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ImageWorld building
One of the most important parts of any story is the setting. A book set in modern New York should feel a lot different than ancient China. A movie set in South Africa should look a lot different than one set on Coruscant. Middle Earth, while based somewhat on medieval Europe, is still much different than Europe was. Our world helps define us, culturally and individually. Living in freezing Russia will make a different person out of you than sunny Hawaii. Making a work of fiction based in the real world needs to have some accurate details and feel of what the setting it based from, otherwise it will feel fake. This can take a lot of research, which can be hard to make sure there is no mistakes. Fantasy and science fiction writers have a different, but just as hard, challenge, in creating a world for the setting. Making up a world, whether an alternate earth or a different planet, is called world building. There are different levels of world building. Some use settings that haven’t been thought through very well, or a generic setting, like a pseudo-medieval setting so commonly used in fantasy. Others make changes to their worlds, making it something foreign to us. Science fiction often does this, with worlds covered in volcanos or with lower gravity. Unfortunately, many of these don’t follow through. If you make a world significantly different than ours, especially in science fiction, which should be based somewhat in science. One interesting book, What if the Earth had Two Moons? is a good reference for scientifically based worlds. It also makes you realize that little changes in one thing would make big changes on the world’s lifeforms. So the more foreign the world, the more needs to be taken into account. The best worlds built take elements of our world, make some changes, and explore those changes to their logical end. One of the best examples I’ve seen is The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson. His world, among other things, has terrible storms that often thrash the world. The plant life there has adapted to these storms, able to retract into the ground when the storms pass by. But in an area where the storms don’t hit, blocked by mountains, grass grows normally. The details of this world are consistent and make sense.
One place where worlds need to be created completely from scratch, even if based on our world, is in video games. The programmers usually can’t rely on vague words to represent their world; it needs to be programmed down to each detail. They need to make it consistent and follow the internal rules. Often, realism isn’t the main objective, so any rules can be applied, as long as they stay consistent. Strange settings are most accepted in video games than any other medium: books, movies, and TV, all are held to a higher standard of realism than video games, which allows developers to be truly creative. Part of this came from the technical limitations of early games. Why could Mario only go around in two dimensions? Why couldn’t he walk around the bottomless pits instead of jumping over them? We all know it was because the graphic capabilities for 3D weren’t available. These limitations influenced the later games that were in 3D, and made them something that wouldn’t have existed without it. Where else can you find an italian plumber, created by Japanese programmers, who runs and jumps in a 2D world, eats mushrooms to grow, shrinks or dies when someone touches him, jumps on walking mushrooms and turtles to flatten them, throws said turtle shells that act like hockey pucks, travels through big green pipes that sometimes are home to giant mandating plants, and can kill enemies by shooting fireballs after eating a flower, always jumping over bottomless pits and breaking bricks with his head, and sometimes calling in his brother to help rescue the princess who was kidnapped by a giant turtle with hair and spikes? You won’t find that in any movie (an attempt was made to bring this world to the big screen, but tried to use other logic, like evolution and dinosaurs and everything. If you haven’t seen it, consider yourself blessed).
Basically, as far as world building goes, the details, well thought out, are the most important. But the world needs to be built up naturally. Infodumping at the beginning of any story is a big turn off, especially if the main characters are citizens of that world, since anything different that happens will seem as natural to them as nature appears to us. Little explanations over the course of the story can build up a world in the audience’s mind better than a big explanation at the beginning. There are many aspects of creating a world, from the physical environment to the cultural divides. It all needs to be thought through, but probably the best part to begin is the physical environment as cultures will be formed in reaction to it. I’ll probably talk more on some of these aspects in later posts. Remember, there’s almost nothing more interesting than a well realized world that affects everything in the story.

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  1. By Worldbuilding-Setting | Sage Eyes | Sage Eyes on 22 May 2013 at 1:05 pm

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  2. By Worldbuilding-Setting | MOONWATER PRESS on 26 Nov 2013 at 4:18 pm

    […] Worldbuilding-Setting. another installment that will greatly benefit any fantasy or Para-Perter writer […]

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