How to World Build: In-Out & Out-In

Continuing my world-building series of opposites, we have in-out and out-in.  Those who create a world in-out start with the particular and go to the general.  Those who use the out-in style do the exact opposite.  This can be applied to several elements of world building, as well as story building.

I go in-out.  I have my characters, cultures, and cities all planned before I even think about the planet.  Then it’s oceans and climates.  I even design planets before deciding where they fit in the solar-system.  Only once the planets are finished and placed do I think about the star type.

But I know people who go out-in.  This-

-inspires them.  Who lives on this planet?  What about that one?  What planets are colonized?  What are each planet’s atmospheres?  Then they’ll zone in on a planet, discovering its features.  They may have an idea for a culture already in their minds, and they’ll place it on whatever planet makes the most sense.

Cultures are worked either in-out or out-in as well.  In-out starts with the main character, the protagonist.  Then their friends and family.  As their lives are thought out, the culture begins to emerge.  If the protagonist’s mother has eccentric art tastes, what is the norm?  Finally, an entire skyline is in their mind’s eye.  For out-in, the collective whole is decided upon before the individuals.  The city’s architecture is decided upon before the protagonist’s eccentric mother’s taste.  Once the setting is completed the protagonists and antagonists are found.

Even thought this is a world-building post, plots deserve a mention.  Plots, too, are worked in-out or out-in.  In-out needs a scene with a major character.  A scrap.  No theme, no over all idea, no major plot line (at the conception, anyway).  The story is built from there.  Out-in starts with the main plot, even the theme.  Characters and scenes and subplots come after that.

First in the series: World to Story & Story to World
Third in the Series: Useful Sites

Which is your type?  Or is it a mixture of both?


About Kathrine Roid

I'm an science fiction and fantasy author living in Texas with an undead parakeet and teleporting cat. Think about that for a moment.

Posted on January 9, 2011, in On Writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Mixture of both, since I write what comes to mind, no real world building for me, so whatever pops into my head goes down into the book 🙂

  2. Abby aka PrincessoftheKing

    I’m usually an in-out person. My stories have never encompassed more than one planet, though, so I don’t go that far out!
    But I do like to start with charries and cultures of my world, and then move on tot he bigger stuff. 🙂

  3. Good latest post! Just to say, i’m more of an in-out person or I just have no idea of what’s going on. I just write.


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