Monthly Archives: August 2012

World-building writ small

When I see the term “world-building“, I usually think in the grand scale. And by that I mean maps depicting countryside hundreds if not thousands of miles across, vast mountain chains, entire river systems, cities, broad cultural swathes, and on and on. I expect most people probably think of it at that sort of level.

I’ve been world-building since high school, perhaps even before that. It would usually start with a map, generally a coastal map. In sharp pencil. There was usually lots of rubbing out and re-drawing. Those that lasted a while generally acquired a corresponding computer file, describing cities, races, countries, even languages and history on the more complete ones.

And then I started writing stories in them.

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All The World’s A Stage, Part One.

… and I have five scripts.

There has been a bit of a kerfuffle in the last few years amongst those learning to write. It has happened as the Internet has enabled people to connect a lot better and easier with each other, but also as it has made it a whole lot easier for aspiring writers to disseminate their efforts. And that has led to a rise in information and instruction about writing.

But the kerfuffle: it’s oriented around the maxim “Show, Don’t Tell“.

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The Societies of World-Building

One of the hazards of world-building is creating the society your story is set in. For stories set in the present day (or recnt past), a writer can copy the one around them. It has the advantage of already being in existence. But for a mediaval fantasy, this doesn’t work so well. Especially if it closer to a historial work. And I apologise in advance for a heavy topic. I’ll try to tread lightly.

What passes for today’s current “western” secular society is basically no older than the end of the Industrial Revolution. It was during the latter that family and social structures were upended and redefined. Before the Industrial Revolution, working-class people tended to take up the trade of their father or some other close male. They lived their trade, grew up into it and helped the next generation do the same. The Industrial Revolution changed this. Now working fathers would travel to “work” (often in a mine or factory) and their children no longer got to grow up watching their father work. It broke the transition of child into adult.

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