Tag Archives: Worldbuilding

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

16.24: Worldbuilding for Games

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, Cassandra Khaw, Dan Wells, James L. Sutter, and Howard Tayler

Worldbuilding is one of our favorite topics, and it’s a domain in which game design and novel writing share a lot of territory. In this episode we talk about how much we love it, and how much we enjoy letting other people love it enough to do the heavy lifting for us.

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

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Take a story or game that you’ve written and drop in a few casual allusions to names you’ve just made up—places, people, objects. Don’t try to figure out what they are, just make the names as cool-sounding as you can—soultrees, the Babbling Throne, Kobishar the Unmoored. Then come back a week later and write a page of background on each of them.

The Dune RPG, from Modipheus Games

15.47: Worldbuilding Science Fiction, with Cory Doctorow

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Piper, and Howard, with Cory Doctorow

Worldbuilding is something you do to some degree in everything you write. Cory Doctorow  writes (among many other things) near-future SF, and he joins us for a discussion of extrapolative worldbuilding.

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

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Make a list of transactions in your life which have no reciprocity.

Walkaway: A Novel, by Cory Doctorow

15.45: Worldbuilding Fantasy, with Patrick Rothfuss

Your Hosts: Dan, Mary Robinette, and Howard, with Patrick Rothfuss

Pat joins us for a discussion of worldbuilding, in which we field a couple of challenging questions from readers. Here are the questions!

  • How do you create timeless urban fantasy?
  • How do you create a compelling secondary world fantasy without leaning on a complex magic system?

We ran a bit long with this one, but we have no regrets. Because compelling. And maybe timeless.

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

 

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Just change one thing, and then follow the permutations.