Wednesday, July 30, 2008

VW#3: World-Building I

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.

I. Introduction

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.

104 comments:

  1. I know that when you're world building you go into great detail, but my question is how much do you include in your actual story without bogging the reader down in muck?

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  2. Thank you for saying to only use what is directly relevant to the characters. Purple prose is a horrible thing to read.

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  3. I see Akela still has anger issues.

    I create the characters first, then write them interacting with the world as they see it. That works for me. But I think a little more research would probably boost the stories to the next level.

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  4. I would really like to see articles on world-building for a "real" (aka historical) world. You sf/f and paranormal people get to create your own parameters and weave them in, but historical details are pretty set in stone. o.O

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  5. *G* Already told PBW this, but I really like Akela.

    I'm working on plotting out my next book and I'm using the novel notebook a lot...wondering if there's a way to make a world building notebook.

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  6. Worldbuilding is great fun. I also start with the character and build around it. I think the hardest part though is knowing when to stop!

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  7. Wolverine4:44 AM

    Nice workshop! Not quite what I was expecting, but still good.

    I'm more drawn to the natural world, so while I like creating characters, I sometimes have trouble defining socio-eco-political stuff and such, because it's just not what I usually think about. Any suggestions for improving areas like this? Any good, broad books that cover some of the different options for these areas, maybe?


    Wolverine

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  8. I start with characters - readers only need to know the bits of world that matter to them, the rest can be taken for granted until needed.

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  9. it was nice to meet Akela again. I enjoyed that short story.

    being a reader - not an writer i am still enjoying these workshops.

    thanks

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  10. This was an amazing post! As always, filled with detail enough to help us visualize your intent. I have a couple of points to touch on. Another writer suggested using a wiki to keep track of world-building - how do you feel about that? And if your story is set in modern times in a regular town/city but the characters are paranormal (shapeshifters, for example), how much worldbuilding do you need to do?

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  11. Congrats to the winners!

    Oh, my, my tiny brain has already exploded.

    A problem I have is that I can't bring myself to care about the antagonist(s). They're obviously in the wrong! bah

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  12. Good sff writers make it look a lot easier than it is! I find it really slows me down when I'm writing along and I have to stop to consider if they have x in this world, or whether the social/economic/whatever structure would allow such-and-such to happen. I guess I need to spend more time considering such questions before I leap into the story. How much of the set-up of your world do you work out before you start?

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  13. placeholder comment - husband is about to disconnect the modem for the move! will read later! and hopefully make a real comment!

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  14. I enjoyed the interesting way this was presented. I'm working on a story that does have a world I've invented, and this workshop helped me think of some things I still need to flesh out about it. Thanks!

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  15. Thanks Lynn and Akela, for a most clarifying lesson.
    I'm really looking forward to the next part.

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  16. World building has always been an exciting part of any story. I have often found myself awestruck at the massive and intricate worlds such as Frank Herbert's Dune series, or Elizabeth Moons Paksenarrion. I am now curious as to your Ravelin. Once again, you have shown great insight into the world of writing. Keep up the good work. I find your workshops very interesting and useful.

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  17. Great post. I am always fascinated about world building.

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  18. I have been workingo n something. this is my first try. Thanks so much for the tips.

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  19. Just a short note to say that the link to the Louis Royo print is broken.

    I'm really enjoying the workshops BTW.

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  20. World building is so hard... at least to me. Hopefully, this will help a little bit.

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  21. Great post! I love the way Akela gave us some fabulous world building info.

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  22. Great Post! I think worldbuilding is often overlooked as an important element in a novel. I enjoyed your illustration on how to build an "extreme" world. I believe all novels have a world to build. I write historicals and agree with a poster above... I wish there were more written on historical WB BUT I don't think it's necessarily set in stone. IMO Every character/novel has a world of its own... it's just that the details of the ordinary historical world are used differently in that story. But I guess I've really strayed from the idea most people have of WB. Again... great and entertaining way of explaining the art of worldbuilding!!!

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  23. Great workshop. I love world building. I get to design islands and houses and castles, all without risk to life and limb.

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  24. Akela is awesome.

    -DiDi

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  25. That was wonderful! I can barely communicate images from my own world...

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  26. Oh, man, I hate spiders. But boy, oh boy, I love one with attitude. Great post, Akela. Now can we talk about where I can get some of those poison sacs?

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  27. Thanks Lynn and Akela! Awesome lesson - in many respects!

    No one should discount world building as limited to Sci-Fi alone. After all, no matter what we write about, aren't all authors building worlds for the reader?

    I would think building the visual for an earthly setting would be as or more difficult for authors if they do not consider that accurately building the world they see in their heads is critical to their story. After all, saying that it was "an ordinary street, in a non-descript neighborhood on the edge of the bad part of town" would conjure up as many different scenes as there are readers.

    What we write as authors can either vividly paint an alternate world in which the reader becomes an inhabitant right next to the characters, or allow for much reader interpretation (and therefore misinterpretation). Successful books transport mind, body, heart and soul.

    Now, back to my earth-based, human life-form inhabited manuscript to make sure I am not making too many assumptions on what my readers will envision when they read it!

    Candace

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  28. I'm going to steer a few folks this way - great workshops!

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  29. I tend to build characters first then worlds although I have done it the other way, usually the characters are what speak louder to me though, so I tend to build the world around them. You gave a great description of the process! Helen Rudd

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  30. Natalie wrote: I know that when you're world building you go into great detail, but my question is how much do you include in your actual story without bogging the reader down in muck?

    The amount of world info you put in your story should depend on a couple of factors:

    1) What does the storyline need? For example, when I built the Sisterhood, I created a color/caste system of about thirty different types of Spinners, but I believe I only mentioned four of them in the story: black (assassins), blue (storytellers), green (Queen's personal attendents) and red (Queens). I need three to identify the characters and one as part of a social reference made by the protagonist.

    2) What enhances the story without burying the reader under an endless procession of infodumps? This is my "show them the jewels, not the whole jewelry store" philosophy. You can build as much as you like for your world, but don't smother the reader with a lot of detail. Pick the most effective and interesting aspects of your world building and work those into the story.

    3) What can you present in dialogue or action versus narrative? It's the classic show versus tell -- world-building details are less intrusive if you can show them in dialogue and action versus telling the reader via narrative. For example, Akela explains her baldness in a reference to what the Queen of her kind can do during a fight in this conversation from the story:

    I inspected his garments. “You can wear the trousers, but
    remove your tunica and footwear. You should shave your head before we leave for the Garne, too.”

    “Why?” He touched the long, thick black mass. “I like my hair.”

    “She can use it to pull off your head.”

    “Hmmm. I don’t like it that much.”

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  31. I am scared of spirders, too. It will take a long while to get that Arachne image out of my head. Thanks a lot. ;-)

    Intriguing character, though...

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  32. Alright must check out this book! Sounds very interesting.
    And thanks for the world building advice.

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  33. La Belle wrote: I would really like to see articles on world-building for a "real" (aka historical) world. You sf/f and paranormal people get to create your own parameters and weave them in, but historical details are pretty set in stone.

    We have a bit more leverage in the creation end, but most of my imaginary worlds, species and cultural systems are based on counterparts in real life. I had to hit the books and research ants, bees and spiders in order to create Akela's species and social structure. Same thing with the early medieval era I chose for Ravelin's general time period.

    I use quite a bit of history in my paranormal novels, and I've also written historical novels as a WFH. Because we don't know a lot about certain ancient historical periods, I had to fill in a lot of blanks. Learning as much as you can about your time period and the people who lived in it gives you a sense of that world, and if there are no sources of info available, you can use what you know to make an educated guess.

    When researching real world material, you've also got to your facts straight before you begin to write. If you compose a scene that takes place during a famous battle, you'd better know that battle and what happened durng it inside out. I also recommend using at least three credible nonfic sources for your research on any aspect of real world building.

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  34. Lovely workshop! I love Akela!

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  35. Shiloh wrote: I'm working on plotting out my next book and I'm using the novel notebook a lot...wondering if there's a way to make a world building notebook.

    The companion e-book to this workshop, which I'm posting tomorrow, includes some world building checklists and templates.

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  36. Thanks for doing this. Looking forward to your companion e-book. Now I am also intrigued about the novel notebook...what is it?

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  37. Another interesting workshop! And thanks for linking to the other workshops!

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  38. Thanks for this great workshop.

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  39. Susan B.11:38 AM

    Lynn,

    What a great read today. It was clear, concise, & easy to follow. I hadn't read "Red Branch" before & know I'm headed that way to read it. I think starting with the characters than building the world is the way to go. I have read stories that were so filled with characters & their names sounded a lot like each other that I spent the majority of the book constantly flipping back trying to keep each character straight. It drove me nuts. I kept reading b/c the story line was awesome but when I got done with the book i knew something different should have been done with it. Now I know, it should have been filtered!

    Thank you,
    Susan B.

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  40. I love how you're using one of your characters to explain your method of world-building. Do you ever do that in reverse? That is, write interviews or scenes with the characaters before your story/novel/novella is written? Stuff that doesn't necessarily make it into the finished product, but helps you work out the kinks in the world you're creating?

    I think I have a hard time with the concept of "world-building" as "data-entry" on a big form (name, date, etc, etc). I just can't think that linearly to that level of detail. It is easier for me to explore the world with bits of actual writing and then mesh it together later.

    So far, I've stuck to contemporary settings because I have a lot less overhead and detail to track (as I'm living in them day-to-day). But I'd like to get into historicals or sci-fi at some point, and have been trying to find a good way to get my feet wet.

    Thanks for the insights. I'll be looking forward to seeing the follow-up tomorrow.

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  41. Anonymous12:10 PM

    Hi Lynn
    it is great to hear from Akela again, I loved reading Red Branch.
    I may never write my own book, but is very interesting to see how you do. I look forward to the rest of the workshop. Thank you for taking the time to set it up.
    Issy

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  42. This is a tricky skill. I'm finding that reading short stories is also teaching me a lot about world-building because the world has to be established in very short order (in novels too, but I find short stories easier to study time-wise).

    I end up creating my characters and world concurrently--I can't completely imagine one without the other.

    Interesting post. I'm interested to see that e-book!

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  43. This has definitely been what I've been looking forward to! I'm so hung up on world-building my current project...

    The problem I run into seems to be in terms of research. While I can, based mostly on stereotype, associate various cultures in my project to various real-world cultures, I seem to have problems finding the 'whys' behind things -- my logic being that if I can find out 'why' a group of people does or makes or wears or believes in a certain thing, I can change that to change the associated behaviour, if that makes sense... Because it wouldn't make sense to have fictional!culture observing some sort of behaviour that was directly connected to real world happenings, right? I think I'm trying to do too much work here... ;;;

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  44. Anonymous12:38 PM

    Thanks for the workshop and your responses to folks questions were very helpful! I'm looking forward to the e-book. Take care,

    Shannon

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  45. Rats. Blogger ate my comment (I think).

    I read short stories to see how authors establish their world quickly just because they have less room to work in (although the novels I prefer, do it the same way--I hate long descriptions and extraneous information).

    I end up creating my worlds and characters at the same time--I can't imagine one without the other.

    Looking forward to the e-book you mentioned.

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  46. Wonderful post! A thorough job of world building is so essential in making a book that readers will not want to put down.

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  47. I love world building and Akela is great.

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  48. very good points!

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  49. *grins* For me, worldbuilding happens instinctively and I've got to actually sit and put those points to paper. I also agree using only what is needed, nothing more or less. Though it'd be nice to know more about various worlds, it can be done just as easily by giving pertinent details by the characters living there.

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  50. Very interesting technique of having the character teach the workshop. It definitely piqued interest in both world building and the story.

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  51. Wow...just wow...

    And your additional links section is amazingly in depth.

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  52. Thanks for sharing these workshops - as a reader (but not a writer, except of essays), it's interesting to learn about the process behind the books.

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  53. Lara Lee1:50 PM

    I love your advice about world building - er, Akela's advice. Sorry, Akela. (She kind of frightens me.) Anyway, I always want to dump too much information into the mix and it really bogs the story down. I also like the character profiles. You make it seem very easy.Thanks!

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  54. I LOVED Akela - I'm off now to read her story. It's interesting how much world-building has to be done that may never make it into the story. If you're writing contemporary books set right in your own neighborhood you have the same world-building going on, it's just already there in your mind. Picking what's important is the hard part.

    Kate

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  55. Anna M.2:05 PM

    Lynn, I love Akela's voice. Though my first thought was that her name reminded me of the Cub Scouts and their Akala. LOL.

    Just from reading this I'm already destined to buy this book.

    Love the worldbuilding details. WB is my favorite part of writing and it's one of the things I miss most when writers skimp on it.

    Thanks for the wonderful workshops!

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  56. I loved "Red Branch" and having Akela give the workshop was great.

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  57. Akela is hilarious!

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  58. That Akela sure is a character...just don't tell her I said that.

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  59. Great post. For me, the biggest problem with worldbuilding is knowing where to start: there's just so much... language, culture, topography, flora & fauna, it just goes on and on. :P

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  60. Snort*. I was at work scrolling thru crap when I clicked your site on my bookmark page. "IV. The Section in Which I Teach You Not to Populate Your Story with More Idiots than You Need" made me laugh hard enough to spray coffee on a bunch of papers.

    Thanks for the laugh! Great article!

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  61. Eek. Being skinned is ... not how I want to go. [On a tangent it makes me think of one segment of "Ancient Ink"... ew]
    I LOVE Arachne's myth - there are a lot of versions of it, which I think is interesting. [Some have her winning, some have her losing... all have her ultimately turning into a spider- and ew- that's a major punishment in my opinion.]
    I really enjoyed this post. World building is crazy tough - and/but sometimes I've read "worlds" where it seems the author truly is trying to create a world AND an entire population.

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  62. I think this is going to really help me fill in the gaps, because I do characters first and worldbuilding second. Thanks!

    And I do love Akela!

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  63. Awesome information! Thanks!

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  64. The comment about too many characters is key. I also find that I sometimes spend too much time on the worldbuilding process. Is it a good idea to flesh out all the details in advance or just what you need and build the rest as you need it?

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  65. ManiacScribbler5:16 PM

    Hm...Interesting. All of these workshops are interesting and are totally going to help with my editing...I just finished my first draft. ^^
    ManiacScribbler =^..^=

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  66. I love the way you get your character to teach us the ways of world building. It certainly sticks in my head.

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  67. Excellent. Thank you. I enjoyed Red Branch also.

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  68. First off *Squee* I won!

    Now, feet back on ground, I start with the characters first. I never thought of doing it the other way around. Maybe that's because I prefer character-driven stories rather than ones that are so focused on the worlds?

    And I'm with Shiloh - I really like Akela.

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  69. Anonymous5:59 PM

    Goodness, you scared me. Akela is actually a name I use for various webpages. The name is from the mother wolf who took in Moglie in The Jungle Book. It's also used in boyscouts, of course, I really couldnt tell you its signifigance, having never been a boy scout.

    I am also waiting rather impatiently for Omega Games to come out next week. :)

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  70. After my second comment got eaten, I went to read Red Branch to distract me from the urge to inflict much damage upon my computer, and I LOVE Akela.

    Fun lesson, I can't wait to read the companion e-book!

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  71. I, too, start with characters, and then build the world around them. That's one of the reasons I'm drawn to writing SFF--I find more freedom in being able to make the world suit my purposes, rather than feeling constrained by historical accuracy (although that can be a fun challenge, too). The most difficult part, after creating a complex world, is paring it down to the most relevant parts to the story and weaving them in seamlessly, to avoid large sections of infodump. I find it helpful to save all the "useless" information (i.e. the stuff that doesn't directly relate, but is immensely important in helping you get to know your world and thus write your story) in a separate document. That way, it can be referred back to easily, or saved in case you need to answer questions once the book sells. Plus, I just feel better knowing the information exists somewhere, rather than just deleting it.

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  72. I have read many books where the author introduce too many characters who aren't relevant to the story.

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  73. Very interesting. Sounds similiar to a detailed character sketch for a contemporary novel. I assume most of that information does not make it into the story, only relevant to motivation and location type stuff.

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  74. Another great post. Thanks!

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  75. Thanks for the great tips. I really appreciate the links to other workshops, too.

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  76. I create my characters first or they come to me before the setting actually does. And I am driven by strong characters as opposed to location/worlds - although I do appreciate a good world.
    Just so she knows Akela kinda scares me, but I like that she's sassy. ;-)

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  77. Thanks for this great workshop. I'm looking forward to tomorrow--worldbuilding can be a lot of fun that I sometimes delay the actual writing.

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  78. I loved the additional links. You can a lot by reading the replies

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  79. Cheryl8:31 PM

    Another spot-on post. I'm at this point in my current WIP - realizing I need better world-building to support the story.

    Thanks, Lynn!

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  80. Interesting workshop. I'll have to try having my characters decribe their worlds for me.

    Lavern

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  81. Now I must go read Akela's story. Thank her for the tips, would you, Lynn? Thanks.

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  82. Great post. I love world-building workshops. I have such a hard time with it.
    C-

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  83. Thanks for the lesson. I'm outlining a new project that requires world building. More please.

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  84. Great workshop! I'm completely taken with Akela. Enjoyed meeting her.

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  85. I've always started plotting with the characters first(because that's what I thought you're supposed to do), but when I get my ideas, it usually comes from world-building-- An idea in a certain time jingles for me. lol

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  86. I'm feeling very overwhelmed right now. I didn't know about LEFT BEHIND AND LOVING IT until late last night. This has spurred me to start connecting to my own blog more regularly, if only to be able to keep up with the feeds for all of the writers' pages I SHOULD have been following.

    Having said that, I also start with characters. Then, as the nights pass, I lie in bed imagining what their lives are like outside the boundaries of the storyline.

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  87. This comment is really a response to a comment in the #VW2 post but comments are closed for that post so I put it here instead.

    To Annoymous-Shannon who wrote: FWIW I save my WIP by scenes (scene 1 is one file, scene 2 a different etc) and have them stored in the computer under file folders Act 1, 2, 3. When I make a substantial change to a scene I save it as a new file so in my Act 1 folder I might have files: Scene 1 take 1 and Scene 1 take 2. In the actual scene file, I use headers to write the scene number and take (i.e., version) so I don't get confused when looking at printed copies. This is how I keep track of earlier versions so I don't lose anything on the WIP [I never know when I might change your mind].

    Thanks Shannon for sharing your method. It's certainly very systematic and organised. I must say it never occurred to me to keep track down to the scene level. My present method is far more primitive. I write everything in one big file and save the first draft untouched. Then in following drafts if there are any text chunks I delete but might want to reuse I keep them in a single "oddments" file. Luckily, so far my plots haven't been too convoluted but I suspect I might have problems with this method if things get more complicated.

    Lynn's method of saving the first draft untouched is closer to what I do but I don't edit each day's work as she does.

    youpsy's process resonates most with me and I think is the most efficient, i.e., don't edit until the first draft is completed. Having a few outliney points to start the next day's work is a tactic I also use.

    If there are any major changes I want to make to the first draft while working on it, I just make a note of it for the editing round, i.e., I don't do any major reworking until I've completed the first draft. Sometimes though the major change is crying to be made, so I might have a second draft running concurrently with the first draft but lagging a little behind. This is the part of my organising I find untidy and not very satisfactory.

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  88. Anonymous11:03 PM

    Another great post!

    Definately enter me for the prize packs!

    Thanks,

    Terri W.

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  89. I'm yet another character-driven writer. As such the world comes in only when it impinges on what the characters do, need, want etc. Unsurprisingly my world building is very attenuated. I end up using place-holder labels for concepts or entities I need for my characters to respond to. Names are one of my niggling bugbears. I've even been reduced to calling my characters Alpha, Beta, Gamma ... so I could get on with the actual writing.

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  90. Thanks again for an insightful post. I also want to thank you for linking so many bloggers together... you have given me enough information to last years and your not even done yet!

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  91. Hmmm I think I may have forgotten to submit my comment earlier. . .

    Hubby (evil, evil man) infected me with an evil plot bunny today, so this will come in handy building the urban fantasy world that needs to go with the idea.

    :)

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  92. I agree wth aj. what a way to teach. Thank you for holding this workshop.

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  93. Wolverine wrote: I'm more drawn to the natural world, so while I like creating characters, I sometimes have trouble defining socio-eco-political stuff and such, because it's just not what I usually think about. Any suggestions for improving areas like this? Any good, broad books that cover some of the different options for these areas, maybe?

    One thing I do is to read books about politics and conflicts that are/were present in a similar real life situation. Much of what I use in my stories is built on or a conglomerate of details from a political or sociological situation from real human history.

    The best how-to book I've read on the subject is Holly Lisle's Create a Culture Clinic, which is available in e-book and print format here.

    There's also a pretty good list of links to online worldbuilding resources here, some of which may help you.

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  94. Margay wrote: Another writer suggested using a wiki to keep track of world-building - how do you feel about that?

    I've never done a wiki personally, so I don't know how much work is involved, but I have made my own series encyclopedias here at home, and they've been a lifesaver, especially when I pass the five book mark in a series. I don't think I could write StarDoc without my SD encyclopedia, which after nine books is now over two thousand pages in length.

    If you'd like to try a wiki, my advice would be to do a test run or a short story on one to see how you like it.

    And if your story is set in modern times in a regular town/city but the characters are paranormal (shapeshifters, for example), how much worldbuilding do you need to do?

    Even with a modern, real-world setting, you should research the details of it (maps, points of interest, climate, social and cultural aspects, etc.) unless you've personally lived there all your life and know all this stuff off the top of your head. I lived in or near Fort Lauderdale most of my childhood and young adult life, and knew it like the back of my hand, but when I used it for a setting I had to research a lot of details for things like the police department, canal systems, beachfront, bar scene, churches, etc.

    I think you also have to think about your worldbuilding of a real life modern setting in terms of your paranormal characters's lives, culture and habits. Foe example, a vampire protagonist who turns to dust when exposed to the sun and yet lives in Phoenix Arizona will need to know where all the dark corners of the city are, if there's an underground tunnel system or enclosed transportation system for moving around during the day, safe places to hide if caught away from home after sunrise, etc.

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  95. Marina wrote: I find it really slows me down when I'm writing along and I have to stop to consider if they have x in this world, or whether the social/economic/whatever structure would allow such-and-such to happen. I guess I need to spend more time considering such questions before I leap into the story. How much of the set-up of your world do you work out before you start?

    I do pretty extensive, thorough worldbuilding notes because I truly don't like not knowing something about my world while I'm writing. But you can never plan for everything, so when I hit a bump like that in the story, I will stop, take the time to consider and craft the detail to fit in with my world, and add my notes to my novel notebook.

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  96. Thank you, Lynn, for your response. This give me much to think about.

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  97. rk wrote: Now I am also intrigued about the novel notebook...what is it?

    I posted my novel notebook a while back on Scribd.com -- it's basically templates of what I use for my own work every time I write a novel along with some complete examples of worksheets, self-made promo ads, a synopsis for a book I sold, etc. You can take a look at it (or print, or download a copy for yourself) here.

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  98. Kristi wrote: I love how you're using one of your characters to explain your method of world-building. Do you ever do that in reverse? That is, write interviews or scenes with the characaters before your story/novel/novella is written?

    I don't do actual interviews, but I do ask every character who pops into my head three questions: Who are you? What do you want? What's the worst thing I can do to you? The answers usually provide me with the basics I need for the initial characterization. After that I fill out a character worksheet, adding in all the details, and then spend anywhere from a few weeks to a few months with the character in my head. I visualize them in various situations, have imaginary conversations with them, jot down interesting bits for dialogue, etc.

    Stuff that doesn't necessarily make it into the finished product, but helps you work out the kinks in the world you're creating?

    I agree, absolutely. I think the better you know a character, the more fully-realized they'll be on the page. I always try to know much more about a character than even what I need for the story.

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  99. locksley wrote: The problem I run into seems to be in terms of research. While I can, based mostly on stereotype, associate various cultures in my project to various real-world cultures, I seem to have problems finding the 'whys' behind things -- my logic being that if I can find out 'why' a group of people does or makes or wears or believes in a certain thing, I can change that to change the associated behaviour, if that makes sense... Because it wouldn't make sense to have fictional!culture observing some sort of behaviour that was directly connected to real world happenings, right? I think I'm trying to do too much work here... ;;;

    You might be over-thinking it. Fictional individual and group cultural dynamics aren't going to be exact copies of real life models, but they will share certain things in common.

    For example, in my story Red Branch, Akela is a member of a hive-mind community (based on bees) born in work castes and subordinate to a single female dominant (like ants and bees) who have arachnid body functions and behaviors (like spiders.)

    I took the facts from the real life organisms, conglomerated them, and then built my culture on that basic foundation with -- and I can only describe it this way -- what felt right. The result was the the Sisterhood. Granted, it's a simple construct, and I would have built a lot more for a novel, but what I put together served the needs of a short story.

    When you build your socio-political structures, don't try to be too faithful to the real life model, but don't try to stray completely away far from it, either. The fantasy will wow the reader, but the underlying realism will be what really resonates with them.

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  100. Tarragon wrote: I also find that I sometimes spend too much time on the worldbuilding process. Is it a good idea to flesh out all the details in advance or just what you need and build the rest as you need it?

    I like knowing my worlds inside out before I try to play in them, so the more details I can get down before I write, the more comfortable I feel. I do know what you mean about spending too much time worldbuilding, though, and I think you just have to set limits for yourself by figuring out first what the story needs and then building the world. The next part of the workshop should help you with that aspect of it.

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  101. lorrri wrote: I assume most of that information does not make it into the story, only relevant to motivation and location type stuff.

    I think when you take this approach to worldbuilding, you create the world inside your head before you begin writing in it. A lot of the details aren't going to make it into the prose, but they will affect the story because they're in your head.

    For example, one of Akela's character points is that she's a solitary type who enjoys being alone. As part of a hive-mind community, she doesn't get to be alone at all unless she puts some distance between her and the Sisterhood, and her sisters know everything she's thinking, so she's trained herself to put aside her personal feelings. Yet being alone is something that she constantly craves on a subconscious level.

    Because of that character point, Akela doesn't mind being nipped by Neleh, her surly, uncooperative darkmare (she actually admires Neleh for her bad temper.) She faces a lot of conflict alone and yet never thinks, "Why aren't my sisters here to help me?" as you might expect a member of a hive-mind community would. And when Akela has to make a choice between Jalon and the Orb and all the Sisterhood, she chooses to leave the Sisterhood and go with Jalon.

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  102. Comments for this workshop are now closed and the giveaways have been awarded. If you have any questions regarding this workshop, please stop by my open Q&A here at PBW on Tuesday, August 4, 2008.

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