May 28th, 2015


Writing Excuses 10.21: Q&A on World Building

Writing Excuses 10.21: Q&A on World Building


Q&A summary:
Q: Was there ever a world building element you missed and regretted it?
A: A post apocalyptic story without bicycles. Aliens with dominant females, but courtships still conform to human genders. Having a race of aliens with mouths over their eyeballs, which makes it hard to convey emotion through facial expressions.
Q: How do you deal with consistency?
A: Your job is to extrapolate, to go where the reader never expected. Try changing one aspect, and exploring ramifications of that. Hang lanterns on inconsistencies! Let characters be mistaken! Also, use inconsistencies and mistakes as happy accidents, that you use.
Q: How do you decide when something should be a hidden version of our world or [it]... needs its own universe?
A: Use historical backdrops because of the tension between the actual history and the story you are telling. What is the story you are trying to tell? Does awareness of our history enhance the story, or distract?
Q: How can you write a world inspired by an Earth culture without cultural appropriation?
A: When you are inspired by another culture, you will probably make someone angry. Accept that. Then consider the metaphor of a British dress made from an Indian sari -- when the exciting, interesting parts of your story come from somebody else's culture, you need to think about it. How well is the culture represented? What is the context of what you are borrowing? Can-of-Worms!
Q: How much world building is enough without being too little?
A: Do enough world building to answer your reader's questions. To fulfill the type of story and the plot. Let your character's passions and conflicts drive your world building.
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[Brandon] All right. This has been Writing Excuses...
[Howard] Oh. Do we need to do a writing prompt?
[Brandon] Oh, we do. I forg...
[Dan] It isn't Writing Excuses yet.
[Howard] You forgot it, but I didn't forget it, because I have it.
[Brandon] I put the thing down.
[Howard] Next... Our next series of episodes, the next chapter in this master class, is on description. Right? We've been doing all this world building. Take some stuff that you've world built, take whatever the geewhiz or the MacGuffin is, and a scene in which it appears, and rewrite the scene describing this technology in a completely different way. When I say completely different, you can reuse articles and pronouns. You can reuse MacGuffins and character names. But all of the other stuff, all the stuff you're using to color this in, tell us what it is, do it differently.
[Brandon] All right. Now you're out of excuses. Go write.
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