World Building (Part IV)


Back on tap for the final part of Kevin J. Anderson’s World Building workshop.  For anyone interested in attending Superstars next February, you can use my coupon code LADAMS for $100 off.  Very important to book early though because the price does go up.  But the payment plan is very flexible, especially when you register early.

Next up on the list…

Religion

This is something that stretches across all cultures and connects with the categories below.  During the Desert Storm briefings, we were told the religion controlled the Saudi Arabian government.  We found that a very strange concept, but it’s obviously shown up throughout history.

Think about what kinds of gods the world has.  Are they real beings who show up or a concept?

What kind of impact do they have on the world?

Intellectual/Science

This one starts to get into the deep end of the world building, or least my feel of that.  If you look at our history, it’s also closely tied with religion.  Galileo was a scientist who said the earth was round, not flat, and moved around the sun.  That was too much for the churches of the time and they made him recant.

Most of the fantasy books I’ve seen have had universities for mages to attend to become learned in their skills.  Harry Potter was the only one where I’ve seen actual classes for a bunch of students (not a one on one), and in a variety of subjects.  This is an easy one for all of us, because we’ve been in school.  Can you imagine a class where handwriting is taught because it’s very important to be able to read a spell properly? And a potions class would be like a chemistry class.  Lots of ways to make something like this work in a story.

Some questions to think about:

What’s the general education level of everyone?  Can they all read? (And I confess, when I’ve written fantasy, I’ve never never thought of this).

Is education control by a cabal?

Do they have free libraries, or is it controlled?

Arts

I thought this was one of the more interesting parts of the session because it made me think about something I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Wealthy societies have arts.  Poor ones don’t.

So if they have art, does it show in the building architecture?  There are fabulous examples of this just on TV stations like Smithsonian.

History

Every world has a history.  It doesn’t exist in a vacuum. History is why things happen today.  In past times, it was often conveyed in folktales and legends, an interesting fact I didn’t know.  Because I don’t outline, a lot of the history comes into the story organically (usually when I need it for a story).  But it prompts all kinds of questions.  Not just like the things Kevin mentioned—who wrote it (which influences what gets recorded) and the stories aren’t always accurate.  Sometimes they get forgotten because of time.  When I was growing up, every year on December 7, we had newspaper HEADLINES about remembering Pearl Harbor.  Now people don’t even know what that is.

And what about history that people want to keep a secret?  That’s fodder for many thrillers.

One of the things that’s struck me at the more advanced levels of writing is that you get the information in a different way.  It’s craft-based, rather than process-based.  As someone who doesn’t outline, I’ve seen process-based taught as if it were craft.  Because the instructor doesn’t know that there’s a difference.

“Get a three ring binder and tabs and then answer questions” is a specific writer’s process.  A list of categories and questions to think about is something that can filter in as the story is being written.

3 thoughts on “World Building (Part IV)

  1. Harvey Stanbrough March 26, 2019 / 7:43 am

    Intriguing post. Thanks. Shared.

    Re religion, if the planet is uninhabited (e.g., if a group of selected Earthlings is going to colonize it) what gods do they bring with them? For that matter, what skills? What is the mix of genders, races, levels of education, etc.?

    This stems from an interesting exercise I’ve done a few times over the years, and it’s good for SF as well as fantasy, action-adventure and some other genres. You’re in charge of selecting the crew that will colonize (or move into) whatever. How do you select who goes and who doesn’t to give the colonization the best chance of success? What are your criteria? (This is a twist on “who gets to be in the fallout shelter?”)

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  2. Peggy April 2, 2019 / 11:04 pm

    I think the most important part of this series (for which I thank you!) is that last bit about the difference between craft-based and process-based instruction.

    It’s the difference, broadly speaking, between intermediate level teaching and beginner level teaching, I think – because in the end, what you have (i.e., a story) is all that matters. How you got there is irrelevant.

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