Monday, January 02, 2006

World Building - Inhabitants Pt. 1

When I start a world, I almost always begin by first creating the race that will inhabit that world. Now I know I’ve already said that I have a list of 1,000 named planets (too much time that freshman year of college), but that is all they are, names. Mist shrouded objects waiting for their natives to appear and make it all clear.

So, to clear away that mist, I must first make contact with the natives. It isn’t that much different than what most writers do when discovering their characters for the first time, but just on a more general basis.

The way I go about this is to grab a pencil and doodle out a quick sketch. Sometimes I’ll have something in mind, sometimes I just start with a squiggle and add a swoosh, then a dash and let the creature emerge. Most of my current races came about in just that manner, arising from the margins of my college class notes. Not super detailed drawings, but basic sketches that capture the essence and can be refined later as the world and race matures.

If you can’t draw a dot to save your life, don’t despair. Instead try using the same technique, but instead with your words. Write down bits of description for your race until you start seeing the whole picture. Or assemble it in your mind first and then write down the description.

The main thing here is that you need to be open and free, don’t bind yourself down by saying that looks stupid, or that’s silly, or that’s not original enough! Feel free to draw on what you have experienced to enhance your race. I pulled almost all of the inspiration for mine from mythology and nature. Go to the zoo, watch some cartoons, check out some books on prehistoric life. You’ll find a ton of crazy things you can manipulate into your initial sketch/description.

And remember this is a concept, it is there to capture the basic essence of your idea for the race. Something to build off of. It isn’t meant to be perfect or the final iteration.

Anyway this is getting long so I’ll just drop in the sketch of the new race I’ll be making the world for and we’ll talk more about the process tomorrow.

Questions? Comments?


Blogger Heather Smith said...

Nice ideas on world building. I don't write sci-fi, but I always get my characters first, and they kind of tell me what they're like and where they belong. I just discovered your blog today! Good stuff!
Wuchak! (See, I'm a good student!)

2:32 PM, January 03, 2006  
Blogger Camy Tang said...

Hey Stuart, this is neat that you're showing how you build your worlds. Cool tutorial. I like the drawings, too. :)

8:53 PM, January 03, 2006  
Blogger Shannon said...

I too start with characters. Most of the time, anyway. ;-) But you already know that I find the actual worldbuilding harder than getting to know the people. :-D

10:06 PM, January 03, 2006  

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