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

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If you’re like me, there’s something wrong with you.

You were normal once; just a carefree person who loved watching Trek and Firefly.

Then it happened. The one thing that could turn everything upside down.

You decided to write.

For me, it started in the spring of 2012.

My friend Nick had just finished his first novel, and he asked me to be a beta reader. I read it, and it is delightfully a thriller with a sci fi twist, and something stirred inside of me.
I thought about all of the sci fi I had read and watched. I thought about how many conversations I had with Nick about sci fi. And then I thought something else:

I can do that.

So I set out to write a novel!

And I wrote something that’s as long as a novel, but I wouldn’t really call it that. It needs some heavy editing, and maybe I’ll release it as a novella some day.

But back to my point: at some point in our lives we decided to write, and now our lives are different.

I find myself thinking of stories instead of thinking about someone else’s universe. I have a desktop full of unfinished and unedited manuscripts. I scour the web for places to sell my stories. I drew this funny little confused robot guy on my ipad and launched this blog.

All of this because I thought I could write, and write well.

And now I have this wonderful problem of writing stories all the time. And I do, I write all the time. I write at work, I write at home, I write when I’m away from home. It’s not just something I kind of do anymore, it’s becoming part of who I am. And through all of this, I feel that I’ve been getting better and better.

And since it’s now 2013, I thought I would share some of the things that help me write stories.

1. Genre

Science Fiction…duh.

But more specifically, what subgenre am I writing? I started a story today that I specifically wanted to be Steampunk. I wrote a Cyberpunk story that I wanted to be a noir detective story. My novel is hard sci fi with some mech thrown in. Knowing what specific corner of sci fi you want to fit into will help your story move along smoothly.

2. World Building

World building is something that I really love to do. I hold in my brain the ability to create whatever I want. I have created a city with integrated fiber optic cables in a seedy underbelly blocked from sunlight. I have created a world where war has divided society into castes of socialism controlled by capitalists. I’m in the process of creating a world with steam powered machines. Anything goes.

3. Character Development

Characters are tricky. When I set out to be a writer, almost every character I came up with was me. The main character was me. The supporting female was me. The robot was me. They were all me.

That’s lame.

Spend time on your characters. Some people like to write a full bio for characters before writing the story. Others like to make a small chart of every character. Perhaps you do something else.

The main thing is to understand genre and world building. Hard Sci Fi usually requires military, steampunk has mechanics; those sorts of things. Flesh out your character within the parameters of the genre and world they’re in. They don’t have to fit inside of a cookie cutter mold, but if they’re the one brownie in a world of snicker doodle’s, everyone is going to notice.

New Year, new stuff. I hope everyone is working on some sort of project!