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Discussion in 'World Building' started by The Dark One, Apr 10, 2020.

  1. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

    Okay, as I've said many times, I'm not a fantasy writer. I'm a crime/historical/sci-fi writer, but all my work includes aspects of spec fic.

    I'm currently writing a sequel to a sci-fi novel and what I most want to convey is a very different atmosphere to what we earthlings are used to...

    So what are we used to?

    And how would an alien world feel?

    It's very simple to describe an alien world where green little bastards zap ray guns and get about in anti-grav sleds, but what about the way it feels?

    This applies as much to fantasy worlds as sci-fi worlds. What do you do to make it feel real?

    Because if it doesn't feel real, it won't work.
  2. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Maester

    I think you need consequences and details.

    Consequences: if something in your world is different fro the real world then that will have consequences. A simple example. If powerful magic exists in a world then that will influence everything in daily life, from fortifications to how technology develops, people view disease and who is in power. Simply throwing a powerful mage into a medieval european setting and not changing anything else will end up being silly. Because what good is a city wall if you can blow it up with the wave of a hand? And why is the mage who can do this not in charge of the whole thing and why have armies in the first place if these mages are around? And why are mages who can cure anything poor and living in the woods instead of being the rich upper-class in a city like modern physicians but then more so?

    And details add flavor and make your world feel deeper, even if there is nothing there. A good example of this is a sentence from the Lord of the Rings, which made such an impact on how I perceived that word that I remember it years later. At the end of the council of Elrond in the Fellowship, Elrond says to Frodo, after he has accepted the task to take the ring to Mordor:
    "and though all the elf friends of old, Hador, and Hurin, and Turin, and Beren himself were assembled together, your seat should be among them."
    At the time I read it, the gravity of this statement gave me goose-bumps. I didn't know who these people were, but this detail really evoked the setting for me and gave me the feeling that there was this whole world out there to explore.

    Now, these people actually existed in Tolkien's world, which is part of his magic for me. But you don't have to go to his extreme with 20+ years of worldbuilding. You can add these kinds of details to your story that for me create an atmosphere that can't be developed by just using using generic descriptions.
  3. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

    Agree with most of that, although every time someone evokes Tolkien I can't help but cringe.

    C'mon guys, what do you do to make it feel real?
  4. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Sage

    Take a look at this quote from the instruction manual to Vangers:
    Some scifi stories are like that. They construct a whole new vocabulary, making sure that pretty much everything in the story is completely alien. But often, it ends up being just way unrelatable. Like, we have X which is in conflict with Y because of Z, but are we talking about countries, clans, races, what?

    So I guess it's about making the world sufficiently unearthly, but tying it to real-world experiences. In a novel I read, this here cyborg was grateful for the hardware upgrade, but at the same time, the operation had really scared her, and she was a bit pissed that the casing—a part of her body—had gotten a scratch. The idea that a cyborg would naturally think of her hardware as a natural part of her body, and be vain about the virginal, unscratched metal plating, gives it all a certain weight.

    Also, the level of unearthliness should be balanced with wonder, that is, making the reader curious about it. The more weirdness, the better you have to sell it. Digesting something truly new requires more work, so you need to engage the reader.

    Anyways, here's another way to go about it:

    From The Talisman:
    From Perdido Street Station:
    It's not that the authors invent new words. Rather, they just take existing words—"political" and "remade"—and put them in a different context.

    There's all those way words are used or not used. Like how today, at least in my country, nobody ever uses the word "problems". Instead, everyone talks about how the Corona virus results in various "challenges". Also, in an article about the Corona virus, a Danish newspaper wrongly translated "higher safety" to "større tryghed", which pretty much means "a higher feeling of safety". On the other way around, this article in the Copenhagen Post translate the concept of tryghed to various forms of "feeling of safety".

    In this bit, from Murder in the Dark the atmosphere is dominated by the exact language used by the author and the cast:
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2020
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    >what do you do to make it feel real?

    Make it feel real to the character. This means showing the character reacting in some way--a physical action or an interior one--or show something in the world acting upon the character. When you mention how a world feels, there has to be someone doing the feeling.

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