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What order do you worldbuild things?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Chasejxyz, Dec 18, 2020.

  1. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Inkling

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    I think I first read this in a dnd dm's manual. it said how you could start with one small setting, like a town or a dungeon, and then build out from there. Or you could start on a cosmological scale and then build inwards to where the characters and their story takes place. I guess you could also pick a point in time in the past and write forward to your story, or start at your story or some place in the future and then work backwards to create the things that caused it all to happen.

    I'm starting to worldbuild for my next project once my current wip goes out to for submissions and boy is there just a lot of stuff to come up with. I'd love to hear what your process is, what "direction" you tackle things and all that jazz.
     
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  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    I tend to start small and work out to the big stuff. The once I've got an idea of the whole thing, I work my way back down in scale.
    I usually start with a scene, an image or a fragment of dialog that need me to find it a home.
    The trouble is that I LOVE making maps and will spend all my time making them, so that I never get around to writing the story...
    so I'm trying to pants-it for a while to see if I actually write something...
     
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  3. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Maester

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    I start with what's cool. There is always something that excites me about a setting and I build it out from there.
     
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  4. The only set pattern I seem to have is, once I have something I like about a world (setting, culture, life altering aspect, etc) I begin creating a full fledged character to move through it. My first "world" I created was the only one where I dove in, went all out, and built an entire world/map/culture around the original idea only to realize, once I'd began writing, how much of it would need to change in the end to serve the story I'd decided to tell. Now I build to fit the story rather than the other way around.

    For instance, yesterday I wrote down the idea for a story where the world is a future American dystopia (2300 ish) where citizens are required, at 14, to choose the three rights they wish to claim for themselves in their lifetime, (freedom of speech, religion, property ownership, voting, bearing children, political office, possession of guns, jury of peers etc etc) and everyone must display a tattoo made of three horizontal bars, color coded, to show what they've chosen. The rights one does not choose are no longer theirs to participate in or claim right to. During one's life, there may be opportunities to add a fourth personal right, but at great risk, the pursuit of which for some desperate enough to rake part becomes a new reality TV craze pushed and profited on by the government.

    So, at that point, instead of creating anything else about this future version of America, I began writing scenes with two different character POVs to showcase that one large idea and will, over time as I go back to it, allow the world to grow out of it as those characters interact with, and move through, the world. Will the map we know be significantly altered by climate change and catastrophe? Will there have been mass exodus? Do states still exist at all? Don't know yet, but I'll find out along with my character. :)
     
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  5. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Sage

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    I write the story first, fleshing out the world around the characters as I go. As I write I can see what needs to be described in the world the characters are in, in the sense that I describe things like families, the town/village/whatever where they live and then anything else thats needed as an immediate background. The I start to add the details neccessary to support the plot, things like political systems, merchants guilds, trade routes, financial systems etc. The only snag I've found with that approach is that I need to keep a few notes about what I've described so that I don't go against it later on. Sometimes I need to come back and change things, but as that usually also inviolves changes in the story itself it isn't a problem. Inevitably I end up sketching maps of the towns and countries involved, not so much because I like map making but because it makes wriitng easier if I have an idea of where things are in relation to each other and how far part they are.
     
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  6. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

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    There are two methods that I use, and like a pendulum, I swing one way or the other with some frequency.Each one is useful in its own way.

    The first is the bottom-up method described by others. Start small, one thing, element, community, character etc... and expand on it. This works for when I have those moments of inspiration and I need to flesh the ideas out quickly.

    The second is a top-down approach. Whenever I have an idea for a country/continent, celestial body or whatnot, then I use this method to paint broad strokes (nothing too detailed lest I paint myself into a corner so to speak) and get the general idea on how it should work and go on from there.

    With both ideas, they kind of mesh into one semi-solid framework that I can use to write the stories. (Not that I have done much writing lately.)
     
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  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Top-down or bottom-up. In or out. i wince away from binary choices.

    So. For me, there is plot, setting, character, and theme. A story can start with any of these. Every once in a great while, it starts with an image. For example.

    Image: a young man on a desert road, hitchhiking. A Buick Roadmaster pulls up. It is driven by a wizard.
    Setting: There is another world at the center of this one. It's only a rumor, but an expedition sets out to find it.
    Character: A young half-elf, half-human discovers she is neither.
    Plot: A young king suddenly has a claim to the imperial throne. He is not unopposed.
    Theme: Friendship can lead friends into dark places.

    With each of these story ideas I built out a world. Granted, all take place within Altearth, but each takes place in a different century and with different characters. So with each I needed to flesh out all the other story elements. IMO, this whole business of world building is a bit over-wrought. It's about building stories. If I can draw a parallel, while the role of the thaumaturge is important, it's the playwright who writes what we see on stage. Back when we attended plays, that is.
     
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  8. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

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    Start small, then build outward. In real life, cultures often have certain similarities to each other. I'll use Slavic people as a comparison:
    Slavic nations all have certain cultural similarities and differences- they all have about the same mythology, and other parts of their culture are near universal- but at the same time, they also have many differences; the Slavic cultural region belongs to Eastern Europe and Northern Europe, and they share cultural similarities to the other people in Eastern and Northern Europe; by extension, Eastern and Northern Europe both share certain characteristics with the other parts of Europe- all of Europe has certain cultural similarities; then, as you draw a bit farther, you get into Eurasia in general- there are many things that are near universal throughout Eurasia, but they are also VERY different from each other in each of the two continents; then, we get into the old world in general- Africa, Europe, and Asia- they have their own cultural similarities and differences; as you get farther, and farther, you start to notice that there are certain things all cultures on Earth share. Of course, you could go small- inside the Slavic region, Russia, the largest country in the world, has it's own unique culture apart from even their fellow Slavs- which is true of all nations, of course- then, going smaller, there is a town in Russia. Inside that town, is a house, and inside that house is Andrik and his children. There are rules within that town, and within that house, and then on an individual basis, each person in that very house has their own personality.
     
  9. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

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    That actually sounds awesome. (as a story, not a real life situation)
     
  10. sehsphare

    sehsphare Dreamer

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    I tend to draw a map first. I pull out some colored pencils and a piece of paper and I draw out a coastline, then I start adding geographic landmarks and give them names. Usually during that period I start to come up with cultural ideas, who lives where and is like what? And then, once I have a few cultures I'll start out my story and usually start creating smaller more unique features of the world within that.
     
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  11. Alexander Knight

    Alexander Knight Scribe

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    Sounds like you need to partner with someone. You could do all of the map making/drawing and just contribute to the writing (rather than being the main creator of the text).
     
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  12. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    Maybe but I know I don't play well with others :whistle:
    And anyhow I like writing... It is cathartic.
     
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  13. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Maester

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    CupofJoeCupofJoe what (software) do you use to make maps? I'm looking to create a map for one of my next novels, and I'm curious where I should get started.
     
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  14. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    Mostly Photoshop with a few brushes I found on DeviantArt.
    My work was kind enough to let me keep an old copy of Adobe Creative Suite when they upgraded.
    But I always start with pencil and paper. It is so much faster and easier to rough things out with a soft pencil and an eraser. If I feel creative I've got some pastel pencils.
     
  15. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

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    I actually world build after I've written my book because then I know exactly how and what I need to know. It prevents me getting bogged down and wasting time creating a world that I'll only use 90% of.
     
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  16. Toby Johnson

    Toby Johnson Minstrel

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    idea, map making, then keep doing that until your happy, then write about smaller things like religeon and that
     
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