Crafting a World - How?

  • How do you create the world in which your characters live? I have never had any luck with this part of the process and it's so frustrating. I have these amazing ideas but I don't know how to develop the world that my characters populate. I have no clue how to even begin to describe the places, the shops, the streets, none of it. I get stuck here and I don't know how to progress.

  • Plotist Team: Community Storyteller

    Hello @kalebT

    This is a darn good question. Our @jennifer-abbott did a great post to get started and you can read it here, but I think there are many ways to go about world building.

    For me, I always start with the simple concept. Is it a love story, a horror plot, a murder mystery, etc. Then I start by asking myself "What if?" As I live on Earth, I use this as a foundation to get started. "What if detectives were able to live through the last moments of a victims death? What if those detectives had a 100% solve rate and their "visions" could be used as testimony in court? What if a murder found a way to subvert the process to blame someone else?"

    Now that I have an idea of how to twist "Earth" I start to ask myself questions like... "Where did this ability come from? Why is it acceptable to the justice system? What if the person who had to solve the crime committed by this new antagonist never wanted to be a detective but they were forced because of their ability?"

    I have found that it is best to run these questions across another writer, or individual who can help you go "ooo I like that but what if...?" Or .."Hmm that seems too much of a trope" Feel free to use here as a sound board!

  • Plotist Team: Keepers of Code

    World-building, in my opinion, it's the best part of writing. If it's purely fictional, you are only limited by your imagination and how critical you are about what you just made up. If it's based on the real world, it's a great opportunity to do some research on places you'd like to visit (even visiting them!) or things you'd like to learn.

    Figuring out how to write this down is the tricky bit. Most of this world-building effort will never make it to your book/script, and figuring out what to add and what to ignore is not easy at all. Even established authors can't hold themselves back from adding all their research in their books.

    If you are struggling with coming up with how a completely fictional street looks (for example), I recommend trying to find the closest thing you can find in this world and taking it from there. Describe that real-world street and edit the details that are not quite like it. Find pictures, movie clips or even someone else's description of a street you like and try to make it your own.

  • Plotist Team: Community Storyteller

    @jaycano said in Crafting a World - How?:

    Even established authors can't hold themselves back from adding all their research in their books

    Ever read a 15 page description of a hallway before? sigh

  • Thanks for the tips, guys! I appreciate it. I'm going to try to do some research into world building. I think I'll start off small and use a place that I'm familiar with in order to get an idea of how to best describe the setting. Like y'all said, I think the best option would be to read how others describe settings and work off of their descriptions. Thanks so much!

  • Plotist Team: Community Storyteller

    @kalebT A few years back I did a writing exercise where I wrote a brief story about a person who woke up, went to work, came home, and then went to sleep. The idea was to write it in first person keeping in mind that the person talking was trying to make their mundane day as fantastic and wonderful as possible. So walking to the bus stop involved telling the audience about how wet the roads were, how pungent the air was due to decaying trash as the trash collectors were on strike. The strike was caused by strange creatures, which my protagonist "totally saw" peeking up through manhole covers.

    I basically ended up writing a short story "A day in my life", but the protagonist bigged up everything because their life was sooo normal. :) I didn't think about the world, I didn't think about the people my character met: bus drivers, others on the street, their boss. By using the delusions of my character, I ended up world building due to the one piece of advice I was given for first person stories- "When a character talks in first person, everything they reveal is meaningful to them." It's not always about knowing what colour cloak someone is wearing unless it's important to the character. :)

  • Plotist Team: Keepers of Code

    @Josey By your description sounds like you were writing The Metamorphosis or maybe something by Philip K. Dick. It gives me a few ideas to try...

    @kalebT Take it at your own pace and don't try to get it perfectly the first try. It's the same as with writing itself your world is a constant draft.

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