The mechanics of world-building

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Thread: The mechanics of world-building

  1. #1
    Member KHK's Avatar
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    Dec 2019

    The mechanics of world-building

    I don't know if I am in any position to give sage advice. I am in no way an accomplished writer - hardly a rookie one.
    But, for what it's worth, here are my two cents.

    What I find working for me - and what, in fact, helps me keep going when the going gets hard - is building the models in my mind.

    I model the world I'm describing, and try to do this in as much detail as I can. Minute details are as important as the fundamental ones, if not even more important. I try to picture myself in that world. How will it feel? How will it smell? Will it give me the hibbie-gibbies, or will I feel relaxed and comfortable? What will I see, standing in a particular place? Time of day, season of the year, wheather, light, landscape, landmarks.
    Essentially, if I were to be transferred into that place and time, how would I describe it?

    Then I substitute myself with the character. With his/her individual quirks, predilections, idiosyncrasies. With their current state of mind, past experience, mood, age, gender. Are they alone, with other characters, or in a crowd?
    Basically, view the same world but through the prism of what they've been through, what they're going through at the moment. If you have a good enough model of the character, what you'll end up with will differ quite substantially from what you yourself would have seen/felt.

    That's the static part.
    And then I add the vector of the plot development.
    If you have an idea (and you came to that place in that world with this idea in mind) - great.
    If you don't, ask yourself: what is the current situation, and what does it mean for the character? What would the character do, given his/her personal parameters? And finally, if it's still too "flat", what kind of "conflict" can you introduce to not allow the character to simply live a boring, uneventful life. Just when they think they're OK/safe/accomplished, what can go wrong? What's the worst thing that may happen - not from your point of view, but from your character's?

    Let it flow, and see where it takes you. Just make sure to constantly check the flight path of your fantasy against the constraints of the models (the world, the character).
    Be honest with yourself. Even if something looks like a good idea, and feels written exceptionally well, still, ask yourself: would this character really do/say/think that? Or is it somewhat/completely out of character? Does this feel like something that may really happen in this world, or will it stand out to its inhabitants (and the readers) as abnormal/supernatural/weird?

    I hope this rambling does make some sense.
    I would appreciate experienced writers weighing in on whether they employ some similar techniques.

    P.S. I'm deliberately leaving out the "plotters" / "pantsers" dichotomy because I think this method might work equally well for both categories. Even if you've got the whole story thoroughly plotted, down to the timelines, arcs, and all, this could still make it more plausible, more believable. And who knows, maybe this will even force you to update your plan. I've lost count of how many times my story line bucked and took me in an altogether different direction from what I'd originally had in mind.
    Last edited by KHK; January 17th, 2020 at 05:22 PM.


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