Tag Archives: World Building

14.11: Magic Without Rules

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

When we say “without rules” we’re talking about stories whose magic is not held under logical scrutiny for the reader. There are lots of reasons why you might do this, and in this episode we’ll talk about not just about the why, but also the how.

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

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Take a story with rule-based magic. Now have the rules all go wrong, the characters realize they don’t really understand the rules at all.

Bookburners, by Max Gladstone, Mur Lafferty, Margaret Dunlap, Andrea Phillips, Brian Slattery, and Amal el Mohtar

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

14.6: 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

14.03: World of Hats

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

Margaret Dunlap joins us during season 14 to talk about worldbuilding. In this, her first episode with us, we talk about worlds in which a monolithic culture (like, say, ‘everyone wears hats’) is represented. We cover how to use the trope to your advantage, and how to avoid the trope if it’s going to cause problems.

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Write some monoculture-defying fanfic, in which you add outliers to your favorite world of hats. Like, say, a Klingon belly-dancer, or the microclimate on Hoth where you can grow peaches.

An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir

14.02: Geography and Biomes

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab

Mahtab Narsimhan joins us this year for a dozen episodes on worldbuilding, and this week we’re talking about geography and biomes. These pieces of our settings can be central to the stories we tell, but they can also be backdrops, and the story purposes they serve may determine which tools we use to describe them.

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

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Describe a landscape using four senses that are not sight

13.44: Alien Characters

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

As writers of speculative fiction we are frequently tasked with writing a species or race of alien people. In this episode we talk about some of the tricks we use to create non-human characters in ways that make them both comprehensible and compelling, and the pitfalls we seek to avoid in the process.

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

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Look up doge-speak. Take those grammar rules and apply them to dialog from one of your characters.

The Blood Rose Rebellion, by Rosalind Eaves

Love is Never Still,” by Rachel Swirsky