Help on world building

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Solomon Tan, May 1, 2012.

  1. Solomon Tan

    Solomon Tan Master

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    Hello, everyone!

    It's been a hectic year for me and finally I got some spare time to sit down and start writing my book. Currently, I'm planning on systematically write my story, with the help of a build up world.

    However, I just want to ask how do you people build your world? In terms of details, how deep do you go?

    I have a rough idea of how the story will unfold, the plots and twists within, and the relationships with different cultures and even characters. Just not detailed yet.

    So, do you simply build a world, physical world with the landscape, and trees and etc?

    Do you bring in the history? Like the history of how the world is created? This part I seriously don't feel like doing..

    So, how do you do it? Can share with me and even help me?
     
  2. Queshire

    Queshire Dark Lord

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    I find that there tends to be two proccesses, world first and plot first. With plot first you start with the plot of the story any world building is done specifically for how that world building supports the plot. Then there is world first where you start with designing the world, putting as much thought and work into the world as you want, and then once you have the world you think up a plot that fits in the world.

    I find plot first to be more effective for actually writing, but it can be boring at times, with world first there's the fun of world building but you might get caught up building the world and never get around to actually writing. I suppose the ideal approach would be a mix.

    I can only say do what you find is best for you.
     
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  3. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Dark Lord

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    How deep do you go?

    Deep enough to support a conflict and therefore the story.

    This doesn't mean I'm advocating minimalist building on the fly (aka when writing the book), and neither does it mean I'm advocation working through everything in minute, painstaking detail. I worldbuild to a point where a conflict can comfortable exist within the setting. Then I get writing. Whatever that means at the end of the day. Certain stories require certain amounts of world building you know?

    Naturally, I may need more detail as I go.

    Considering the setting informs the characters who in turn inform the kind of stories you can tell, I don't believe each thing can be separated effectively. You'll need some amount of worldbuilding in setting up your premise, just as having a story in mind would help enormously to pin down exactly what you need to work out in detail


    I guess this method of mine is the combination that Queshire is talking about, both plot and world come to me at a similar time, because they work and build off each other. Yeah?
     
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  4. Solomon Tan

    Solomon Tan Master

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    Thank you for the advice.. One thing though I currently encountered is that.. I want to make my story full of twists. Well, these twists and turns of the plots, which is already in my mind, has to do with like many many years ago, that kind of thing. some demon god got defeated and now trying to raise up, and some stuffs here and there..

    So, I am contemplating if I should just say, "A powerful, evil demon god bound for total destruction was sealed by ancient magic and was buried deep in the land. and that's it.. or I should also try to build a world that explains how this demons come into the world.. kind of thing. like a history.. of course this part might not be in the story itself.. or only a short explanation...
     
  5. Ankari

    Ankari Staff Moderator

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    Of the two paths, I have chosen to tread the world building first. It helps me understand each racial, national, religious or factional motive. This generates conflicts which generates stories. In a way, its structured brainstorming. I do a lot of the behind-the-scene world building as well, stuff that the reader may never read but will add depth to your world and to your character. It also generates a lot of mystery that let's the imagination of the reader run wild. Who once dwelt in the ruins your hero took refuge in? When and who painted the caves that an antagonist uses for his lair. Those are interesting things elements that add flavor to your story.
     
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  6. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    1 - Whatever that first concept is, a character or a type of magic or a plot event.
    2 - What do I need for these ideas to work? What's the buildup/resolution for this concept?
    3 - How many characters are there now? How many do I need? What do I need to do each character justice? Home towns? Supporting characters? Etc.
    4 - Okay, now how much has been dictated just to pull off the concept, and what are the gaps that are left for me to choose?

    From there . . . Ecology, Magic, Government, Culture and Warfare. With a doodle of a map. At least think about each topic, but only go just a little farther with each than you need and scale back later. And try to make connections between all your elements.
     
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  7. Hans

    Hans Mystagogue

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    Since worldbuilding is a hobby of mine much deeper than it is needed for any story. I do not advocate that, especially for "single story worlds".

    You don't have to. A little history is good to give your people some traditions to follow. Or to generate a feeling of depth.
    A generation myth also can be a good thing. Maybe two and the characters can argue about the "truth" in them. But you don't have to know how the world was created.

    It would be interesting to know why this demon wants to conquer and destroy the world. Things can be very different depending on it's motivation.
    How they come into the world might give hints on how to overcome them.

    Honestly, there are lots of "evil enemy wants to destroy everything, hero wanted to defeat them" stories. For this line alone I would not pick up a book. Some more background can help a lot to deviate from this standard plot, even if it basically remains the same.
     
  8. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Dark Lord

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    I could have made it clearer in my first post.. hmmm

    Everything involved should work together. The problem with doing one thing first then the other is you could inadvertently add in a bias, ie, a world that doesn't support the plot or a plot with no obvious foundation. Then again how is it possible to do two things at once?

    I usually follow the house metaphor in that sense, in which the house and all associated with it is the novel. You need foundations, that's your worldbuilding, but unless you build anything on that foundation you still don't have a house. OR and house without foundations? Well, its difficult to add those in? (that's where it breaks down, but you should see what I mean.)

    What about a character who doesn't have any grounding in the worlds collective history? Well to flip that on it's head, how does a collective history work with out the characters to exemplify it, build upon it, or live it?

    Where ever possible and whatever you want to start with, as long as you make sure everything supports everything else (like that extended house metaphor) you're golden :)
     
  9. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    Personally, I think that a story which begins with ancient history can get very uninteresting very quickly. What if you opened with a character in a situation of minor conflict (an invading army slaying villagers and peasants fleeing, a mage who tampers with powerful magic he shouldn't, a gypsy caravan who stumble upon an ancient ruin in the forest) something which can then link into the history without it being all thrown into a prologue?

    It's nice if a reader gets to learn the history as the character does.

    Also, paragraphs upon paragraphs about the setting are redundant and uninteresting. As a reader, I don't need to hear more than a line about the trees, clouds, or even weather unless they are unusual. If trees are swaying, I now know it's breezy, but I don't need to know anything else about the wind/ trees unless it's a freaking gale or the trees are impaling people and walking around. When a world gets too detailed, people TEND (not saying You do) to want to put in all the details they have created, and it gets to be too much to want to read.

    I'm all for charting out lineages, arranging a pantheon of detailed complex gods, or mapping out your world. I have done all of those things to keep my consistency when I write. But, would you be able to write a whole detailed cultural history and NOT include those details except in small doses? I think this is my biggest argument for not detailing everything before you begin writing. Yes, it's wonderful to use those details to breathe life into your culture and characters, but it gets hard to hold back sometimes. I'd get a general outline and a list of a few very pertinent things you just have to have in there, and then let the writing determine what must be filled in later.

    Hope some of that is helpful.
     
  10. Solomon Tan

    Solomon Tan Master

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    So, from what I gathered, I should firstly, build a world first. Mapping out the terrains and landscape, with cities, villages and caves, mountains and etc.. Then, build a culture of the existing world.. like how different cities hated/love each other, and relationship with different races.. then see how my story can fix all these in?

    Currently, I have a rough sketch of the map. Still adding things here and there.. I have a basic idea of what my story is telling.. Characters are pretty much there.. just trying to make them more 'human'.. in short, adding weaknesses to them..

    what i left out was the god thing.. so I'll go and see what I can come out with and if possible post it out for all to see. :)

    One question to ask though.. I know it's good to get feedbacks and critics for my work, but who can I actually approach to get a good feedback? What I meant by good, is constructive feedbacks., that allows me to work on that area..
     
  11. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I think that's backwards. Figure out your story, figure out how much of the world is necessary for your story, build the world to support your story, and then step back, see if the world - as necessary - has any gaps which might be useful for you to choose to fill in.

    You want to rewrite your world to support your story, not the other way around. Let's say you realize, halfway through your story, that the characters on their long journey just need a break to keep from falling apart. So you create an ally who happens to be wherever it is that they are. To support this story-need, you need to world-build a little, why is this ally here, who are they, what's their relationship with other nations the characters have encountered. You need to reassess any impact this new society has on your world, your plot, and your story thus far. You create tie-ins so that the reader feels, this isn't just happy coincidence to keep the group from falling apart, these people were here all along, it was inevitable that they would be encountered. And if you dissect it enough, you will probably find a surprising role that they can play in developing or resolving the conflicts your character's face.

    But that's what you should be thinking about first. The story. The role. World-Build to support and connect the necessary elements, not just because you can.
     
  12. Queshire

    Queshire Dark Lord

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    again that's a matter of world first vs plot first, both are valid approaches and it is up to the individual writer to determine which to follow. There's no you should do this or you should do that. It's up to you to determine which path you want to follow.
     
  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis magnanimus Moderator

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    I agree with Queshire that you can do it either way, but I prefer Devor's approach, above. I've seen plenty of people doing it the other way for whom world-building turns into a way of never having to write the story.
     
  14. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    The only thing is that you're building your world first, but then you get locked into a concept that's been created even though your story pacing really calls for something else. Or you end up creating a slew of great concepts but end up struggling to force them into your story. If you can avoid doing those two things, and genuinely put the story ahead of the pre-created world, then maybe. But I'm still inclined to think your story and your world won't feel quite as smooth together, if that makes any sense.

    ((edit)) I don't mean to be absolute. People do work differently, so maybe it works better for you to create the world and look for story-inspiration from it. But as advice to newcomers, I just think there's more pitfalls with World-Building first, partially because I've fallen into them myself at times. But also because the story itself is what's important to your novel, and thus, is what you should be focused on.
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2012
  15. Hans

    Hans Mystagogue

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    Are you saying it is not possible to write stories in the real world, because the rules of this world do not easily bend to fit your story concepts? Centuries of storytelling say otherwise.

    My first world (I am not using it anymore) was primarily a role playing game world with at first no intention to write a story in it. Then I kept adding short stories after the world concepts where already fixed.
    It worked and I still can't see anything wrong with that. (I did not use a RPG system that dictate things like the races, classes, whatever that had to be used.)
     
  16. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Well, that's kind of a big stretch from what I actually said, and I hope you can see how that doesn't really follow. In the real world, you wouldn't have your pre-created "darlings" to force into the story, and the real world is often more complex and resourceful, with simpler plots, than the fantasy worlds people come up with. I would really hope we could put aside the dramatic mischaracterizations and focus on making points that are useful to people.
     
  17. Ghost

    Ghost Grandmaster

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    It could still happen "in the real world." Mr. Author loves The Eagles and he's going to mention them in his novel, well, just because. Anybody can do that, whether it's a fantasy concept or not. Restraint is the key here.

    I hear about folks who worldbuild and realize afterward they have no story to tell in that world. I've never understood that because worldbuilding doesn't turn off my storytelling tap. Story ideas still come. In my case, they work in tandem. I create Random Country and, while making up the details, hints of stories occur to me. It can go the other way, where I'll have fragments of a story, so I'll worldbuild to explore that. I take note of those ideas, but even without those notes I could come up with character-driven stories to fill my world.

    Novels can also become unbalanced if the focus is on plot or characterization. For example, a person could jam the worldbuilding and characterization into their plot idea and the result is unbelievable characters in a poorly developed world. Another person could have great characters with authentic voices in a disconnected, vague world and a plot that meanders or flatlines. In my opinion, it's important to either balance all the elements or consciously work the imbalance in your favor.

    [HR][/HR]

    Solomon Tan, this is only my perspective and my suggestions are given without knowing what you aim to achieve.

    I don't think you should worry about trees and the history of the world unless they're relevant to the story or characters. You say you have a rough idea of the story you want to tell, and I think that will dictate the sort of world you build. You can start by examining your god and seeing what his presence means for the world. You're allowed to be mysterious. It doesn't need pages of exposition detailing how this and that happened. If it's important to know this demon god's history in order to defeat him, you might need to explain how people know that history. That knowledge could be a part of their culture. Making it central to your worldbuilding effort isn't necessary unless it's also central to your novel.

    As for mapping, terrain, intercity relations, the culture(s)--go as far as you need to go for those places to feel real to you. I don't think you need more than that. Are you happy with your rough sketches? Can you move on without feeling like you're missing something? If so, there's your answer.

    I'd say the novel is the real test of whether the worldbuilding holds up. I'm not sure how useful criticism will be for you during this stage of the process.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2012
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  18. King Raven Stark

    King Raven Stark Journeyman

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    Well you defintley need some landscape to support the plot you like where the character lives, where their going, where they came from etc. I new to world building to so I started with the gods, the creation of the planet's lanscape and water, and slowly outlined and draft a history. What you should really do is study other fantasy writers who are known for creating worlds like Tolkien, George Martin, and the Warhammer.
     
  19. shangrila

    shangrila Grandmaster

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    I'm a plot first writer, since that is what will sell your book more than a pretty world. That said, you have to remember that writing a book can take many drafts and unless you're the greatest writer that ever lived, you'll need at least more than one. So, write your first draft and make the world up as you go, then flesh it out with what you've already come up with before going onto your second draft. That's what I'm doing, anyway.
     
  20. SeverinR

    SeverinR Valar Lord

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    I create my world like Devor says.
    But when looking into world building sites, they do say some people build mega to minor. (Vast universe down to floor plans to a home, rather then home plans up to the universe.)

    If you want to create a world then write a book about what goes on in it, this would seem right. But if you write a book that exists in the world you create what you need at the moment. When telling a story of a lonely orphan in a cold medievil town, does the reader really care that your world has ten continents and fifteen seas and oceans? That the universe has three life supporting planets?

    I world build as I need, or as a way to inspire myself to keep writing in hard times. I have yet to write about the jungle elves, but I have a basic draft of the town, and how it runs.
     
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