Tag Archives: worldbuilding

Announcement: Worldbuilding Article published on Mythic Scribes

I have written another article for the Mythic Scribes front page, called Adding Depth to a Fantasy World. It’s about considering different aspects of worldbuilding beyond the standard framework topics like magic systems, maps and politics, and looking at the kinds of details that bring a world to life.


How to deal with clichés in fiction

The topic of cliché is one I have brushed upon in my earlier article on Mary Sues. In that context, I argued that being cliché doesn’t automatically make a character a Mary Sue. The link between Mary Sues and clichés that has been made by some commentators implies that clichéd Mary Sues are bad because clichés are bad. But this isn’t necessarily so.

There are many sides to the cliché debate. There are those who see clichés as an automatically negative element within a story, like the Rinkworks Fantasy Novelist’s Exam, which implores writers to abandon novels that contain certain cliché elements. There are those who see clichés as tools to construct a story and manage reader expectations. And there are those who believe that whether an element of a story is cliché or not is irrelevant and that the focus should be on how well the author tells the story, not on whether its been done before.

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Planning or procrastinating?

There comes a point, it suddenly seems evident to me, that the line is crossed – these notes I am writing are no longer planning notes, but procrastinating notes. They are a means for me to say “I am writing” without actually writing. They are rehashing, adding depth to the world I am creating when the layers are already there.

I am planning a story at the moment. It is not a complex story and I don’t expect it to be a long one. But during this whole planning process only the first week was really productive. The second week has been window dressing. In the first week I created a character, I gave her motivations and a personality, flaws which are human and normal and quite possibly at the core of quite a lot of decisions made my people the world over. I created a world for her to live in, a unique town for her to live and run a business in and a city far away for her to journey to in search of her long lost daughter.

In the second week mostly what I created was fluff. A history for this city she travels to, and as a consequence a landmark along the way. The culture’s attitude to death and the soul and how this impacts on one very small part of the quest. A superfluous plot outline that fails to cover the ending.

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On Freewriting and pulling a story together

I have only recently learned of the freewriting technique, from an article called Freewriting: Writing for Crappy Writers. I decided to try it out. In the last few months, I have not been actively working on a project (except Ailith’s Gift, but that’s only ~3000 words so doesn’t count). I decided to give freewriting a go, see if I could shake out the cobwebs and get my brain moving again.

I set myself a topic: “a settlement”, and I feel it went quite well. A few typos, a spelling error or two, some awkward grammar and quite a lot of rambling nonsense as I tried to keep my fingers moving even though I had nothing to say. But it came out alright. I created a settlement, a small town with a bridge, on the main road between a city and a place of pilgrimage, the main economy of which is to sell objects to pilgrims which they can dedicate to the sacred shrine the other side of the river.

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Building worlds alongside stories

Worldbuilding is a huge part of fantasy writing. For some – like Tolkein – the story comes about as something to showcase the world that has been built. But for those of us just starting out, it can be daunting to think you have to create an in-depth world for your readers from scratch.

Of course, you don’t have to start from scratch. There are myriad cultures from Earth’s history you can use to inspire your world. Research therefore can form a good starting point, a foundation. Don’t necessarily go for the obvious cultures – medieval western Europe, the Romans, the Aztecs and so on. Pick a time in the last 6000 years, a place anywhere in the world, and see what you can find out about the culture that existed in that time and place. You might be surprised – and inspired. Ptolemaic Egypt, Bronze Age northern Scotland, post colonial Mexico, the height of Great Zimbabwe or China at the time when the Silk Road first opened trade routes with the Roman Empire could all hold gems of information that help you to create an interesting, varied world to set your stories in.

Continue reading Building worlds alongside stories