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Question (esp for MM) re: World Building and Writing

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  • Question (esp for MM) re: World Building and Writing

    I have a question about building fantasy worlds in which stories take place. How do you go about building one?

    Do you think up of a world with certain details, and then write stories for that world, or do you come up with a story, and then make a world in which to tell that story?

    I'm especially interested in what Michael has to say on this, but I'd also like to hear how other writers go about building worlds.

  • #2
    You've come to the wrong bloke, pard. I don't do world building. I tell stories. The places exist because they serve the narrative. I don't sit about drawing maps and working out the GNP of Melnibone. Indeed, I'm rather inclined to consider that the death of imagination. I've no objection to others spending their time doing that, of course, and I understand its fascination, but maybe there's someone else here who can give you a more positive and helpful answer. :)

    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
    The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
    Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
    The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
    Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

    Comment


    • #3
      i tried so hard to "WORLD BUILD" like the almighty famous authors and nothing happened for me. nothing original or wonderful surfaced. but what does seem to work is if you listen and let the characters in your head tell you what they want, and you write it out, you can get some interesting things going. main thing is, you simply must write. and keep going. so, talk to yourself a lot. get a hand-held recorder and drag it all over, and talk into it. people in traffic are gonna wonder who the hell you're talking to... but the dialogue that happens is made of the coolest stuff!

      best wishes from a noob writer. ;)

      Comment


      • #4
        For what it's worth* I always start off with the story in the 'real' world - ie. the conventional one that we recognise. But then, odd angles happen. Largely unbidden. Like dead horses that dig themselves up. Motor-racing competitions among riverside wildlife. Aerial whales. Emotional radio transmitters. Theolytic drugs. And slight variation in physics, chemistry and the biological sciences. These often happen by accident - I tried to write a very short romantic story, but decided after three paragraphs that the girl the hero was walking with was dead. Climbing accident a year previously. My wife gets annoyed with me for doing this, but I can't really help it. Something to do with leakage from all the adjacent streams, I think. Probably a worn-out blood-brain barrier... :oops:

        *About 14p.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
          You've come to the wrong bloke, pard. I don't do world building. I tell stories. The places exist because they serve the narrative. I don't sit about drawing maps and working out the GNP of Melnibone. Indeed, I'm rather inclined to consider that the death of imagination. I've no objection to others spending their time doing that, of course, and I understand its fascination, but maybe there's someone else here who can give you a more positive and helpful answer. :)
          Actually, you did answer my question. By "world building", I don't exactly have in mind working out all the details of a world for the sake of having those details of the world. It sounds like you just tell a story, and the what the world is like is implicit in that story. Would you say that's true?

          Maybe "make a world" isn't the best phrase, but that's what I had in mind when I said:

          or do you come up with a story, and then make a world in which to tell that story?

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by TheAdlerian

            Also, did this story inspire Harry Potter? It seems pretty similar.
            Yep I would say that JK Rowling definetely got a lot of inspiration for her books from the Earthsea books.
            I've only read one of the books I thought it was great.

            Comment


            • #7
              A rather good 'World' I recall was that of 'King Kraken', a short story, the author of which I cannot recall - I think it was in 'Asimov's book of Mythical Beasts'. Basically, it was set on a sea-covered planet, populated by what appears to be the descendants of a crashed convict-shuttling spacecraft. The denizens occupy giant lilypads, and the author addresses the problems that a civilisation would face with only plant material and seawater as raw materials, including long-range communications and knocking off the tyrannical cephalopod tyrant that dominates them. Very interesting, especially as the 'world' and its issues were so well examined in a short story. Much better than all the LOTR boredom or the factory-produced 'sagas' we keep seeing...

              Comment


              • #8
                Well, I suppose it's a form of pathetic fallacy.
                My inspiration comes from the Brontes and the Gothic writers, like Lewis and Co. all of whom used nature to emphasise the mood of their characters. Put simply -- when the character is under stress it begins to thunder and lightning like billy-o!
                Does this make sense ?
                I'll happily expand on that, if you'd like.
                Freud and Jung played an important part in my fantasy inventions. I suppose you could call it post-Tolkienism, if not post-modernism!

                Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

                Comment


                • #9
                  You may care, you may not, but meh...

                  A couple of years ago I decided to try and write a fantasy epic. The thought process went something along the lines of "I bet I could do this. Let's have a go." The point for me isn't to get published or recognised, it's more of a personal challenge, but that's not to say I won't seek publication at a later date should I succeed at this... It's just not the drive behind it.
                  After a few failed attempts, and several trees' worth of screwed up A4 feint ruled punched pads, I figured my approach was wrong. Then I remembered an AD&D campaign setting I was half way through creating years earlier which never went anywhere, and decided to try to rework the campaign history into a story.
                  The thought occurred to gather notes together into a 'reference work' to help me maintain internal consistency. Something that always interests me is how different authors envision their setting- not so much the setting, more the setting in which the setting is set... The Multiverse, if you will, or whatever term applies.
                  To me the structure of a Multiverse-entity runs hand-in-hand with an appropriate creation myth. For whatever reason applies, both these areas interest me, be they of a historical or fictional nature. I think the interest in a Multiverse-type's structure stems from school science lessons and the desire to know how things worked, and I've always had a thing for ancient historical cultures and their religions, hence the interest in creation myths.
                  I decided early on that I wanted to develop several linked series which could also stand alone, like the EC saga, in which the 'local' stories would gradually and subtly detail the structure of the overall reality and its history. One thing I like is subtle in-references, like which are found in Mr M's work. I want the canny reader to spot these and piece them all together, and see that the otherwise independant books are all part of a much larger story.
                  The intention was merely to gather a few notes and definitions to keep me in line, but as my 'history' developed I found that new points cropped up which I felt needed jotting down (I have a crappy memory, and surely all writers have notes, right...) The defining of those points often meant that others had to be refined or clarified to keep the internal consistency and avoid contradictions, and doing that helped me further develop the history.
                  The things I were interested in were aong the lines of- "If a Heaven/Hell really exists as a place rather than as a concept, how do they relate to the world?" "Such would require the presence of Gods or God-like beings... Who, what, where, why, when, which, and how do they relate?" "What's the difference between a God, a Deity, and a Divinity?" "How does the Soul actually work?" "Why are those contradictory? Can I incorporate them both/all three with a single explanation?" (the answer to the latter was often yes, with weeks of accompanying re-writes and re-definitions)
                  All this has led to me writing several hundred pages of notes and history. Part way through I realised that the history alone would make a wicked book or two if rewritten- as it is it reads more like a RPG sourcebook. I have basic storylines developing in my head now for a good thirty or so books, at least.
                  There was always the intention to world-build to a degree, enough to provide a basic setting and history, a lot of which was done already in the basic AD&D campaing I was working from initially, but in developing this further, following my instincts, I found that world building or story building in my case couldn't exist without the other.
                  As the situation stands now I have a vision in my head of 'everything' as relates to this project, to the point where I can almost really see it. It dominates my thoughts beyond all else, and I've even had dreams derived from my notes, which if nothing else serves to further develop the story ideas. Everything seems to be fitting together perfectly, to the point where newly learned (to me) real-world science slots in nicely with my invented pseudo-sciencey stuff.
                  The only thing now is to discover whether I actually have any literary talent, or whether it's all just been a colossal waste of time... :?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Well, I found that exposition on your project both interesting and well-written, so I'd say 'go for it', Rookie! :)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      If I ever do get a book published, I'll give y'all a hello in the front!!!

                      More than likely I'll die a sad, lonely man, locked up in an asylum somewhere, childless, with no living relatives, having lost all touch with conventional reality and having lived solely inside the world in my head for the previous forty years, a forehead imprint will be found on a pad of yellowed paper, depleted blue Bic biro clutched in my arthritic fingers, and a pensive expression on my withered husk of a face, surrounded by eight hundred tatty ring-binders full of work. I'll be buried/cremated alone, unacknowledged for my genius, and the asylum administrator will 'acquire' and publish my work posthumously, in his name, and will become known as the world's greatest novellist, eclipsing all who came before or who are yet to come with his mighty shadow.

                      Meanwhile, my Soul will fly free into the ether, contently living for all eternity as the Almighty in a non-existent world of my own creation, freed at last from the limitations of a corporeal life.

                      Hmm... I might have to fit that in somewhere... (Hastily returns to his scribbling pad!) :lol:
                      HANDS OFF!!! IT'S MINE!!! GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        A lot of the very best fiction has been written by people 'for themselves'.
                        It's the guys who try to tailor their work for a market who usually fall short.
                        When I first started writing fantasy there was no market for it. Even Tolkien was surprised by the response to those first volumes and Peake could be picked up for half-a-crown in the remainder bins. My first Elric books were published as 'SF' and, some of you may recall, Tolkien's work was described as 'post-atomic-war' fiction. It took about twenty years before Anderson saw a new edition of his Broken Sword and if it wasn't for the Ballantine fantasy reprints and the current Fantasy Masterworks series, many of the very best works of fantasy would be pretty much forgotten. Now there is, indeed, a market -- but the best stuff remains that which was chiefly written for the author's own pleasure.
                        There were a lot more lucrative markets when I started doing the Elric stories (even though I was asked to write them for Science Fantasy) and if I'd been looking to make money, I'd have stayed writing comics or
                        detective stories.

                        Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                        The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                        Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                        Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                        The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                        Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Tolkien's work was described as 'post-atomic-war' fiction
                          Oh Kayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy....... 8O 8O 8O

                          Post-war certainly, if you extend the timeframe long enough, but atomic???

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Yes.

                            The sentence construction, vocabulary and dialogue all reached critical mess by Book Two. :)

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Mr. Moorcock, after reading your previous post, i'm about to die. or scream. or both. "DON'T" tailor my work to the market"??!! oh my god! i shelved one of my stories simply because i felt the market had no use for a seventh-child story. (but... she's no seventh son!)

                              I moved onto the new story that perhaps an editor would pick up for being modern and provacative like, oh you know... picking on Homeland Security... :twisted:

                              the former story i think i will complete just for myself. you're right. it answers questions i *must* have answered. the second story... for the market. compromise? ;)

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