14.10: Magic Systems

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab

Let’s design magic systems! We talk about how we do it, and how the principles of magic system design apply to the science fiction systems we create, and vice-versa.

NOTE: In this episode we’re talking about “hard” magic systems, where there are well-defined rule sets (even if the reader isn’t shown them explicitly.) Next week we’ll talk about “soft” magic.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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Take a “soft” magic system, and turn it into a “hard” system. Give Gandalf rules

The Third Eye, by Mahtab Narsimhan

14.9: Showing Off

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard

Let’s infodump without infodumping. Let’s deliver lots of exposition without sounding expository. Let’s talk with the maid and the butler without having maid-and-butler dialog.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Benjamin Hewett, and mastered by Alex Jackson

 

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Write some ephemera for your world

Shadiversity (Vidcast), by Shad M. Brooks

14.8: Worldbuilding Q&A #1

Your Hosts: Howard, Mary Robinette, Dan, and DongWon

We invited attendees at WXR 2018 to ask us some general worldbuilding questions. Here’s what they asked:

  • What cultural stuff do you need to know during the writing process?
  • How do you treat overlaps between real-world religions and fictional religions when the fictional religions are part of the story’s fundamental conflict?
  • How much worldbuilding do you have figured out before you start your first draft, and how much do you discover on the fly?
  • What’s the point in a book beyond which you shouldn’t introduce big worldbuilding elements?
  • How do you ensure that the world comes through as a character of its own?
  • How much change to terminology is too much?

Credits: This episode was recorded live by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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What do you do about time in your universe? Spend some time considering how it is demarcated in your setting.

Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik

14.7: How Weird is Too Weird?

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard

How weird, how far outside the realm of what the reader feels to be familiar, is too weird? Where is the line beyond which the fantasy is too fantastic, the unreal too unrealistic, or the aliens too alien? In this episode we discuss finding that line, and with the tools at our disposal, possibly moving it.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson.

 

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Take your current work-in-progress, and determine what your “one buy” is. Narrow it down.

14.6: Fantasy and Science Fiction Races

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab

Let’s talk about race, sort-of. Let’s talk about creating races—species of people, really—which is a critically important activity in much of our worldbuilding. In this episode we discuss a few of the pitfalls, some of our own techniques, and a few of our favorite alien¹ races.

¹Can of Worms: It’s likely you’ll subconsciously code your creations after people who are “other” to you. This is both fraught and inescapable, but we don’t want to discourage you from trying. On May 26th we’ll go into detail telling you “yes, you can,” in a Writing The Other episode entitled “Yes You Can.”

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Take one major historical event, and set it in space with non-human races.

Dragon’s Blood, by Jane Yolen, narrated by Marc Thompson

14.5: Viewpoint as Worldbuilding

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard

When you’re defining your world for the reader, some voice in the text must speak those definitions. This episode is about how we use character voices—their dialog and their narrative view points—to worldbuild. What do they see? How do they perceive it? What are their favorite jokes? What do they say when they swear?

Credits: This episode was recorded by Benjamin Hewett, and mastered by Alex Jackson

 

 

 

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From within, from without: Take a character who is alien to the culture/setting you’re writing, and describe things from their point of view. Now describe those same things from the point of view of a character native to the culture/setting.

Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi