16.48: Believable Worlds Part 2: Creating Texture

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Fonda Lee, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Tayler

As we do our worldbuilding with similarity, specificity, and selective depth (per the previous episode), we should take care to apply these things throughout our stories. In this episode we discuss how these elements we’ve world-built can become “textures.”

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Free write your character with a day off to spend near their home. Where do they go? What do they see? How do they get around? What interactions do they have? What details do you learn from this exercise that you might use in the background of the story?

Jade Legacy, by Fonda Lee

16.47: Believable Worlds Part 1: The Illusion of Real

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Fonda Lee, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Tayler

Writers are illusionists, and worldbuilding requires no small mastery of that particular magic. In this episode we’ll explore the creation of believable illusions through the techniques of similarity, specificity, and selective depth.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Take your latest work-in-progress, and pick something you can describe in depth to enhance the illusion of your world’s reality.

Starshipwright One, by Jeff Zugale

16.46: World and Plot: The Only Constant is Change

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Fonda Lee, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Tayler

In our world, the ostensibly “real” one (simulation theory notwithstanding), stuff is changing all the time. Why, then, do we see so many fantasy worlds whose once-upon-a-times seem timeless?

A more important question: how might we, as writers cognizant of the ubiquity of change, work that understanding into our writing? Can we make our fictional worlds more believable while retaining the elements of those worlds which first attracted us to them?

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

Liner Notes: The book series Howard couldn’t remember the name of? The HELLICONIA trilogy, by Brian W. Aldiss.
Mary Robinette mentioned WX 14.30: Eating Your Way to Better Worldbuilding, which may make you hungry.

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Take a “timeless” story, such as a fairy tale or a fable, and reimagine it happening during a period of great change in that society. For instance: suppose that Sleeping Beauty woke up after a hundred years to find that the kingdom has been through a socialist revolution and the rest of the royals are in exile.

Black Water Sister, by Zen Cho

16.45: World and Character Part 2: Moral Frame

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Fonda Lee, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Tayler

Let’s follow up on character biases with an exploration of moral frame. When we say someone is “morally gray” or “morally ambiguous,” what we’re really talking about is the way they fit into the moral frame defined by society. In this episode we talk about that frame, and how we can apply it, through our characters, to our worldbuilding.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Come up with a list of 4-6 “morally gray” characters from your favorite stories. Attempt to identify whether they are acting in opposition to, or in accordance with, their society/group’s moral frame.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson

16.44: World and Character Part 1: All Your Characters Are Biased

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Fonda Lee, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Tayler

The world of your book is most often shown to us through the eyes of the characters who live in that world. In this episode we discuss the fact that those characters have biases which will distort the reader’s perception of the world. Knowing this, we can use it to our advantage.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Take a favorite story and re-imagine it from a different POV (e.g. Harry Potter as told from the POV of the Minister of Magic.) What are the different worldbuilding needs?

16.43: The Narrative Holy Trinity of World, Character, and Plot, with Fonda Lee

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Fonda Lee, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Tayler

We’re beginning another master class, another deep dive series of episodes, and this time around we’ll be led into the realms of good worldbuilding by Fonda Lee. In this episode Fonda talks about her process, which includes plotting and character creation along with the worldbuilding.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Pick a favorite book with worldbuilding you admire. Can you identify in what ways the worldbuilding reinforces the character journeys, the plot, and the themes?

She Who Rides the Storm, by Caitlin Sangster

16.42: M.I.C.E. Quotient, After the Fact

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, C.L. PolkCharlotte Forfieh, and Mary Robinette Kowal

Our eighth and final M.I.C.E. Quotient discussion will explore using M.I.C.E. as a diagnostic tool. So… your manuscript is done, but something isn’t working. How do you figure out where the problem is? If the ending isn’t satisfying, M.I.C.E. can tell you whether the ending itself is actually at fault, and in this episode we’ll show you how.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Finally, you can let go of that fairy-tale rewrite. It’s time to apply these M.I.C.E. Quotient tools to something else you’ve written. Easy homework! Just, y’know… go fix your manuscript.

Just Keep Writing, a podcast by Marshall Carr

16.41: Middles and Conflicts with M.I.C.E. Structure

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, C.L. PolkCharlotte Forfieh, and Mary Robinette Kowal

With the M.I.C.E. elements (Milieu, Inquiry, Character, and Event) explained, and the concept of nesting, or braiding the M.I.C.E. threads, we’re ready to dive into that most difficult part of the story: the middle.

Enough of us dread (or at least struggle with) middle-of-story writing that the promise of a structural tool to make it easier is kind of glorious. Our seventh  installment in M.I.C.E. Quotient discussions talks about how to use M.I.C.E. elements to inform try-fail cycles, ask/answer sequences, and conflicts in general.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Examine the conflicts in the middle of your fairy-tale project (the same one you’ve used for the last six episodes of homework.) Ask yourself if those are the conflicts you want to engage with. If they are, add a try-fail cycle that fits the MICE elements you’ve employed so far.

Rainbringer, by Adam Berg