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Lore or Story first?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Onemaus, Jun 2, 2020.

  1. Onemaus

    Onemaus Dreamer

    Over the past year I've worked on a few short stories (more like concepts) that have been part of the same world, unbeknownst to me at the time. I know find myself crafting a "new" world with it's own mythology, history, and all.

    I recently drafter a bit of the Creation story and found myself to be stuck. Do I leave the beginning of this world and move on to another point in time and work backwards? or do I work both at the same time? I've tried working with the concepts, but they too are in various moments of time.

    I know it's a very general question but would appreciate any advise. If you would like more about the creation story let me know.

    Thank you!
  2. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Have you considered just writing the stories? If you let the worldbuilding be secondary, then you have the flexibility to make adjustments as you write new stories in that same world.

    That's how I've worked in Altearth. It being an alternate Earth history, I did have a great deal in place, but the history books are surprisingly silent about elves and dwarves, etc. <g> IOW, there is still a vast amount of stuff I have to make up, and an entire continent I have to shift around to make room for said elves, dwarves, etc. Especially the etc., a most prolific species.

    A central rule in this process is that whatever goes into a story is set in stone. I have to live with that. But as long as it's not in a story I've published, I can modify, brainstorm, and retcon to my heart's content. This has, I believe, kept my enthusiasm fresh, because every new story is a foray into the relative unknown, not to say an unknown relative.

    To put it another, more succinct way: don't let being stuck in worldbuilding bog down your storytelling. Remember, until someone else has read the story, it can all change, with the click of a mouse.
    Za'dok Khoal, DustinBilyk and Onemaus like this.
  3. Chuck

    Chuck Dreamer

    For me it would depend on how important the lore is to the story. If it is very important, work on the lore. If it is no more important than the rest of the story, then work on them at the same time or work on the stories and then work on the lore as the story progresses.
  4. Onemaus

    Onemaus Dreamer

    The opposite process is working for me just as a you described. Working on the worldbuilding I've realized some differences between the races. I guess I'm fundamentally stuck at where to begin the stories. And I definitely see the pros of storytelling over worldbuilding, at least for the process as it is now.
  5. Onemaus

    Onemaus Dreamer

    There's a fundamental and true view of the lore, which I've been working on recently. There are also the myths of every race that has shaped their societies. My primary issue is that I'm relatively new to worldbuilding but I do see the appeal of working on them together.
  6. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Auror

    From my perspective, the two usually wind up wound together regardless of which direction I come at it. Though I will do a lot of lore and world building from time to time. I just find myself going from one to the other or coming to realize something, either a plot hole or the need for something (that's not exactly a hole or dealing fully with plot) and it get's changed and edited.

    On the upside for world building though. Making up the food.
    Za'dok Khoal and Onemaus like this.
  7. Chuck

    Chuck Dreamer

    No matter which way you decide to take it, make sure you are keeping track of the details so you don't mix things up.
    Za'dok Khoal likes this.
  8. Given a current experience, I'm going to lean toward simultaneous development:

    I have a world I am writing in that I began to build about eight years ago, not for the purpose of writing novels or stories but for my other creative work. That world grew enough that, after a few years, I began to think about writing a full novel set in it.

    In addition to that novel, I'm also working on a second novel which I did no more than a fraction of the amount of world building on it before I started.

    I'm finding that having the entire world laid out and feeling that I have well-established knowns that I feel the need to stay within, bogged me down at times and became an unnecessary drag on the writing.

    With the second, new world that wasn't necessarily a blank slate but far less defined when I started writing, I seemed to be able to sit down and write forward a chapter or more each day because I had so few "have tos" that were set in stone. I focused on the characters and their story and did not worry about the details of the world. New ideas come along every day for that world. Some I kept, others I left behind.

    So I guess my suggestion is that if you DO want to write stories and novels based on that world you are creating, don't get too caught up in the minutia of the lore and mythology ahead of time unless your planning on your stories hinging on that very mythos and lore. Take what you have, start writing and let them evolve together. It all can remain flexible. Maps can change. Pantheons can change. Magic systems can change.

    Yes, you may have to go back and find all the places you wrote about the Nine High Temples and change it to ten or eight because you added or removed one halfway through, but that's what editing is for. Your stories will, if they are to be well received by readers, be more about the characters and the plot you create. Those characters will bear the brunt of bringing the story to life more than an exposition of cool world building will. Telling me 10,000 miners have died in the Penatam mines is just a number, and I won't likely remember it or feel anything about it. Showing me one singular miner's experience as she spends 12 hours a day squeezing through wet and dark passages that are barely large enough to crawl through on her stomach and that are susceptible to collapse at because of erratic sonic tremors? That I'll remember!

    That said, it was all of that extensive world building I did for that first world that helped me believe I could write a novel in it. It felt as if I had a solid foundation already in place to build upon. But I didn't know near as much about the craft of writing stories then. So I've changed my thinking on that over the years.

    Best of luck!
    Onemaus and Gurkhal like this.
  9. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Inkling

    There is no right answer to this question. You will find everything from writers starting with nothing more than a basic idea of the world to spending 25 years world building before publishing a story.

    All that matters is what you want and what works for you.

    Small note on the 25 years. Tolkien wrote my favourite book after those 25 years. But, and this is important, a lot of his world building was in the form of writing stories. So he honed his craft at the same time as building his world. And this is what let him write the books he did to the quality he did. If all you do is world build, the you will end up being an amazing builder. But that does not make you a great writer.
    Gurkhal and Onemaus like this.
  10. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    To me the basics of the story comes first, then the basics of the lore so that they mash well together, and then I think that both should be written kind of simultanious as to not get myself into a corner or have to cut a very good part because I am inflexible.
  11. Onemaus

    Onemaus Dreamer

    Thank you all. I realize through this that I have to write it out and not bog down on specifics until I get there. I'm so preoccupied with doing something new or original and was losing the story that I wanted to tell. The lore is important and it's been changing frequently. but the story is in its infant stages right now.

    Because I started with the Creation stories, I can't seem to find the appropriate time to stage the story. but that should come from more investigation.
    Gurkhal likes this.
  12. KaeSeven7

    KaeSeven7 Dreamer

    In my opinion it would depend on several things - what perspective you're writing from, how interesting the past/presence/future of your world was/is, and generally how you want to structure this kind of story.

    For example, if you find there's one event or time period that stands out, you could start in another and use this as the pinnacle part of your short story - the highlight of this world's history and lore and the part that really encompasses what you think makes the world unique or exciting. If you were working chronologically, but the present is rather bland, it may leave the reader going..."well that went downhill."

    If you naturally write chronologically, then it may be more natural to write this way and therefore you may provide your reader your best work. You could also consider your narrator/character if you're using one - if they are old and wise, maybe they would start at the beginning. Someone younger may reference legends and stories for the past, or even start with the common day they live in and work their way backwards to the crucial events.

    Maybe just try writing? This is usually the answer to everything. You never know what's best until you start writing and go - "well, that didn't work as I'd hoped." or of course "woah, this is better than I thought it would be." :)
    DustinBilyk and Onemaus like this.
  13. StrawhatOverlord

    StrawhatOverlord Minstrel

    Personally at the moment I'm mostly worldbuilding because when I try to write story bits It feels like I'm missing elements.
  14. nck

    nck Scribe

    I tried doing upfront worldbuilding, but it felt too much like I was writing an RPG sourcebook or something, and what I really wanted to be doing was just writing the story. So now I just make up aspects of the world as they become relevant (keeping in mind that I already have a good idea of the "hook" or "theme" of the world in terms of the kind of story I'm trying to tell, so it's not like I'm just pulling in things at random).
    Onemaus likes this.
  15. Azaraiha

    Azaraiha Dreamer

    Most of your world building is going to be in the background. While it's important to know your lore, unless your writing a historical documentary, most of your lore will exist in the background. I generally create a skeleton outline of my lore and history inorder to have uniformity in my story. I only expand my outline if the story calls for it. I'd focus on the story first
  16. Za'dok Khoal

    Za'dok Khoal Scribe

    That is one thing I have learned To do, in writing the current stories sometimes you don't realise you ARE creating the lore, and even though it may seem insignificant at the moment, keep a legal pad or not book on the side and short hand details or events. Because later it helps you not counter or forget something. I will admit, it sucks at times, but if you have the patience ( I don't always) it pays off.

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