[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.
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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!
One of the things I enjoy doing when writing a story is to think of the places my characters live in. The fun part is drawing them out because most of the time, there just isn’t a house that goes well with my characters. Besides, I like creating everything from the get go instead of taking a picture and saying that’s my character’s house.
Here are the links I’ve bookmarked to get ideas for homes and such. It’s not exhaustive. I do get ideas for homes and buildings in other places but I hope the following’s helpful enough for now.
Types of houses
- Modern Houses
- List of house types
- Houses in England
- Know Your House Styles
- 8 Most Common Types of Houses
- Buildings where people live or stay
- Places - Buildings People Live In
- Places - Buildings People Live In
Types of apartments
- 10 unusual places to live
- 10 Weirdest Places to Live
- 23 Houses Built In Odd Places
- Homes In The Most Unusual Places
- 6 Weird Places Where People Actually Live
- 9 Houses You Won’t Believe People Actually Live In
- 18 Weird and Wonderful Places To Live: Churches, Bunkers, Water Towers and Caves
Obviously, not all characters have a place to live so I’ve included information on homelessness.
sunshineboi94 asked: How important is location to a story? I’m asking about specific location, not setting. I know landscape, climate, and environment can all be important details but is it necessary to give an exact location to your story? Personally, I feel like it makes it less relatable, but I could benefit from some outside opinion. Also, if you are to give it a location does it have to be a real place? Not a fantasyland but a fake place such as Mayberry?
Figuring out your setting is a little frightening; it can often feel like you’re locking yourself into a decision. Location details are important as they often inform your plot and characters and create the story’s backdrop, so it’s worth it to explore this topic.
Whether or not you decide to use a “real place” (such as New York City) or a fictional place (such as Fictionville) is a complicated decision, so here are a few things to keep in mind.
First, let’s talk about the advantages of real locations.
Now that we’ve gone over some of the more general advantages to working with a real location, here are a few things to keep in mind while doing so:
Now that we’ve explored real settings in some depth, let’s take a look at fictional settings. First: why use one?
There are a few things to focus on while developing Fictionville:
Finally, some general remarks about writing any kind of setting.
And so, which one should you pick? Like always, there is no single, correct way to write something. Hopefully this article explained some of the advantages and requirements of either writing about a real place or a fictional one. At the end, the reader should not be able to tell.
Favorite Books for Real Settings:
Favorite Books for Fictional Settings:
We appreciate the question; if you have any queries, comments, or concerns about this post or writing in general, please send us a message via our ask box!
Environment should always play an important role when building a scene, but it is particularly crucial when it comes to setting the pace and mood of each scene. The way you structure the environment and how the characters respond to it can indicate a characters’ unspoken emotions can and even hint at circumstances to come. When building an environment, I think many writers struggle with establishing what to include in the details.
This struggle may stem from the fact that most everything can be used to enhance the atmosphere of a story. Merely describing a warm, sandy beach allows the reader to picture the place. Showing the effects the weather has can make that picture even clearer. But having your characters react to that environment and describing intricate details about the space can really bring the environment to life. So here are some things you can focus your attention on.
Lighting. It’s easy to establish whether it’s day or night during a scene. However, writers often forget some of the other effects that time of day can bring. For instance, if it’s night, is there a full moon, a partial moon, or no moon visible at all? Different moon phases affect the light reflected off it, thereby altering shadows as well. Certainty of what one can see in the surrounding area depends strongly on lighting, and characters’ (as well as readers’) speculations about it can change when an environment is dark or dimly lit. Keep in mind how the lighting of any given scene might affect surrounding objects and characters, and use it to your advantage; describe physical features of characters and/or objects using these changes.
Time of day/Day of the week. Time isn’t something writers always focus on in great detail for scenes, but it does have a direct effect on the environment and can help establish one. During rush hour on a weekday, for example, there would be much more traffic (and background noise) on a main street than there would be on the weekend. On the other hand, a place like a mall might experience more crowds on the weekend rather than a weekday, especially if it’s a holiday. Take time of day and day of the week into consideration when it comes to the surroundings during a particular scene. You might be surprised how it can change the outcome of your characters’ actions or responses to one another. It might even introduce unforeseen conflict.
Reaction of the characters. Believe it or not, even dialogue and body language can help build the environment and pace of a scene. How you respond to the things around you can indicate quite a bit about what is going on. Shivering for instance, indicates the temperature might be chilly. Fidgeting and darting eyes show nervousness, a clear sign that something bad has happened or is about to happen. And short, choppy dialogue can indicate action, conflict, and emergency situations, adding to the pace already established by body language. If you’re not sure what body language to use to convey specific emotions, check out the book The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. It gives a wide range of actions that characters can perform to express emotions without dialogue.
Senses. In any given environment, there will be smells, sounds, textures, tastes, and a sense of temperature. You don’t need to describe every one of these for every scene you write, but providing as much detail as you can, particularly for new or unfamiliar objects/places, can really enhance the scene. An old building holds far different features than a new one, and a busy city has a far different kind of background noise than your typical suburb does.
Nature. For the most part, writing in a few descriptions about the weather is easy. It’s one of the first things a writer learns to incorporate into his/her writing as part of the environment. What is easy to forget is the rest of nature, especially the living parts. If you’re writing a story that takes place in an existing geographic location, research the plant and animal life in the area. Find out what types of plants grow there and during what time of year. Find out what animals are natural inhabitants of the land (and water). One of the biggest complaints I hear from people when a book is written about a city they are familiar with is that the writer got the environment wrong. They mention animals, plants, and sounds that aren’t really prominent there, or they get the overall sense of culture wrong. If you’re picking a place you’re unfamiliar with, make sure you know what you’re talking before tackling the project of its environment.
Foreign objects or material. New and unusual objects are sure things to take note of. The technique of describing an object in detail is also effective for noting red herrings giving hints about later plot points. If the object is something a character comes in contact with, describe the texture and temperature of the object as well as its shape, size, and color.
My overall advice about establishing environment and pace is to include as much detail as possible in your first draft. It’s much easier to remove things later than it is to add them in.
Anonymous asked fuckyourwritinghabits:
I have a good limit I put on my magic system, I know how it works and how it affects to the person using it, but I have a problem - I really have trouble figuring out what it’s capable of and what it looks like, any tips to get out of this little snag?
Hey, Anon! I feel you so hard on this one, believe me. Designing magic systems are equally fun and frustrating. I’m going to run down some of the things I’ve kept in mind while approaching it, hopefully they help!
- Magic has rules. No wandless magic, bringing someone back from the dead has consequences, etc. Mapping the limits of your magic system will help you define it.
- Those rules must fit into your world’s rules. It is perfectly okay to have characters that can break your magic rules, but you must know how and why. The effects of your magic system is going to effect the world of your story as a whole - too many stories have the magic world and the mundane one separated by a wall, when really they should be connected, intertwined in everyday life even when people don’t know magic exits.
- On that note, figure out the little things your magic does. The big things will be fairly obvious and more easy to hammer down. It’s the little details that will bring life to your magic system, that will make it fun for you to write and for people to read. Maybe your magic has a taste or smell, and they differ depending on what spell is being cast. Maybe it effects the mood of people who have no idea it’s happening. Maybe it’s woven into walls, or slipped into certain products.
- Establish those rules in your story. The reader needs to know where the limits are. This can be awkward to try to handle, especially if your magic system is big and complex, and normally I see it handled a few ways; the Harry Potter newbie who learns about it as they go, or the expert who expositions as they perform it, or the third party. These both can be done well or poorly, but they are done because the reader needs to understand what is happening and why.
- Your magic doesn’t have to be unique, but it has to be interesting to you. Your reader is important, but you’re the one who has to care about your work. Don’t force yourself to do things for the sake of interesting someone else. Explore your magic system the way you want to explore it, and your interest will come out to your readers.
Good luck, anon! I hope you have a great time designing your magic system, and when it gets frustrating, don’t feel bad about taking a break from it. You will get what you want and it will be great, I’m certain!