Really Useful Links for Writers: The World of Story

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Paul FitzSimons

When we decide to write a new story, be it a film, novel or short story, we set about creating an exciting plot and interesting and relatable characters. And we also create a world.

Sometimes, we don’t even realise that we’re creating this world, due to the fact that our story is set in an existing place in the present day. But, just by inserting our new characters and events into this time and place, we are creating a new world, or at the very least, a reimagining of an existing one.

Alternatively, we might be following in the foot-steps of Tolkien, Rowling or James Cameron and setting our story in a time and/or place that exists only in our imaginations. This will probably be a much bigger task for us, but it will also be a more rewarding one. And, in fact, a necessary one if our story can’t be told in a place or time that currently exists, or if it has been told is this world but would work better in one of our own making – for example, it is said that Avatar, Pocahantas and Dances With Wolves are essentially the same story, set in different worlds.

Writer Kate Messner knows a thing or two about creating worlds. Her children’s and YA novels are all set in new or brilliantly-re-imagined worlds, which give them new levels of originality and excitement. Kate’s imagination is demonstrated in her ted.com presentation in which she tells us, in visual and entertaining fashion, everything she knows about creating worlds.

Most writers have one aspect of writing that they don’t relish. For some, it’s character-development, others don’t like writing sensory description (I’m one of those). Novelist Victoria Strauss refers to herself as an impatient writer and admits that, because she doesn’t enjoy the work needed to create a believable imaginary world, she used to forge on with writing chapters and then paint herself into the inevitable corner. To avoid this, Victoria realised she would need to impose on herself some level of discipline and, on her website, she takes us through her method – a compromise between her natural hastiness and the need to create the realistic imaginary world.

When we get to work creating our new world, we need to think about, not just the general information of the world, but also the minute details. TVTropes.org takes us through all the details we need to think about, suggesting we ask ourselves questions like ‘What is the landscape of our new world?’, ‘Who are the inhabitants of the world?’ and ‘What are the politics?’. We’re told that we need to know this level of detail to make our world, and the story that’s set in it, as compelling as possible.

Creating our brand new world can be rife with danger – there are a number of pitfalls to which we we might fall foul. IO9’s Charlie Jane Anders recognises the seven most common mistakes we make when developing a world and tells us how to avoid them. Charlie Jane reminds us that failing to build a plausible and relatable world will have a significantly detrimental effect on the overall plot and characters of our story.

Fantasy and Science are the two genres of fiction that most need new worlds, and then demand most of those worlds. With over a hundred and fifty thousand members, Elfwood claims to be the world’s largest SciFi & Fantasy community. Fantasy writer and artist Michael James Liljenberg tells us the importance of creating a strong back-drop to Fantasy and Sci-Fi stories, covering topics such as Theology, Physics, Weather, Geography, Astronomy and Zoology.

‘It is perhaps both a blessing and a curse that fictional worlds spring into my mind nearly fully formed and it takes quite a while to sift through everything to find the story.’ – Erin Morgenstern

 

Kate Is Great.

Author Kate Messner offers a few tricks for creating the perfect fictional world.

“Just like real life, fictional worlds operate consistently, within a spectrum of physical societal rules.”

http://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-to-build-a-fictional-world-kate-messner

 

Patience Is A Virtue.

Self-proclaimed impatient writer Victoria Strauss advises us to take the time to create the world and avoid painting ourselves into a corner.

“When I first began writing, my solution was to wing it. I’d take an idea and plunge right in, letting the story take me where it would and allowing the world to develop spontaneously.”

http://www.victoriastrauss.com/advice/world-building/

 

Talking To Yourself?

TVTropes.org takes us through some of the questions we need to ask ourselves when creating our fictional world.

“World-Building is the process in which an author adds the finer details to his or her setting.”

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/SoYouWantTo/BuildYourOwnFictionalWorld

 

Seven Deadly Sins.

Charlie Jane Anders takes us through the seven most common mistakes we make when developing a story’s world.

“When world-building fails, it can wreck your whole story, and leave your characters feeling pointless.”

http://io9.com/7-deadly-sins-of-worldbuilding-998817537

 

What’s Your Fantasy?

Fantasy writer Michael James Liljenberg talks about the importance of creating world for Fantasy and Sci-Fi stories.

“The key to creating a realistic world in your story is working from the beginning of the process to make sure all the parts will work together.

http://www.elfwood.com/farp/thewriting/liljenbergworlds/

(c) Paul FitzSimons

About the author

Paul FitzSimons is a screenwriter and novelist and has written the novel ‘Burning Matches’ and a number of scripts for film and TV. He has worked as a storyline writer on RTE’s ‘Fair City’. His short stories are published in ‘Who Brought The Biscuits’ by The Naas Harbour Writers. Paul likes crime thrillers, good coffee and Cadbury’s chocolate. He doesn’t like country-and-western music or people who don’t indicate on roundabouts.

Paul also runs the Script Editing service Paul | The | Editorpaulfitzsimons.com

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