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Can't think of a setting

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Skybreaker Sin K'al, Sep 6, 2018.

  1. Skybreaker Sin K'al

    Skybreaker Sin K'al Troubadour

    So, I've got my characters and my plot, blah blah blah, major events etc. But I want a setting. It seems that at the moment, good worldbuilding is the one thing that won't come to me! In the past, the world has always come naturally to me. I feel like I can't think of good ideas anymore. Have you got any tips to... overcome this?
  2. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    Tip 1: Think of some type of setting you've always loved, whether in your own ideas or from movies or books, even if it doesn't fit your characters and plot idea.

    Tip 2: Take what you have from Tip 1 and find a way to make characters and plot fit within it—even if you have to alter your characters or plot a little bit.

    Tip 3: Feel very free to use a WOW factor. By this, I mean apply it to Tip 1, and don't inhibit yourself by thinking, "Naw, that's crazy" or "Naw, my characters and plot just couldn't work there."

    Ok, so I'm not exactly the best advice giver on this topic. Right now, my WIP's world is becoming more complex than I wanted it to be, and I've sworn to myself I'll find a story that needs far less world building next time, hah.

    But my general thrust with these three tips is this: When all else seems confusing or impossible, throw caution to the wind and go for broke. Find what enthuses you the most; dig deep to snag those special things, those long-cherished shining stars, and pull them up from the muck and place them front and center. Enthusiasm can be a great cure for the blahs.

    The more pragmatic approach might be Tip 1: Contemplate your characters and plot to find the kind of world that will best fit and strengthen those things.

    But that's maybe too boring. :cool:
    Night Gardener and TheKillerBs like this.
  3. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

    One of my characters is called Medina. She is a brown skinned human, has curves but isn't overweight or obese. She has black hair that trails down her back and shoulders. It's usually tied back with red or blue nylon ribbon. When she hits the market she wears an ankle length dress, a long sleeved top and knee length boots. Like virtually everyone she wears at least one item of jewellery with a precious stone as it is believed wearing a precious stone wards off the souls of the unworthy who are condemned to wander the cosmos. In her case she prefers to wear earrings made out of kyanite gemstone. While there are no restrictions on what type of fabrics or colours she can wear she mostly wears cotton, rayon or nylon as these are light fabrics that are well suited for the hot and often very humid environment she lives in. Her normal choice of colours is blue, green, purple, red and yellow as these are perceived to be lucky colours.

    She makes her living as a dancer and an assistant for a rogue sahir (mage) who does a stage act in an upmarket hotel. As part of her job she wears a strapless, midriff exposing top with lace trimmings and beaded fringing along the bottom of the top. She wears either a sheer nylon or silk dress or trousers depending on the performance and audience. The silk dress has lace trimmings and beaded fringing. Both lower garments are usually baggy rather than tight for both freedom of movement and modesty reasons.

    Based on the character's description what type of setting do you think I've set my work in progress?

    Now think about about one of your characters. What type of setting comes to your mind or someone else's mind when you describe one of your characters?

    Skin colour, wardrobe and hair style alone can say much about the setting of your story as they are all influenced by the weather, the character's social status, the job they do, the environment, society's notions of beauty and modesty and even superstitions.
  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I don't understand how one can have a plot and characters yet not be able to envision where the events of the plot transpire. Is it literally a white room?

    But the comment does reiterate to me that everything--plot, setting, character--develops as a dialectic. Each part sparks something in the other two parts, and I'd never be able to arrange it into a sequence. The further I take my characters into the story, the more I flesh out not only their appearance but also their backstory. The more I understand about my characters, the more they start to drive the plot. The more detailed I make the setting, the more my characters react to it.

    Und so weiter.

    I can't imagine driving any part of that triad forward in isolation.
  5. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Inkling

    skip.knoxskip.knox I sometimes write in a "white room" or blank stage. It seems odd, but it IS helpful when you're focusing on other developing things in your WIP. Sometimes, you just land on a certain detail that runs away with your imagination, and builds itself before you know it.

    For instance, I watched a youtube video on beetle-wing embroidery. It was intriguing and so utterly bizarre, thinking that well to do women ages ago used to desire stitched dead bug parts on their fine garments for embellishment. Extremely labor intensive, to say the least. I decided one of my MC very much needed such a crazy garment. Then, the logistics followed: like silkworms, these creatures would have to be domesticated and harvested. There would be plantations to raise these creatures, and laborers to tend to them. There would be a need to grow food for these bugs to eat, and also breed them. That means people nuturing eggs and larvae. Or, even more intensive, they have to be collected directly from the wilds. It could be an insanely elaborate process if I wanted to go into such details. One detailed thought rippled outwards into many.

    Skybreaker Sin K'alSkybreaker Sin K'al let's look at Miles LaceyMiles Lacey example. His characters wear gemstones... Where do these stones come from? A deep mine? Riverbeds? Meterorite deposits? Results of alchemy? Details such as these reveal clues to be utilized in your World Building, let them guide you to weird and wonderful places.

    In some ways, writing with a lot of blanks allows for a lot of later (editing) freedom. Sometimes I go so sparse as to write a note whether I want the scene indoors or outside. That's it. Time of day, weather, surroundings, those all get developed later. I'm not 100% committed to every single setting before I write. If something needs to change, it's easy to re-write because it's simple to re-structure.

    As far as an actual writing in a totally blank 'world', I could see that working out ok in a first draft. I know my world is similar to Earth. Creatures breath oxygen in an atmosphere, there's a vast expanding universe, the planet is alive in its core and ever-evolving. There's a variety of climates and weather. I can't speak for non-earth like parameters being so easy to generalize, but I'm not writing science fiction at the moment...but, I also don't need to know where every blade of grass will be, either.

    My advice for Skybreaker Sin K'alSkybreaker Sin K'al is to at least furnish raw geography for yourself as you see fit. There could be mountains to cross... but are they through tropical cloud forests or high arrid alpines? Until you make a decision, they're just 'mountains'.

    It's sort of like how a mega metropolis can be broadly generalized, based on the technology level you want. I picture different things entirely if you say "The Forbidden City of Ancient China" vs. "The mega-cities in Blade Runner". They all still speak some Mandarin, but are so wildly different without getting bogged down in cumbersome details from the get go. And, if you cannot make up your mind, don't. Be sparse until you find the right direction(s).

    Hope this helps! Happy Writing!
  6. Skybreaker Sin K'al

    Skybreaker Sin K'al Troubadour

    Thank you all, I can't begin to say how much this has helped me as its been like this for months now and I was beginning to doubt my creative faculty. Have a good day! :cry:
    Night Gardener likes this.

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