Asking Questions

I’m feeling better, but the fiction is still not playing. I spend a lot of time dealing with the Wee Horde’s needs, even when they’re in school. Errands still need running, food still needs cooking, and the gears of domesticity continue to grind. I’m not the hugest fan, meself. And I’m feeling a bit ground. I say this every time Mrs. Dave travels, but this one feels different, and I’m not thrilled with it. But enough about that.

How do you build a world? For me, and for many writers, it’s a matter of noodling. I tend to maunder. My stories require certain circumstances for the scenarios to make sense, and I end up spending a lot of time thinking about how to engineer them with verisimilitude. It may be a failing, but none of the worlds I’ve created feel less real than our own. Less well fleshed out, with a narrow focus, sure. But they feel like places that could happen.

For others, they talk about things. I’m engaging in an experiment with a friend, in which we noodle out loud about first one of our projects, then another, and we’ve managed to improve the worlds to a surprising degree, and I’d highly recommend the process. With a couple of caveats. You have to follow the rules. When it’s not your turn, it’s not your turn. When it’s not your turn, it’s not your world. What it really comes down to is taking a cue from Socrates, and asking annoying questions.

In a space opera currently in hiatus, I have a system set up as an enormous junk yard. For untold centuries, this system has served as a dumping ground for ships and the detritus of the spaceways. And while it’s an awesome scene and setting, it’s got a few issues. How did this even come about? My understanding of the costs involved in more or less ubiquitous space travel argue agin’ it, honestly. This is a solar system full of derelict ships, parts of ships, space stations, and the species of servitor bots that keep it organized and prevent it from getting normal. And there’s a reason for that, but you don’t get to know it. (Sorry)

I’m more or less convinced that any world you want to build can be done, you just have to present a reader with good enough reasons for it. And “good enough” here doesn’t mean solid enough science, honestly. It just has to be believable. Even then, it really just has to be believable enough. Some of my favorite stories have wildly unbelievable initial bases, but they’re good enough to allow the story to get rolling. Of course, then, it’s all about keeping it going fast enough the reader doesn’t have time to go, “hey, wait a minute…” But pacing is a subject for another day. I need to get back to fiction, so there’s a chapter available for next week. I apologize for the delay. I hate it, but the best way to fix it is to take care of my other obligations so my frustrating meat computer allows me the mental space to create.

20 thoughts on “Asking Questions

    1. Daily. I think it helps, if only in the rapid downward spiral when I’m not taking it. Still, it’s not conclusive, because circumstances.

  1. World building.

    I tend to start small, with the place my character is in, and slide in mentions of the larger world where it comes naturally. And occasionally a _small_ data dump. I often don’t even have it in my head. I just let it grow organically (no artificial fertilizers or insecticides!) to a certain point, where I suddenly realize I need to organize it a bit. _then_ I finally do some sensible, logical, actual world or multiverse sized physical, social, and governmental engineering.

    1. I do approximately the same: I observe my [nonhuman] characters doing something I don’t understand (they rarely consult me first), then I figure out how/what/why/etc, and thereafter that informs my characters’ behavior. Rinse and repeat until it’s a self-sustaining ecosystem.

      And occasionally, dump a character into a really contrary situation and see how he behaves. Lots of new insights to be had that way.

      It’s anthropology, except we create as we observe.

  2. I find it easier to create “worlds” & “characters” than to create stories for the characters.

    IE Things happen to my characters but for all their “activities” the characters still seem passive.

    1. Break some vital part of their world such that your characters are forced to deal with it, or die — I find such stories tend to write themselves.

      1. Chuckle Chuckle

        One character develops “super powers” during an attack by rogue super-beings and while he kills the rogues he also kills his friends and family. Oh, thanks to the nature of his powers, he “enjoys” the deaths of the rogues & his friends & family.

        Now I have the character in the care of a Wise Old Teacher who is training him but so far (in my mind) where’s the story?

        1. Yup. The problem is that he doesn’t want anything.

          Perhaps one of his friends survives and wants revenge?

          1. Right now what’s brewing is his journey to the Wise Old Teacher.

            Coming to terms with his powers, making mistakes and avoiding a major mistake on the way.

            While the power that started this mess is the ability to “drain life & energy” from others, another major power is the ability to “enthrall” others.

            While he can avoid killing with his “draining”, the enthralling power is much more tempting and dangerous to him.

            1. That sounds like someone who’d have a whole LINE of folks prepared to kill him– and they’d have good reason for it. He might even agree…intellectually.

              Which gives him another reason to use the ‘enthrall’ ability, since he probably doesn’t want to die.

              1. Nod, his power set is somewhat based on DC’s Parasite and a Vampire.

                Long term (decades) enthrallment of other Superbeings would give some of their actual powers and of course those Superbeings would fight on his behalf.

                Fortunately, the Wise Old Teacher is a “member of some what good standing” of very powerful “Ancient Superbeings” and will help him remain in good standing with other superbeings & governments. (The Wise Old Teacher is feared to a degree but has killed others with this power-set who have good to the “Dark Side”).

                Yes, his power set gives him the potential for becoming a major Super-Villain but part of his “journey” (not just to the Wise Old Teacher). will involve him showing that he isn’t a danger.

                Note, the enthrallment isn’t permanent. He can release people and it is possible for certain superbeings to “un-enthrall people”.

                  1. Definitely.

                    Of course, besides his moral code (prior to gaining power), enthralling the “wrong type of person” causes some “feed-back” to him.

                    IE Enthralling a psychopath can be very distasteful to him in more ways than one (including potentially infecting) and his Wise Old Teacher (who wasn’t always a Nice Guy) says that those types should be killed not enthralled.

            2. Now those desires have to be translated into concrete actions that he can take now. . .

              Remember the danger of negative motivations: the desire to NOT do something. Very common in real life, but not a plot driver. You have to devise positive motivations even if they are driven by the negative motivation.

  3. I wallow in reading history, particularly primary source, and then let the world build itself about the story.

    The first point in reading all that is to knock your block off so you do not automatically reach for things the way you know them as the way things are. (Before street lights, nights were dark, and carrying a light was shouting, “Yo, thieves, victim here!”)

    1. Or their tech base hasn’t developed the tech (such as tractor beams) to clean up the debris from their space program(s).

  4. “How did this even come about?”

    In Britain I understand there is a mountain made of refrigerators. Because European Union regulations make it impossible to dispose of a refrigerator. So they made a pile. And now it is a really -big- pile.

    In Ontario once upon a time in 1990 there was a tire mountain on the 6 Nations reserve that went on fire. It burned for 17 days, despite all efforts to put it out. People who were at the scene tell me they were pumping tank trucks full of crude oil out of the drainage ditches, rendered out of the tires by the heat.

    The tire mountain was there because the 6 Nations was not subject to the extremely expensive environmental regulations on tires, so they could “dispose” of them by making a huge pile.

    So if you have one system where all the junk gets shipped, against all economic reality, the answer is “because government.” A good opportunity to have a character rage on a bit about the fundamental stupidity of centrally planned societies.

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