How to world build: World to Story & Story to World
This is first in a series about how to world build. To be exact, various ways you can world build. This post covers two different approaches on world building that appear to be opposites: world to story – creating your world and then finding the story – and story to world – creating your story and then discovering the world in which it takes place.
I start with a world. Really, I do. I think and think and think about this world, the climate, the culture, the characters. Only then do I find this world’s story. Every world has a story hidden somewhere; my job it to find it. Often I will ask “Why?” Why does this culture dislike art? Or “What does this cause?” What does the frigid mountain climate cause? Mostly I just learn more about the world. At some point I will find the story.
Look at these pictures. Mountains. Sea. Woods. Prairie. Each is a world. Pick your favorite, or whichever stands out to you most, and stare at it. What caused this scene, or is completely of nature? What is beyond the picture frame? Who comes here? Where do they live? You can follow the people if you wish. Or you can follow the scenery beyond the picture frame until you see history in the making. There is your story.
Now, let’s go story to world.
Grab your favorite plot generator (feel free to tell us about it in a comment) or use mine: http://www.wherethemapends.com/writerstools/writers_tools_pages/randomizer.htm. It’s on http://www.wherethemapends.com, a site for Christian science-fiction writers (and that’s all you’ll get until I get around to making a Useful Site post). I love this generator because it is so complete – it even includes a theme – and yet doesn’t tell you your entire story.
Generate four plots, and like the pictures, choose one that interests you or grabs your mind. Sit back and think a little bit – just a little bit – about this plot. How does it start? Do you see any immediate twists? What type of characters do you need for this story?
Now think about the setting – the world – in light of that. Does it start in the outdoors a hundred miles from nowhere or in crowded slums? Examine each part of your. Are some of the plot points only made possible because of setting? Do parts of the plots gives clues to the world and culture? You will generate a number of isolated elements this way. In the end you will have to weave them together.
Both techniques have downsides. World to story doesn’t guarantee a captivating plot, or even a plot at all. But then, you could always save the unused worlds for unused plots. Story to world may leave your world feeling a little empty. However, you could fix that by spending a lot more time on the world. In the end it’s a matter of what you’re willing to work on. Either way, you let either the world or the plot come to your mind naturally, and then work to find the counterpart.
How do you world build?