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Table of Contents
By Lazette Gifford
Copyright © 2010, Lazette Gifford, All Rights Reserved
For the next six issues of Vision (the 2010 run), I am going to present world building factors that can help you develop a more complex setting for your stories. Complex settings can, in turn, help you create setting-related troubles for your characters, and integrate that into the plot.
Start by creating a new settlement that would either fit into a current story you are working on, or one that you create just for these sets of workshops. What is the population size and type? What are the basic groups? Who has the upper hand and do they work well together? What points of conflict are there?2. What is the history of the area
Every place on earth has a history. We often celebrate it in monuments, statues, museums and historical buildings. Other places might celebrate it in epic tales, songs and plays. We create holidays to mark important historical moments just as often as we do for religious reasons.
Don't overlook the history of your story location. Even if it's a brand new settlement on an unexplored world, they're going to bring some history with them, and start creating new history with the first step onto the new world.
History is also a way of marking one group from another. Were you part of the battle against the enemy? Your name isn't on the list. Were you on the first ship to land? Or are you a late-comer, and therefore not given the same respect -- or perhaps even rewards -- that people descended from the first settlers receive?
Are the people in charge invaders? What history did they bring from other places? Are there customs they bring that are not well adapted to the local area? Think about what would happen if a desert people were pushed north into a land where winter snow rules for three or four months a year.
This can be important to an individual character who needs to know his place in the world.
Special note for those working in a real world setting: Even if you are using a real world-setting, that doesn't mean you can't add some fictional elements that will create more diversity -- and more trouble -- for your story line. If you are writing about someone in a large city like New York or Chicago, you can invent a neighborhood or two for your personal use. Build the rest of the city around it, use legitimate landmarks in the rest of the story, but create a few places specifically for your own use. By doing so, you can avoid the trouble of having to intimately know a place that may not be easy for you to access.
Write a short history of your settlement. This need not be more than notes on the earliest settlers, the first hardships they faced (because there are always hardships), and the reason why they chose this location. Look in again 100 years later to see what changes took place and what new challenges they face. Look in every 100 years until you get to your story's present day.3. How are outsiders treated?
This is somewhat related to the previous question. If a stranger showed up in the midst of your main group, how would the locals treat him or her? Welcomed? Shunned? Enslaved? Murdered?
All of these are viable answers and have taken place at some time in human history. The rules of culture surrounding the treatment of strangers and those who are outside the main group (even if they live in the same area) is an important part of our societies.
Strangers bring change. It is often inadvertent, but they arrive with knowledge of things outside the norm in everything from customs to invention and to language -- and religion. People rarely like to change and they will fight against it as individuals, and even more so if the change involves a large group.
Lands have often undergone many invasions, some peaceful and some not. In a fantasy novel in which an area is worried about invasion, what happens to the people already there from the other land? If the invasion or war is with a nearby country, then some of the natives of the enemy land are likely in residence. There should at least be some groups along the border.
Here is an odd little tidbit, though. Greek slaves often taught high ranking Roman children, and in that way the Romans gained Greek culture. Change can sneak in even when people are doing their best to keep it out.
What would happen if a group of outsiders showed up in a settlement in your story world? This group does not look like the locals, does not speak the same language and obviously do not hold the same beliefs. How would they be welcomed?Wrap it all up together
Now that you have the first three pieces to your population, what can you see that would be the trouble spots for your fictional setting? Can you see how changes in population could affect the 'feel' of the story world? Play with these three pieces and see what different types of setting parameters you can come up with and how they might alter the ease with which your characters achieve their goals.
Next issue we'll cover more simple world building ideas to help you create more complex story worlds.
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.