Thursday, September 29, 2011

World-Building: It’s Not Just For Kids!

Today’s blog topic came from my 12-year old brother – or rather, the teacher who gave him a world-building assignment. :0)

This week, my brother, Andrew, had a Social Studies project in which he had to ‘create his own world’. Well, I can definitely see how this is something for a Social Studies class, but when I heard ‘create your own world’, I was immediately thrown into ‘writer-mode’ and thought, “Oh, that’s crazy-fun!”

Here’s how the conversation went with my mom when I heard about his project:

Mom: “Andrew has to create his own world. He has to figure out what he would wear, what kind of food he would eat, what holidays he would have…”

Me: “So, he’s basically being asked to be a writer.”

Mom: “Well, no. It’s for his Social Studies class, so it’s about culture.”

Me: “Ah…but he’s being asked to create as a writer does by making himself the character vs. creating one entirely from scratch and having to ask that character what their world is like.” *big smile*

Mom: “Oookay.”

See what happens when step into ‘writer-mode’? I completely turn his simple homework assignment into something BIG that would require more than just an hour or two to complete. Thank goodness I didn’t have this conversation with him because I may not have stopped myself from blowing his 12-year-old-mind! Which reminds me….why didn’t I get this kind of assignment when I was his age?? *crosses arms over chest and pouts*

But my point behind today’s post is to talk a little about world-building and what is we as writers look to discover about our worlds from our characters.


Here is a list of questions that I tend to ask every new character (in an effort to get to know them better, of course):
  1. What year is it in your world?
  2. Is your world somewhere I can find on a map or have will we be taking a trip into fantasy-land (please say fantasy!)?
    1. If so, what type of government is in this world? I love it when I get a totalitarian government to try and overthrow :0)
    2. Are there other creatures besides humans there? If so, can you tell me all about them? If no, then let’s put some in there just to make it fun.
  3. Where does your story begin (location-wise)? Where does it end? Any field trips I should be aware of?
  4. Where do you live (house, apartment, etc)? What kind of car do you drive?
  5. If you were to walk outside right now, what would I see?
  6. What is the weather like (or rather, what season are we in)?
  7. What type of food do you eat?
  8. What is the economy like in your world?
  9. What do you do for fun? Movies? Books? TV?
  10. Do you have any friends? If so, please tell me about them.
  11. Do you have any enemies? If so, once again, please spill!!!
These are just questions that get me started on world-building because, as many of you know, there are many more out there – as well as many other ways to really dive into the world. One suggestion I’ve heard recently is to write out a ‘Day in the Life’ of your main character so you have a better feel for how they have to move around in their world.

What about you? Do you have a list of ‘must ask’ questions for your new characters? If so, please share? If not, what do you do to dive into the world of your characters in order to bring it to life?

3 comments:

Tina Moss said...

I write up character sheets which questions that include physical description, personality adjectives, family history, temperament, hobbies, etc. I don't do as much for the world building, but I keep a sheet of all the locations the characters visit, the season, and the time of day.

SP Sipal said...

Great list of questions, Melinda. I probably need something like this. I tend to start with my concept and then work my way out, asking what I'll need to make that happen and make it realistic. Then, my brain kicks into gear and my Must starts presenting me with possibilities -- which are usually way more than I can use, but I try to squeeze everything in that I can.

And I agree - that was a great class assignment!

Melinda S. Collins said...

Hi Tina! I hear ya - I do that one as well via character interviews so I can get to know the character better, then I do a world-building questionaire for the rest. I like to know what I'm getting myself into before diving in ;)

Hey Susan! Thanks so much! I've done that before to. You know it's a really good concept when you start out like that because you want to start from the core then come back around to the world. Hehe...I love it when the Muse gives you waaay more than you can use! :)

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