionally killing them to relieve their boredom.) One of my sisters, however, was injured while out hunting and forced to spend a winter among humans. She became so bored she actually mated with one of them and bore a half-human male child. As soon as she could she returned to the Sisterhood, but left the child behind. It appeared deformed, and they wouldn't permit her to do the proper thing and eat it.
The child, called Jalon, grew and in adolescence began to show the markings of the Red Branch, the deadliest of my kind. This made Jalon the first male Queen. Since all of our other males are all soft, mindless things only useful for breeding and eating, this was a singular event in the history of the Sisterhood. I was sent to find and bring back Jalon so that my Queen could fight him. There may be only one Red Branch at a time to rule over the Sisterhood, you see. Being raised among humans, Jalon did not despise them or use them for practical purposes, but he could not communicate with their puny minds. Like me, he was lonely.
If you must know the rest of our story, you may go and read it. I must attend to my King now. Tomorrow Lynn will teach you the next part of this workshop, which will set a schedule for your efforts so that you actually achieve something as well as how you may address the usual mistakes you make.
Farewell, humans. And do try not to make a mess of your world, will you? My sacs only produce so much poison per day . . .
Today's LB&LI giveaways are:
1) --An ArtWish (a $50.00 U.S. gift certificate from Art.com)
2) a goodie bag which will include unsigned copies of:
The Ruby Key by Holly Lisle (hardcover)
The Hob's Bargain by Patricia Briggs
Wild Hunt by Lori Devoti
Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione
Creepin' edited by Monica Jackson, with stories by L.A. Banks, Donna Hill, Monica Jackson, J.M. Jeffries and Janice Sims
At Risk by Alison Kent
The Iron Hunt by Marjorie M. Liu
Through the Veil by Shiloh Walker
plus signed copies of my novels Omega Games and Twilight Fall, as well as some other surprises.
If you'd like to win one of these two giveaways, comment on this workshop before midnight EST today, July 30, 2008. I will draw two names from everyone who participates and send one winner the goodie bag and grant the other an ArtWish. Everyone who participates in the giveaways this week will also be automatically entered in my grand prize drawing on August 5, 2008 for a brand new AlphaSmart Neo. All LB&LI giveaways are open to anyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.
Other LB&LI Workshop Links (due to different time zones, some of these will go live later in the day)
Worldbuilding with a Wiki by Sandra Barret -- Architecting your world using a free wiki.
E-Courtesy by Joely Sue Burkhart -- Simple ways to protect yourself with courtesy on the internet.
The Anatomy Of Sex Scenes by Jaci Burton -- Writing sex can sometimes be the most uncomfortable part of writing the book. But it doesn't have to be. A few key pointers that may help charge up your sex scenes and drag the writer out of their 'discomfort' zone.
Creating Great Beginnings - the Why and How by Sherryl Clark -- If your beginning works, the rest will follow. We're going to look at why it's crucial, what is the contract with the reader, Dos and Don'ts (and why/why not), story questions vs hooks, situating the reader, and writing backwards. I'll also invite readers to send in their first 200 words for feedback.
Wednesday: The Forgotten Senses
by LJ Cohen -- a week of workshops using poetry and poetic techniques useful for novelists (tune in each day this week as LJ presents different poetic tools with examples of how to use them in your own writing.)
Gender Differences for Writers by Cheryl Corbin -- Male and female body language, speech and thinking differences.
Marketing on a Budget by Moondancer Drake -- How to make the most of marketing your book on a limited budget.
Writing Effective Description by Karen Duvall -- a week of workshops on how to write vivid description using all the senses, covering one for each day of the week.
WRITING PROCESS: Conceive, Develop, Write by Jamal W. Hankins -- An overview of my writing progress from story concept to actually writing a story.
The Voices in Your Head by Alison Kent -- When discussing "voice," where and how do character voices fit in?
Everyone has to Edit by Belinda Kroll -- Five steps to edit: putting the first draft away, being brutally honest, showing not telling, telling not showing, and focusing on those nitty gritty details.
Balancing Motherhood and Writing by Dawn Montgomery, Kim Knox, and Michelle Hasker -- How to write a 1000 words in the zen of toddler meltdowns. Motherhood is a full time job and holding a family together is only half the battle. How do you find *your* time to write without losing your mind?
Self-Editing by Emma Wayne Porter -- The things your editor secretly wishes you'd do before submitting, and how to survive Track Changes afterward. Checklists and Stupid Word Tricks included.
Not Going to Frisco Workshop by Joan Reeves aka Sling Words -- Writing Biz Reality
Cover Art: From Form to Finish by Mandy M. Roth -- Tips and tricks for filling out your cover art forms, the steps and stages a cover goes through, the finished product and a walkthrough on using your cover to make your own static banner ad.
When Only the Right Word Will Do by Shannon Stacey -- Using word choices to add humor, help you show instead of tell, strengthen your voice and heighten characterization in deep POV in your second draft.
Hey Fatty (Or Does Your Character Need That Flaw) by Amie Stuart -- I’ll be blogging about Characterization, flaws and motivation all week, using TV, movies, books and my own writing for examples.
Astronomy for Writers: Look to the Sky
by Suelder -- 1,000 Suns (and then some), The Birth of a Star: Star Fields, Binary Stars and Star Systems, Size Matters - How Stars are Classified, Size Matters, pt.2 - The Life and Death of a Star (the second in a five-part workshop series on basic astronomy and how to think about it from a writer's perspective.)
Know Your Goals by Charlene Teglia -- the second in Charlene's workshops this week on the business of the business.
Short Stories & Novellas- Workshop Day II - Characterization by Shiloh Walker -- the second in a series on writing short stories and novellas.
VOICE: The Magic Behind The Words by Sasha White -- Advice to help you discover and strengthen your personal voice and style, and show you the way to the magic behind the words.
Workshop is in 5 sections. A new section each day this week.