Creating Worlds

Built Upon The Shoulders Of Giants

These notes are taken from the titular panel at WorldCon75. The panelists were George RR Martin, Jeffrey A Carver, and Alex Acks. The moderator was Jon Oliver.

Where should one start: with the world or the characters?

Tolkien created his world first, George RR Martin and the rest of the panelists created their characters first.

As with so much in writing, neither way is better, just whatever works for the story you’re working on now.

An Approach to Creating a Magic System

Martin prefers his magic to be truly super natural–not fake-science with a formula. Magic that trifles with forces beyond this world. Unknowable. Uncontrollable. With the chaos-like the feel of elder gods.

In Tolkien’s stories, Gandalf rarely resorted to true magic.

If people in a magical world try to codify their magic, doesn’t mean that they’re right. They might fail, or at least miss some stuff.

When Writing Science Fiction, How Close To Magic Can Your Science Get?

We can bend the rules of physics – but keep it moderately plausible for scientists. After all, what are ‘hyperspace’ and ‘wormholes’ if not science-fiction’s method of time travel? Making time stand still while we travel generations away.

Remember, the concept of plate tectonics was just discovered 50 years ago.

Just because there’s a capability out there that we don’t know if we CAN do, doesn’t mean we know that we CAN’T figure it out eventually!

What Makes A World Stand Out To A Publisher?

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I actually got to ask this question myself! The panel description had promised this, but as you see, they clearly hadn’t addressed it yet!

Publisher Jon Oliver chimed in that there are two things that you want to avoid:

  1. Don’t make your world too complex
  2. Don’t make your world too simple

Most fantasies have a pseudo-medieval European feel. It’s been done! Try something new.

Some stories are too excited about telling you all the information about the world, that they neglect the characters and plot.

Martin says, “make it your own.” If you’re writing something based on historical places, just make a historical fantasy. When inventing a world, “turn it up to 11, and do a left twist!”

It’s hard to figure out, the advice sounds basically like: “how do you win a race? Run Faster!” But if you can figure it out, it’s magical.

The Importance of Consistency

It doesn’t have to be consistent with reality, but it must be internally consistent. Remembering what you wrote earlier can be a challenge.

George RR Martin finds it difficult.

  • He’s “blundered into people who help.” The people who run the Westeros wiki have been very helpful. The site is un-vetted by him, but usually right.
  • He has notes, textbooks, and a DOS computer with search/replace capability
  • Most of his world building is in his head – thanks to a trick or curse of memory he remembers “[his] fake world far better than the real world.”

Another method of keeping track of everything that many authors, including Jeffrey Carver, uses is:

  • A spreadsheet with all names, places, and their descriptions

How Do You Convey World and Plot Building Information In A Sequel?

An info dump is only an info dump if the reader doesn’t care about it. Interweave it with the story–maybe tell it from a new character’s point of view–and you can make it interesting again.

Show what the characters do, and then filter in the world building as you need it.

As the writer, you need to know more than the reader about your world. If you must include everything, you can add appendices or footnotes. Using info HINTS, instead of info dumps, is a better idea, you don’t have to share everything with the reader.

Do Characters Mess With Your Plot?

The final question on the panel was more of a back-and-forth than summarizable tips, with other authors quoted. But I thought you might enjoy the conversation.

Martin said, yeah, they can be bossy. Sometimes they’re wrong. But usually, he just goes with it.

Carver mentioned that Jane Yolen when writing a story, found out part way through the novel that the character was gay.

Connie Willis is quoted as saying, “If my characters get uppity, I kill them!”

To which Alex Acks agreed, it’s true, “characters can be assholes.”

Then George RR Martin replied, “killing your characters? How horrible!”

And with that, my notes for this panel are done.

Vlog: Creating Worlds

Built Upon The Shoulders Of Giants

These notes are taken from the titular panel at WorldCon75. The panelists were George RR Martin, Jeffrey A Carver, and Alex Acks. The moderator was Jon Oliver.

Today, I’ll be sharing tips gathered from the titular panel on World Building. With quotes from George RR Martin and the rest of the panelists! Please enjoy!

Creating Rules of Enchantment

Creating Rules Of Enchantment

Where Does Magical World Building Begin?

It can start with the characters, the world, or the magic.

  • Some begin with the characters, and then look around for their stage–their world.
  • Some begin with a world and then look at magic to make it run and determine what sort of people would fill a world that looks like theirs.
  • Some begin with magic and look at how that would influence the world and the people in it.

Ways To Think About Magic

  • Magic can be a “character”, manipulating and interacting with the world and people in it.
  • Magic can be mystic, inexplicable, special, and outside the scope of day-to-day life
  • Magic can exist in the cracks of the world building, holding it together.
  • Magic can be straightforward and logical, but be aware that can make it more like technology by any-other-name. A fireball is just a gun.

Do You Need Rules For Magic?

  • Some people like to incorporate their magic organically, following intuition and “what feels right’
  • Some people follow the magic to all its logical conclusions, needing to know the metaphysics behind it.
  • Some people write unlimited magic – but then you have to consider how that effects the world and day-to-day environment.
  • Some people write limited magic
    • Limited by rules and power flow and physics.
    • Or limited by mystic forces and the degree to which the magic interacts with the world the story is in.
  • No matter which way you build your world, your magic needs to be consistent.

Why Do We Write Magic?

  • The setting inspires magic
  • We love believing 3 impossible things before breakfast
  • It makes the hair stand up on the back of our necks
  • It’s fun
  • You can make the spirits come when you call, when you’re the one writing it.

This post was derived from notes from the titular panel at WorldCon75. The panelists were Mark Tompkins, Jo Walton, Kari Sperring, Greer Gilman, and moderated by T. Thorn Coyle.


Is your world magical?

Vlog: Creating Rules of Enchantment

Creating Rules Of Enchantment

Where Does Magical World Building Begin?

It can start with the characters, the world, or the magic.

This post was derived from notes from the titular panel at WorldCon75. The panelists were Mark Tompkins, Jo Walton, Kari Sperring, Greer Gilman, and moderated by T. Thorn Coyle.


Is your world magical?

Just Send It!

Just Send It!:

When to Stop (Re)Writing & Just Get Your Work Out There!

From the titular panel at WorldCon75, the panelists were Mike Pohjola (moderator), Ken Liu, Kali Wallace, Ellen Datlow, and Katri Atalo.

All writers are united by one question: when is your manuscript done?

How do you know your story is ready? They say to only show your most polished work, but many of us are perfectionists, have anxiety, and/or are too close to our manuscripts and can only see the flaws. Declaring our manuscript done may be a day that never comes, but we have to stop sometime.

For the answer, let’s see what the professionals say.

Top 3 Ways You Know You’re Done Revising:

  1. When you find yourself rearranging commas.
  2. When you’re getting bored and a newer and better idea comes along.
  3. When you’re sick and tired of looking at it and just can’t make yourself revise again.
    • NOTE! This does not mean you shouldn’t POLISH your manuscript – after you’re sick of it, you should still do a line edit for typos, grammar checks, and consistency issues.

Sadly, however, sometimes we’re our worst judge. That’s why you need trusted beta readers and/or critique partners before you send it to an agent or editor.

Fun Fact – In her work as an editor, Ellen Datlow knew, whenever a writer she’d worked with in the past decides something is the “best story they’ve ever written,” she was almost always about to see their worst story yet.

7 Ways To Make The Best 1st Impression With An Agent or Editor

  1. Have a story that gets the agent/editor’s attention.
  2. Write the best story you can.
  3. Don’t harass agents/editors.
    • Don’t come up to them on the street/at a convention and ask them to read your manuscript.
  4. Spell the agent/editor’s name right.
  5. Add your contact info on the manuscript itself
    • Many agents/editors these days just upload your manuscript to their kindle or phone, completely disparate from the query. Make it easy for them to contact you for more.
  6. Be open to edits. Know that your FINAL draft is never the final draft. Until it’s printed, everything can change.
  7. Knowing people doesn’t help. Polished manuscripts do. All networking can do is get your manuscript a closer look.

 


Where are you in your writing journey?

Is it time for you to face your fear of the ‘no’ and just put your work out there?