Tag Archives: plotting

Worldbuilding in SF Part 3: Those Little Details

Wordbuilding is an important tool for any writer, particularly for science fiction.  It adds depth to a book, it helps to develop character backgrounds, and it provides a pallate on which to paint your story.  In Part 1 (link), I talked about the foundations of building your universe.  In Part 2 (link) I talked about building worlds and star systems.  Here in Part 3, I’m going to talk about those little details that really contribute to the story.

Where Does It Come From?

One of the questions I find myself asking as I read a book is where things come from.  Who made the flying car, was it a fully automated factory or the hand-crafted work of a mad-genius inventor?  All the “stuff” that your characters use and interact with has to come from somewhere, whether it’s the weapons they use to mow down the bad guys, the starship they use to travel from one world to another, or the hand-distilled gasoline they use to roam the wastelands.  As an author, knowing who made it and how the character acquired it can be important.  Maybe that ship was made by a renegade faction and they want it back, or the fuel is a rare and precious resource that people will kill over.  These are world-building elements that can tie directly into plot points for your story.  Knowing where it was made, who made it, and how it got to the characters hands can give you a lot of material to work with in your story.

Who Are The Big Players?

Knowing who the big players are in the universe is a key part of worldbuilding and crosses over into plotting out your novel.  Knowing that the antagonist for the main character in your first novel is the henchman of a greater villain that your characters will have to fight further on down the line is a perfect example.  Knowing that the ally of a player is the child of a world leader sets up some potential help or conflicts of interest down the road.  Putting names in your book isn’t necessary, but it does add some depth.  Knowing how those people interact and whether or not they get along also adds some depth and can help you to write your story.  The main characters getting caught up in familial disputes is part of the driving element of my Children of Valor series, and its something that most people can easily relate to, in that family can often be as much a hindrance as help.

Putting It All Together

At this point, you’ve gone from the big questions all the way down to the characters that fill your universe.  Hopefully you have a good grasp on how it all ties together.  That’s all great news, but right now you don’t have a novel, you have a setting.  Putting it all together, making things happen, requires characters.

Creating interesting and dynamic characters is much easier when you draw them from the backgrounds of the worlds they live in.  A renegade heir to a corporate empire who has forsaken his family’s ill-gotten gains can be all the more real when you know that his parent’s company utilizes the equivalent of slave labor in their factories.  The never-do-well mercenary with a heart of gold makes for a more dynamic and realistic character when you know that he once served in the military and was a decorated war-hero, before everything went south.

Your setting, the world you built, comes to life with characters.  They bring with them all their experiences, all their background, and they are the paintbrushes with which you tell your story.   Remember, also, that you’re here to tell a story, not to show every detail of the world you created.  Sprinkle in those details throughout, but treat them like spices when you cook, a little bit can go a long way.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to check out my other posts on world-building.  I’ve got one on Steampunk and one on Fantasy.

 

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The conniving plotters

Funny Pictures | quotes  | Plot twist of life

Plotting is an essential part of writing any story.  There are a number of ways that people plot out their stories.   The first one is what is sometimes called ‘discovery writing’ where the writer has, at most, a vague impression of where they want to end up and they just write wherever the story takes them.  At the opposite end of the spectrum are the writers who rigidly outline their entire novel, and then write from that framework.  Then there’s somewhere in the middle, the writers who outline a bit, but also improvise as the story takes them someplace new.

There are perils and benefits for each type of writing.  Outlining allows a writer to know where they’re going and focus on other things, such as characterization and description as they write.  Outlining also prevents writers from writing themselves into a corner.  On the other hand, writers who outline can often find their stories take on an almost mechanical procession, and sometimes this squeezes the originality and freedom out of the story.  Discovery writing can allow a writer to explore whatever areas of the story and plot that they find interesting.  This often leads to a very organic and flowing story, but some hazards include writing yourself into a corner or to becoming stymied when the plot takes you someplace you didn’t expect.

Why is this important?  As a writer, you need to understand your own writing habits.  Very few people are pure discovery writer or pure outliner.  Most of us are some combination of the two in varying measures.  Understanding what style of writing works best for you is essential.  If you’ve written off a rigid outline that details each scene and found that you just don’t have the energy to write anymore, then perhaps you should try writing in a more looser format.  If you write rambling stories that don’t seem to go anywhere, perhaps you should put together a framework or spend some time outlining things you want to happen.

As far as outlining goes, there are various methods that work.  Some people write up a ten or twenty page outline or synopsis.  Some people write up a simple one sentence summary for a chapter or scene.  I’ve also seen people do up flow charts, which show character interactions and conflicts and how that leads to the final scenes.  When outlining, the method of thought that works for you is the important part.  Whatever method of outlining you choose, it should be one that helps you visualize the scenes you need to write.  An outline, in this way, acts like a checklist and both gives you some measure of completion and a course ahead.

That’s all for today’s writing post.  As a side note, I’ve set my writing goal for National Write a Novel Month as 100k words.  If you are a writer (or an aspiring writer), National Write a Novel Month is a great way to force yourself to write.  You’ll see lots of posts online from various people about their progress.  I’ll start on Friday, with the goal of finishing three novellas for the month of November.  When combined with rewrites, working 60+ hours a week, and various other things, this will be interesting to say the least.  I’ll post my progress each day, both total wordcount and if I’ve finished my project(s) for the day or week.  I’d love to hear from other people on their progress as well.