Everybody says, ‘My topic is the most important thing you can learn in order to write science fiction and fantasy,’ when they write a tutorial for FARP. But I’m actually not exaggerating. The art of creating worlds is crucial to good Fantasy and Science Fiction.
the-darling-buds-of-may asked: Do you have any advice for writing good settings?
This is a great question for right now because creating really elaborate, detailed settings is a good way to generate a bunch of words toward your NaNoWriMo.
There are two types of settings: places you have been (a kid’s bedroom, a high school hallway, the lake your family vacations at every summer, a grocery store) and places you haven’t (a Japanese tea house, the top of Mount Everest, Mordor, the inside of a spaceship).
Here are some tips to describe both.
Anonymous asked: Hello! I have a question concerning dimensions. I am writing a story where I include a character going from one dimension to another. Though my knowledge of dimensions is pretty limited. Do you have any reliable sources (whether it be in book form or online) about dimensions?
Well, there’s this awesome video from Sixty Symbols that might be interesting to you. And here’s another from Sixty Symbols. Pretty nifty, yeah? And here’s a video called Imagining 10 Dimensions that explains dimensions very thoroughly.
It’s worth mentioning that a dimension isn’t the same thing as a parallel universe. These terms are often confused in fiction. A dimension is a term used in mathematics and physics to explain a measurable extent like length, width, breadth, height, duration, etc. Humans “live in a world defined by three spatial dimensions and one dimension of time. In other words, it only takes three numbers to pinpoint your physical location at any given moment.” (x) A parallel universe is a universe related to ours, but that exists in a separate reality. Sometimes the differences between parallel universes are major; sometimes they differ only in one tiny respect.
When we speak of dimensions, we’re speaking in terms of 1D (line), 2D (flat surface), 3D (e.g. space, cubes, bananas, Earth, roller-coasters), 4D (not smell-o-vision or getting splashed with a bit of water during a movie, but the mathematical kind of 4D, like hypercubes), etc. When we speak of parallel universes, we fiction writers tend to speak in terms of things like Harold deciding to put on black slacks in one universe and jeans in another, or of dinosaurs still living in one but not another, or of our planet having several moons in one but not another, etc. Events have changed, yes, and there are definite differences between the universes, but there is no added dimension.
Here are a few books that might help you understand dimensions:
Here are a few books that might help you understand parallel universes:
And check out these fictional books written with dimensions in mind:
And here is a GoodReads list of fiction books written with parallel universes in mind, and also one of YA books written along the same lines.
If anyone feels better qualified to tackle this question or would like to add their expertise to this post, please shoot us a message! Thank you, and thanks for your question, anon!
How to Build a Fictional World - Kate Messner
Why is J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy so compelling?
The full TedEd lesson may be found on their website.
[THIS RESPONSE IS C’s OPINION]
I personally prefer to pepper my explanations of things like political systems and other setting-related topics throughout the scenes which immediately relate to them.
For example, I would look at the political system I’ve created and try to connect aspects of it to different scenes where my characters will be talking about or involved in politics and/or government. If I have three such scenes planned, I might split up the explanation thus:
In the first scene, I introduced the topic of the government from the angle that I want the reader to take; I want them to be skeptical and distrustful of the government, like my character and her friend. This is not imperative, just the strategy I used for this example.
Then I took my character to the government and showed it as a physical manifestation (the buildings) and gave insight to court proceedings. Then I introduced her father and his way of thinking which opposes my character’s ideals. I used that as an opportunity to introduce some history as well. I might also take this opportunity to reinforce my explanation of what the government is and how it works from the first scene.
Then in the third scene I put my character through the machinations of the government. She was arrested and then possibly released because of her father’s influence, thus showing that the government is perhaps cruel but also corrupt as the system may be circumvented for a sufficiently powerful character (the father). This, if anything, will only strengthen my character’s (and my reader’s) negative opinion of the government.
There are definitely other ways to split it up, but I hope that gives you an idea.
A ton of exposition and explanation at the front-end of a story can make it dull and top-heavy. People generally want to see some action pretty early on. If you’re stuck explaining things, you might miss an opportunity to hook your audience.
I have always been of the opinion that it is better to attach your explanations of setting and world-building to a character’s development. It doesn’t have to be the viewpoint character, but if a character is experiencing the world and actively participating in it, I believe the reader will care more about understanding how that world works. Just telling the reader that the government is corrupt is not nearly as effective as showing the reader how corrupt the government is.
Check out these articles for more on show, don’t tell, beginnings of stories, and imparting important information to your reader, check out these resources:
Thank you for your question! If you have any comments on this post or other questions about writing, you can message us here!
Anonymous asked: There are two things I care deeply about: accuracy and representation. I’m currently writing a story that takes place in a small town in California. While fictional, I really want the town to seem as real as possible, which is why I spent a long time looking up demographics of other small towns in california. Almost all of them have a good 88% of white people, which makes me worry my story will be lacking in POC. Any advice?
You’re in luck, Anon! While I didn’t grow up in small town California, I did grow up in a small town, so I can understand your concern. In my high school, all but 15 of the 1000 students were white. So let’s talk demographics, shall we?
demographics (n): the quantifiable statistics of a given population.
Sounds rather dull, doesn’t it? That’s because it usually is. Few people living in rural areas would be able to tell you the statistics concerning their towns, and rarely do you see authors slap percentages on their characters. The makeup of the entire town is irrelevant, unless you’re writing a summary of a census. The important part is the makeup of your cast. But let’s see if we can fulfill your desire for accuracy and representation.
Writing accurately isn’t about hitting a quota — it’s about capturing a picture of the world. Don’t get caught up in numbers and figures and lose sight of the reason why you want to write this story. Throw out the calculator and the pie charts and concentrate on the characters in your story. Make them varied, realistic human beings, and the accuracy will follow.
Thank you for your question! If you have any suggestions or concerns about this article, please hit up our ask box!
Worldbuilding is the art of creating an alternate universe where the rules of present-day Earth life don’t apply, and you have been appreciating that art for as long as you’ve been reading or watching science fiction.
Some worldbuilding is epic in scale, and requires thousands of people: the Star Wars universe is like that, if you think of all the people who have helped create the movies, books, art, TV and games from that world.
But other worldbuilders work alone. Ursula Le Guin wrote several novels set in her “shared worlds” universe without any help and without spawning any spinoff tales by other people.
But worldbuilding doesn’t have to be something that just the pros do. You can get in on the cool create-your-own universe action any time you want, and fast. Just follow our five simple rules for whipping up a universe in your spare time.
Worldbuilding is an essential part of any work of fiction. But especially for science fiction or fantasy, it’s the lifeblood of storytelling. But when worldbuilding fails, it can wreck your whole story, and leave your characters feeling pointless. Here are seven deadly sins of worldbuilding.
Anonymous asked: Do you have any advice for someone who is trying to build a fantasy world map?
A map, you say? Well, here’s this article on city design by Jon Roberts of Fantastic Maps. Here’s another from him on how to design a town and another on worldbuilding using maps. That last one might be the most useful to you.
Here are a few more how-tos on fantasy map-making:
Want more? Here are some articles on Fantasy genre development that might pique your interest!
Thank you for your question! If you have further questions or a comment to add, hit us up!