Monday, April 23, 2012
On Mondays, I will post book reviews, research trivia, or questions for your writing. (I might also switch to "Monday Minute". They're interchangeable.)
Today, I am going to ask eight questions to help you on your path to That Perfect World.
1. Does your world have rules? This doesn't just mean politics; it could include logic, physics, magic, or any other. It must have some set rules. Maybe in your world, there's a species of bird that lives underwater. But this has to be consistent: your water-bird cannot suddenly develop legs and feet to walk on the land (unless there's some weird sci-fi technology - not recommended). So what sort of rules does your world follow? Have you made sure that they're followed consistently?
2. Why is your world's environment the way it is? Perhaps you have a futuristic, dystopian novel set in an industrialized world where there's only one tree left in existence. What happened to the other trees? How did the industrialization start/what spurred it on? When did technology become more important than the earth? The same goes with an agricultural/natural setting - what technology do people use that hurt it? What do they use that helps it? Was there ever a period of industrialization, or will there be?
3. What is the social structure like? Are the priests at the top, or perhaps a king? How many rights do women have? Is there a rigid social structure, where workers and nobility never mingle? Or is there perhaps a more liberal system, where they can mingle but the wrokers are looked down on? Do children work at a younger or older age?
4. What is the art like in your setting? Are they fluid and free strokes on canvas? Or perhaps they favor geometric patterns? Maybe painting/sketching is frowned upon, and they create sculptures? Art is an important aspect of a world; there are so many different styles, and each one reflects your world's personality differently. For example, Ancient China favored a much different artistic style than today's pop art, or the Cubist movement, or Pointillism. The Roman statues are different than those religious, realistic scenes painted during the Medieval Ages. What sort of art does your world favor?
5. What are the myths/legends in your kingdom/city-state/country/etc? What sort of casual hints do they drop during your story about them? Say your story is set in Ancient Greece, and your MC's enemy is a goddess. Does the goddess warn [MC] of meeting the fate of Narcissus (the selfish young man who fell in love with his reflection and died, and a narcissus flower sprung up in his place)? Or perhaps the MC's friends call him Hercules. There are infinite possibilities. Where does your world stand? What imaginative myths do they have to offer?
6. How is the economy of your world? Is your city-state sruggling to survive? Is your kingdom prosperous? Are the rich growing fat while the poor grow weak? This makes more difference than you might think. In history, money is intricately involved with catastrophe - one of the reasons World War 2 started was because of German inflation. They were in such debt after the Treaty of Versailles, money became next to useless. People were desperate for change, and up comes Adolf Hitler with his charismatic promises. Is your world like this? What sort of disasters come from it? On the other hand, if your world is wealthy, do you get more invasions, as other people see and covet?
7. What sort of public works make your setting stand out? You know what I mean: the pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China, Stonehenge. What sort of monuments did your people create? Why did they make them - for a religious reason, or to glorify an emperor, maybe? Was it done by past civilizations, or was it completed recently?
8. At what "level" of intelligence/technology do your people exist? Are they primitive, Stone-Age type people? Would they fit in a River-valley civilization (stone tools, agriculture, the beginnings of literature and pottery and metalwork)? Or perhaps they are modern day, cell phone-toting heroes? Maybe even sci-fi, time-travel-and-human-cloning sort of intelligence? Another facet of this is how readily the common man can access this information. Is there email, or a messenger on horseback? Are there TVs and radios, or maybe newspapers? Is the town news simply nailed to the local church/mosque/temple/etc?
I hope this has opened your eyes to any flaws in your world. Consider ways to thread the answers to these questions into your story, and any person worth the oxygen they're breathing will be in love with your book.
And now for my quote and goodbye:
"And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."