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 worldbuilding!, tell me where your brain lives
bird
 Posted: Mar 3 2016, 12:47 AM
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let's talk about worldbuilding! since we've already got a character thread and a smut thread and i wanted a thread about my favourite part of writing i figured this was the next logical step.

so, barbermonger: tell me about the worlds that you've built! what's it like there? are you trying to figure anything out now?

and while we're at it we can get into the nitty-gritty of it too: how do you go about creating a new fantasy or sci-fi or alternate history world? what are some of your tips and tricks? what do or don't you like seeing in speculative fiction? got any great resources up your sleeve to share with the class?

back in the day i found limyaael's fantasy rants super helpful in terms of giving me stuff to think about when creating worlds and characters. i haven't re-read this stuff in ages but i remember a lot of it was good even if i didn't always agree

also, here's a masterpost of worldbuilding resources on tumblr that's more or less helpful to start us off

now let's goooo

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bird
 Posted: Mar 3 2016, 01:08 AM
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also some quotes from the clarion writer's workshop about SFF -- some relevant, some not, some good, some not! discuss?

i'm bolding the ones i like:

  

QUOTE
SFF TROPES

“Always ask yourself: what does this magic system say about THIS world, and THESE characters?”

“Any time you do a monster that is culturally familiar, like vampires or werewolves, you need to establish the rules quickly and efficiently.” nb: and honestly i think any monster/conceit as well?

“The Star Trek problem: your tech/fantasy is so great it automatically solves whatever plot problems arise, which can be unsatisfying, but not necessarily. If the physical obstacles are not huge, the emotional obstacles have to do a lot more work.”


“Research is like an iceberg; 90% of it you don’t see, but it’s the foundation on which the rest of the story is built.”

“Don’t feel the need to infodump everything you’ve learned in your research about a foreign culture, or convince readers you’re being respectful, because that can come across as exoticism.”


“Unlimited time travel solves too many problems; it renders fiction unworkable.”

“In a short story, you get ONE of the following three things to be complex: structure, character, world. Unless you’re [FAMOUS AUTHOR]. [FAMOUS AUTHOR gets two.”

“Don’t be afraid to just say what something is.”

“A nice way to make me “buy” complex technology and a rich world is to just give me a great character whose dilemma shapes and filters the world, and focus on that.”

“Don’t just rely on your writing. Which sounds strange to say.”

“The laws of physics surrounding the impossibility of time travel seem to be set up to prevent us from creating paradoxes, or from finding out we don’t have free will.””

“Day logic is like in Harry Potter, you say lumos and the lights go on, it always works the same, it’s like science. Night logic is more metaphorical, more intuitive, and therefore it can be a lot harder to write because you have to dedicate so much space to giving readers the info that they need, and that can get in the way of character development, etc.”

“In an alternate history, we need to know the point of divergence.”

“Your readers shouldn’t be wondering if it’s a dystopia or not. Tyrannical governments aren’t scary if the tyrannical government has solved all our problems. The big questions are, is there war? Poverty? Hunger? That’s how you can spot a dystopia.”

“You can learn a lot about a fictional world by having a character look up at the sky.”

“When I’m reading a world-building story, I’m asking myself ‘well, who’s the guy who works at Starbucks in this world?’ Most world-building starts with one caste/community (warriors, kings, priest, etc), because that’s an important way to build it out, and something young readers especially are very attuned to."

“Ghosts are tough. Ghosts lead consequence-free lives, because the worst thing that could ever happen to them has already happened to them. What are your goals when you’re dead?”

“Good horror is honesty. The monster is a reflection of real things, and real character issues.”

“Magic needs a system, and it all needs to hang together. You need to be able to intuit one rule from another, and when we learn a new one it needs to make sense AND be surprising.”

“With any speculative fiction that explores new technology, you have to ask yourself, what kind of person would take advantage of this technology in what way?”

“How integral is the speculative science/fantasy element to this story? Without it, how different would this story be? A lot of people say it’s fine to have a story with a speculative element that doesn’t materially affect the plot. I realize that’s one school of thought, but I like speculative elements to help do something you can’t do any other way.”

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mellery
 Posted: Mar 3 2016, 01:25 AM
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I am going to cling to this thread and never leave worldbuilding is the BEST and bird world is ALSO THE BEST

one of the worlds i'm rping at the moment is really fun for me because there's a lot of building there. the premise is basically that the country is divided up into little districts where the centre point is a temple. the temples are important because in each one resides a god. gods are people who are born radiating magical energy that they can't use themselves, but which other people can absorb and manipulate for all kinds of things. Crops, decoration, war, etc. When gods are born they're usually handed over by their families to the temples straight away, because there's a lot of prestige from having a god-child in your family.

there aren't many gods though, which causes two main problems. first is what happens when one dies while still having energy to give. what happens then is a resurrection ritual - it's painful and gross and basically makes the gods prisoners, despite their finery and luxury. the second problem is that the energy doesn't reach all of the land, leaving dry parts called the barrens/barrenlands. people have to live without magic there, and it's sort of a place to get exiled to.

that's the basic setup and i'm having a lot of fun with the rp but i feel like i really need to do a lot more building. it was a rp that started with just a simple premise and went from there so there's so much i don't know like what's the currency?? there's a body that oversees all of the different temples - what's their deal? what are other countries like?

i keep getting distracted by smaller details like the art forms my girl grew up with, diminutives she uses for people (her name is fescha but she goes by fescha-na, the -na meaning 'oasis' and being used for daughters. she thinks of it as part of her name now), the food she eats on a day to day basis. a lot of big questions have been neglected so far!

thaaanks for the links bird, I will use them wisely.
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bird
 Posted: Mar 6 2016, 01:48 PM
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spitballing some ideas that have been rattling around in my head for the last few days:
  • so i was sitting around reading about this stuff. as one does. basically, hothouse earth on a fairly recent timescale! arctic jungles! possibly due to massive eruptions, possibly after some kind of impact, possibly just because of orbital forcing.


  • so, spitballing off that: northern lights flickering above fast-growing jungle canopies that slowly die off when the winter night hits. a wealth of carnivorous flora like giant pitcher plants and other weird shit evolving mechanisms for living through the long dark months. trees that grow insanely quick in the spring, like bamboo, to try and re-establish dominance of the canopy again come summer. nocturnal animals that take shelter in vast, karstic cave systems. rivers that disappear deep into the earth. roads that can't be kept maintained or cleared once the spring starts, so communication with the outside is fairly limited. stories about vast barren deserts to the south, maybe a warm tropical inland sea. and everywhere, old artifacts from dead civilizations that are magic, as far as anyone's concerned, that are dangerous or salvageable or usually just creepy. and there are raiders that take advantage of the dying-off, thinning vegetation to set forth into the jungle, braving whatever horrors lie there to get resources for the community.


  • maybe it's even a thirty days of night kinda thing, and some people evolve or specialize some kind of monstrousness/vampirism to survive through the dark months? idk. idk! i'm working on it. or maybe it's just megafauna prowling around.


  • other, potentially related idea: garden-variety post-scarcity post-apocalyptic kinda thing? guns and bullets and cars are too expensive/difficult/resource intensive, and people have some ability to create/manipulate force fields (a la Dune) which would reflect most projectile weapons anyway. so: people on horseback wearing ceramic body armour with HUDs, armed with force-crossbows and knives, or something. old robots that are falling apart, dilapidated things, patched together and lovingly maintained. everything is powered by hydraulics or wind or solar or that wheel that conan pushes around, except with cattle. or prisoners? possibly they live in the jungle-world -- clay would be more abundant than metal anyway. or maybe they live in the desert, and their communities are carved-out into cliff walls for shade and keeping things cool.

  • found on a scrap of paper in my desk, underlined four times: UNDERGROUND MONASTERIES!! so yes, i guess that too

  • and since i just read china mountain zhang i'm thinking that people live in communes, raising kids in a group rather than entirely by a set of individual parents, and relationship ties are more about sharing roles or resources or something. this is turning into a super bizarro magic marxist world, probably. shit, i don't know. i'm tapping out.
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XANDER
 Posted: Mar 7 2016, 04:17 PM
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bird requested that i post here so HERE I AM, but by god i am shit at worldbuilding*. i am very 1) character-driven and 2) concept-driven and tend to build my world mechanics around my people. if you've ever played the [url=]bastion[/url], the world forms as your character runs forward. prior to their running in a given direction, there is no floor!

now, this is fairly handy for roleplaying, but for writing on your own? LOL. MAJOR LOL.

that being said, here are the two worlds that i occasionally try to flesh out, when they are not laughing hysterically at me:
  1. a city called qix for my futuristic sci-fi-ish story, which is actually challenged by one of the tropes bird posted - is it a dystopia or not? the main mechanic of the whole sci-fi story is a kind of post-world work, where basic resources (housing, food, education, transportation) are provided by default for the citizens if they fulfill a minimum work requirement. the work requirement is supplemented by aptitude tests early in life. it's also a technologically advanced world (self-driving cars all the way! chips in your finger for your bank account!), and really thinking through all the mechanics of that is pretty challenging. moreover, the main event of the story is a character GOING OFF THE GRID, so construction of the world has to be done carefully - there has to be a 'crack in the sidewalk' or the whole story doesn't work!

    writing about qix isn't just a literary challenge - it's a philosophical challenge in the sense of, 'is this an ideal world? why? why not? what is the meaning of life and art?' and i am still terrifically shoddy at writing on my own, so this is probably gonna take a few more years. :"] WHOOOOOO
  2. magical mechanics for a modern fantasy world of witches and their team players (called 'warders')! what if having unstable magic gave you like, symptoms of a disease? how would the government regulate magic? what would a rebellion and illegal drug trafficking look like in this world? this one is a little bit easier, because i'm not sifting through all kinds of potential futuristic technology and asking, DOES THIS GO HERE??? but i generally get irritated with the plothole of WHAT ABOUT THE GOVERNMENT when it comes to magical worlds, so i chew on this a lot.
i am at least 2 years away from being a competent world builder, but i'ma tryin'

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Rica
 Posted: Mar 8 2016, 01:46 AM
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One world I helped build but have been tinkering with silently in my head is the world of the Cards. There is a large country, populated in the most dense cramped way possible to the point of almost being one large city if and of itself. This metropolis of a country has no name. It's simply known as the City of the Cards.

The Cards act as the government. The city separated into 52 districts, each run individually by a 'Card'. From 2 to King of each house, they report to the Four Aces but are more or less left to their own devices.

Mysteriously, every ten years the Cards (except for the mysterious Aces) disappear. No one knows where they go. And every ten years they are replaced almost immediately with a new 15 year old Card, who was tested and prepared for the job since age 10.

Everyone knows of the rebellion the black and white Chess Pieces. The few who escaped the city and live out in the frozen wastes, fighting the Cards at every turn and trying to take down the oppressive near dictatorship. Where the people have no say.

But the truth is it's all a sham. The rebellion is just another facet of the Cards control. Using the 'war' as a distraction to prevent anyone from looking too closely at where the Cards disappear to.

They're being frozen through a ritual that combines magic and science, requiring a child sacrifice each time. Frozen more and more until they have enough bodies in an army to start the real war.

The war against the Tryn. A race of people who are almost as much beast as human and magical in nature. Only recently brought together in an alliance, as the many species (Canines, Felines, Avians, Reptilians, Rodents) have been at war for as long as anyone can remember, they are now bonded together for a common enemy that has been taking their children.

The children are cloned. So the clones can go on and live a short life of normal childhood aside from repeated tests and check ups involving shots, to keep their ability to change into the animal of their people stamped away until it was needed. Each district has two clones. Except for the Aces who have none.

Each district picks one Card.

The other is often killed. Some are set free by more sympathetic people, to live normal lives among the people.

(I'm not sure how to end this but essentially the story plays out that the clones eventually make their way back 'home' and liberate the world from the Card's control once and for all with the help of their people. And eventually grow into the culture they should have grown up with. There's more details about the different species I didn't add here. I made make an edit later.)
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