The Zen of World Building part II

Part 2 of our world building adventure will center around attention to detail. In the previous post we covered a broad spectrum of characteristics, but now let’s focus on some nit picky things. This won’t be long, but will definitely give you something to think about.

 

Characters

Some author’s worlds are completely reliant on their characters. If you haven’t read “The Steam Dancer (1896)” by  Caitlin R. Kiernan, it’s a great example of this. It’s steampunk, but you wouldn’t know that without the characters. They drive the story into that subgenre. The dancer has a steam powered leg, and her husband is a mechanic. No, it isn’t as romantic as it sounds.

Anyway, characters can sometimes drive your world. Think of Dragon Ball Z. If the Z fighters don’t have super powers, it’s just another kung fu manga/anime. The characters drive it to another level.

Setting

Mountains or Urban? Desert or Utopia?

A lot of world building depends on the setting. And just like i said last time, you have to take into effect the scope of your work. Is there a single setting? Are there multiple settings? Are there multiple planets? Universes?

Whatever the scope or setting is, it can make or break your world. A foreign planet without weird creatures, climates, and plant life is not going to be foreign to anyone. It could easily be Earth in the far future well past humans…

GASP…another setting…

Technology

Much of science fiction involves advanced technology. Much of it does not.

This is vastly important for world building. In a post apocalyptic future, is there still tech, or is a 12 gauge the top of the line weapon? Do the bad guys have some super weapon that trumps your hero’s EMP device?

Are we in the Matrix?

All of these are important questions when building a world.

 

Practice

What I am about to tell you may reveal my nerdiness in ways you would never possibly imagine.

Oh well.

Go find a group of people to play a tabletop RPG with, and be the Game Manager.

This will allow you to create a world, build a story, and have fun during the process. You will have to integrate your party’s characters, baddies, weapons, and all sorts of cool stuff. There are plenty of games out there, and not all of them are fantasy. Fantasy is fun, but there are other options. Go play a game!

 

I hope these posts are helping with our world building. Let me know if there is anything you want more fleshed out!

 

Summer Ideas

OH MAN HAS IT BEEN BUSY AT MY HOUSE!

My son Hal came forth from his mother’s womb a couple of weeks ago, so that’s a big thing. Also: babies are awake when you want to be asleep.

But nonetheless, he is adorable and will grow to be a strong man.

His grandparents on both sides have been in and out since he was born, as well as all of his aunts and uncles. It has been a fast paced thrill ride for all involved. Especially Hal, cause about a billion people have held him so far.

All of that being said, I got to go see Pacific Rim this week.

IT WAS SWEET

It was actually really good and had few enough plot holes to be a sustainable story (should Guillermo del Toro decide to make another one).

The monsters and robots were explained very thoroughly and the action was top notch. The cgi was great and I had no trouble believing the premise or the way the world was built around the major plot themes. The sets were good, the colors fantastic, and most of all the storytelling was top notch. It was just as good or better than any mecha anime I’ve ever watched. Not to mention that it’s holding its own at the box office and will hopefully make back its budget.

So what can we pull from this? A few things that we already know, but we’ll phrase them a little differently:

Push the Limit

Who knew a giant robot movie that wasn’t based on a beloved toy line and cartoon would do well at the box office? GDT took a chance and made a really good movie. I mean this is the guy who gave us some pretty good Hellboy movies and Pan’s Labyrinth, but giant robots? This stuff is almost exclusively reserved for anime.

But it works.

How often in our writing do we stick to what we think is easy? For example, I have never written anything about time travel because I think it’s just too hard. i have really cool ideas about it, and I love Dr Who, but I just haven’t done it.

Maybe it’s time i push my limit.

Good Writing elevates Cool Tech

Giant robots are sweet no matter how you slice it. When they fight giant monsters, they get even cooler. See Voltron. Or these guys.

Don’t judge me.

Anyway, cool tech is always cool tech. But good writing makes it better. Take for example these movies. But if you have cool tech that is used well by the writing style and premise, you can capture lightening in a bottle. And if you’re remembered for a story with cool tech and not cool tech in a story, you’re on your way.

Don’t be afraid of subgenres

Aside from being a mecha movie, Pacific Rim was also heavily cyberpunk. There were bright lights of all different colors set against a very dark background (very Bladerunner-esque) plus all of the digital interfaces and the neural-link mechanics. The 3-d greatly enhanced this aspect of the movie and really gave another level to the feel of the world. I found myself immersed in the technology rather than hit in the face with it. I had no trouble believing that their world was as much digital as it was physical.

Trouble

Now the bigest obstacle i find in writing sci fi is getting anything across in writing that would be way better in a film medium. Thus we have to spend lots of time world building. I’m all for conservation of words and short story writing, but sometimes we have to use a few more words to get the setting right. So maybe write a novel if it gets the setting right.

Just a few thoughts from my end.

The next few weeks are still up in the air with content and posting. Hopefully I will have some guest posts coming up, from J. Aurel Guay for sure and possibly some others. I hope all of you are having a great summer, please let me know what you’re working on!

Secrets to Writing Good Sci Fi part 3: Tech

This post is going to be a weird one.

The last ‘Secrets’ post was put up almost a month ago and there’s been a guest post since then. I also have a guest post going up at What If It All Means Something soon, and my day job has been grueling. So I haven’t really been neglecting Silly Robots, so much as trying to get a new post up with little success until now. Which means I’m short on time, but still want to give you, the faithful reader, content.

FOR FREE!!!!!

Anyway, this post will focus on something all Science Fiction writers hold near and dear to their hearts:

TECH

Tech and Sci FI go hand in hand. One is hard pressed to find a Science Fiction medium with little to no technology. It truly is a pillar of the genre. It can do everything from drive the story to lurk quietly in the background. Here are some of the ways I use tech in my stories.

Sub-Genre

Sub genres in Sci Fi are extremely important to how you will use tech. For instance, if you are writing something in a punk genre your tech will build your world. Steampunk is built on steam tech, cyberpunk built on cyber tech. Likewise, space opera usually deals with starships and alien planets with all kinds of weird stuff. A dystopian future, n matter what sub genre, always has some weird invention that affects life as we know it (see ‘Brave New World’ or ‘The Minority Report’). What’s important to remember is that you are building a certain type of world. if you don’t get the tech right in that world, your story will be weak.

Use

When is it ok to throw in a tech heavy chapter? Probably when there isn’t a whole lot going on. For instance, in a dialogue heavy scene. Throwing in a few paragraphs of tech doing the cool stuff it does between conversations is a great way to be tech heavy without seeming that way.

In my opinion, battles have to be kept in check as well. Writing in tech to move a scene along is kind of lame. The good guys are losing?! OH NO! But wait, they still had this unreasonably ridiculous weapon that trumps all other weapons! SWEET!

No. It really isn’t.

Remember that as a writer, you have to be creative. That means no cop outs (unless what you’re writing is a parody).

Well just a few of my thoughts on tech and how to use it. Not extensive by any means, but it’s a starting point. If you haven’t checked out Grant Barnes’ guest post yet, you really should. There will be two more guest posts coming up soon as well. So if you’re tired of me don’t worry! Other people will be writing here…