Welcome back to another Worldbuilding Wednesday! Building on last week’s theme, I thought that I’d go through how I build a fantasy story in this one, following the same basic exercise as I used before. No real spoilers in this one, unless of course I give myself another plot bunny. If so, there will be spoilers for the story I’ll write from it. *grin*
Since I had fun last week, I decided to do it again this week. This blog will discuss how I’d go about building a fantasy story, a fairly simple random one instead of a full world, of course. I’ve already talked in great detail about how I build whole worlds.
To recap, these are the decisions I make when I start building a new story:
1) What Genre will it be?
2) Pick 2-5 names.
3) Style of worldbuilding to do: Seat of the pants, As I Go, or Extensive.
4) Real World based or Something Fantastic.
5) Basic Plot of the Story.
I’ve already decided that this one will be a Fantasy, so that’s question 1 dealt with. What does deciding that I want a Fantasy story do to influence my worldbuilding?
Well, when you’re writing a Fantasy, the significant things that the reader expects are a) Setting, b)Plot / Character.
Setting is by far the most important aspect of a Fantasy story. When someone reads a Fantasy story they want to be transported out of their life and into a completely different world. That means that you need to be very clear on what’s different in your world compared to the real world. You need to know all the little details and you need to convey them clearly to the reader. Heavy description and worldbuilding are expected, required, in Fantasy stories. It’s always good when you can make those worldbuilding details something that’s different from what they’ve seen in other stories, too.
I put Plot and Character as more or less equal in the second slot. That’s because they shift around depending on whether you’re writing a Romantic Fantasy or an Adventure Fantasy. If it’s a Romantic Fantasy then the characters are more important and you need to dedicate a more time and effort to making them whole and believable. On the other hand, if you’re writing an Adventure Fantasy, the characters don’t need to be as fully developed. You need a good plot that drives them forward and which provides excitement.
So, since I did romance last week, I’ll decide this week that this Fantasy is going to be more adventure driven and less romance driven.
Next I need my names. I’m going to go with Seth, Derek, Tamara, Kylie and Lara, all picked off the top of my head. Having picked five names for an adventure-based fantasy, I’m going to say that they’re the team at the heart of the story. And because I’m me, Tamara is the leader of the team, the one that they would all follow into the depths of hell.
My next choice is how to do my worldbuilding. I don’t want to build a full world in this case. The whole intent of this exercise is to build a random story that I have no intentions of making sequels to. Thus the Extensive worldbuilding option is ruled out. That leaves me with either Seat of the Pants, which can be exciting, or As I Go, which will mean that the world grows in fits and starts of worldbuilding between story writing sessions.
Given that this is supposed to be an adventure, I’m going to pick Seat of the Pants because that style of writing encourages wild choices and intense creativity for me as I’m writing. That goes well with a story that’s supposed to be exciting for the reader.
Fourth choice is Real World based or Something Fantastic. Well, most of the time I choose Fantastic so this time I’ll stretch myself and go with Real World Based. That pushes this story firmly into either a Historical Fantasy or an Urban Fantasy. I don’t want to do massive amounts of research to get a historical setting right so I’m going to go Urban Fantasy, set in my own backyard of the Puget Sound. It’s an environment that I know well and there are lots of resources for me to check against to make sure I’m not writing stupid things into the story.
So, every story has to have a character in a setting with a problem. I’ve got two of the three set up here already. Tamara’s the leader of the team so she’s the main POV character by default. Her setting is also established, a version of the Puget Sound where magic exists. Now I just need to give her a problem and I can start writing.
A rule that I’ve heard and find useful is Kate Wilhelm’s rule. The rule is pretty simple. Whenever you’re trying to come up with something new in a story, either a problem or a solution to the problem, throw out your first three ideas and go with the fourth idea that comes to mind. It keeps you from being predictable and that keeps your readers interested.
So the ideas for problems that come to mind for Tamara to start off with are 1) a dragon, 2) elves, 3) an old boyfriend and 4) taxes. No, I have no idea why taxes came to mind but hey, that’s something that I don’t often see being a problem in a fantasy story. So why not? Tamara’s problem at the start of the story is taxes.
Which actually gives me some interesting ideas of where to go with the story opening. As this is an urban fantasy, the characters have to have jobs of some sort. They can’t go off adventuring and exploring dungeons in the Puget Sound. We don’t have anything like that. And I do want to keep it to the urban setting so they can’t go off adventuring to another world where there actually are dungeons. But what if Tamara’s team actually did go off on an adventure to another world / plane / whatever? What if they came back with a bunch of treasure that now has to be accounted for somehow?
Actually, that seems too easy, now that I think of it. Let’s apply Wilhelm’s rule again. First idea is paying taxes is the problem, second idea is that Tamara leads a team of magical accountants / CPA’s for the magical side of the world. But that seems silly to me. I don’t want the magic to be hidden away. Why not make it a normal and accepted part of life? It’s hard to keep a secret that big, after all, so that idea gets thrown away, too. Third idea would be that they’re somehow involved with collecting taxes but no, I don’t like that at all. I don’t like tax collectors so that would push my team towards darker personalities and I’d rather keep them lighter.
So what’s my fourth idea for a problem related to taxes? How about there are taxes due on Tamara’s mom’s house and the house is quite irate about it thus it’s giving her mother trouble with the plumbing, heating and electricity? So Tamara and her team have to go deal with the upset house, find a way to pay the back taxes and calm down her cranky mother at the same time.
Now that’s an idea I’d have fun writing! It also gives me ideas of the characters’ ages (35-45 or so, old enough that Tamara’s mom might be retired or on the edge of retirement) and some fun ideas for what magic does in this world (everything is animate? Certain things are animate, like houses that have been occupied for a long time? You can animate things but when you do its permanent and you have to deal with the personality the object develops and you can’t change that personality? Yeah, that last one sounds fun!)
Given what I’ve got, I’d say that this story would turn out to be a humorous Fantasy story though it could easily go darker and more dramatic as I wrote. But I decided early on that I wanted to write Seat of the Pants so I wouldn’t fuss over anything other than the opening scene where Tamara and her team arrive at her Mother’s house only to find that the house refuses to open the door for them because it’s pissed off. What happened after that would come from the interactions between Tamara, her mom and her team with the house.
Once again I’ve gone long but I hope that this was helpful and interesting. If you have any questions or suggestions please let me know. I’d be glad to hear them!
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