Saturday, September 19, 2009

World Building with Team Seattle

I now came to the last batch of workshops for this year's conference. There were classes on: Pitching to agents, writing dialogue for crime fiction, writing Young Adult (YA) fiction, collaborating with other authors, learning to become a writer and world building.

World building? Hmm. Listed under the Fantasy/Sci-Fi Track, this workshop appealed to me the most for a couple reasons. First my interest in science-fiction and fantasy are close seconds to military history and historical fiction.

Second, "world building" occurs in every other genre of fiction. Thrillers, historical novels, romances and everything else do not occur in the real world. The settings in these tales are imaginary backdrops based on the real world of today or yesteryear. Our collective knowledge about the past can often be fragmentary at best, so writers of historical fiction fill-in such gaps with their stories.

With these thoughts in mind, I decided to attend this seminar.

Like the "Habits..." seminar I attended in the last session this class was conducted by a panel of writers who often call themselves "Team Seattle." They're a cabal of fantasy authors and friends who often attend book tours and conventions together. Most of their books fall into sub-genre of Urban Fantasy:
The moderator for this workshop was Kat Richardson, author of Vanished. This is the fourth book in her Greywalker series, where Seattle PI Harper Blaine develops the ability to move in and out of "The Grey," the realm between life and death. Kat did a great job as a moderator, despite having caught a cold and losing her "traffic-stopping bark" at ComicCon several day prior. (See her "Voiceless in Seattle," blogpost 30 July 09).

The first panelist, Mark Henry is the author of Happy Hour of the Damned and Road Trip of the Living Dead. These stories originated from a question Mark once asked himself: "...what if the Sex and the City girls ended up rising from the dead with a craving for flesh?" (FAQ Section of Mark Henry's Bio).

As I mentioned above, most of Team Seattle writes urban fantasy stories. Cherie Priest is the exception. Her upcoming book Boneshaker, along with her previous works, fit into the Steampunk sub-genre.

And in case you're wondering what "steampunk" is:

Cherie's Steampunk website (See "Steampunk" under FAQ, for her thoughts on the genre, posted 13 Sept 09):

The third panelist, Lisa Mantchev is a fantasy author who keeps her world's magic confined within a theater. Book One of The Theatre Illuminata trilogy appeared earlier this year.

Our fourth panelist was "urban fantasy noir" writer Caitlin Kittredge, author of the Nocturne City series and the upcoming Black London series.

At the time of this writing, our last panelist Richelle Mead should be returning from her Down Under book tour. Richelle is the author of the YA series Vampire Academy and the adult Succubus series. (Succubi and their male counterparts, Incubi are the seductive demons of the netherworld).

Most of the above panelists are members of The League of Reluctant Adults:
Note: Most of the authors' pictures were obtained from their websites. The photo of Cherie Priest in her steampunk regalia I took from her Flickr page.

There are 3 methods of world building:

1. Top Down-build the world then populate it with characters.

2. Bottom Up-create the characters, write the story creating the world as you go.

3. Meet in the middle.

The 3 general categories of worlds are:

1. Our world with a "change." Most Urban Fantasy falls under this category.

2. Alternate Earth--the same but different, such as alternate histories and Steam Punk.

3. Not our Earth. Another world such as Tolkien's Middle Earth, Lucas' Tatooine, etc.

While writing how much of the world do you reveal?

Is the world closed? That is most people don't know about the paranormal/extra-terrestrial elements inhabiting and interacting in the world.

Is the world open? This means everyone knows about the strange beings and events that populate the world which makes this a part of "ordinary" life.

Keep in mind that a supernatural element has a major impact on ALL aspects of life.

The most important thing to remember is: The world must be consistent throughout your story.
Larger issues may need to be addressed, such as:

1. The physical world--it's geography, terrain and possible terraforming.

2. People--What races are there? What's the interaction among races? What's the social structure or stratification? Are there any gender issues?

3. Social aspects--Typical views on politics, economy and religion.

4. Social systems--Organized religion and law.

Worldwide issues may need to be touched on or explained in some detail:

--Trade & commerce


--The Arts


Remember the adage: "Follow the money!"

What's the economy like?

How do people feed themselves? That is what do they do on a daily basis to survive and thrive?

What's ordinary life like?

The Science Fiction Writers Association has a world building FAQ:

Towards the end of the seminar, the attendees were asked to write up a synopsis of their proposed worlds. During this time Kat said something to this effect: "Even though this workshop was geared for science fiction and fantasy, you can apply the same techniques in writing historical fiction for example."

It would be presumptuous of me to say "great minds think alike." However it was nice to hear Kat confirm my rationale for attending this workshop.

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