Welcome back. And, if you’ve just arrived, I’m doing this series explaining the story blueprint I use. I’ve got a link to the file on my download page–see tab above. Click here for Part 1.
So today we’re on Story World, which is pretty straightforward in terms of understanding my questions. Which are:
Step 4: Story World
- In what time period is your story? (Current day, historic period, future, alternate reality…) Jot down some things you know about the time period in which your story takes place and how that will affect the story and/or characters.
- Where does your story take place? (Town, country, planet, school…) Jot down a general idea of the world in which your story takes place and how the world itself will affect the story and its characters.
- Are there background or details about your story world that will impact the story and/or characters? (Politics, regional history, layout, flora/fauna, ethnic influences, socio-economic differences, wars, tech…)
- What season is it? Are there any weather events, climate, or holiday details that will impact the story?
- Location, location, location. Jot down some of the locations you can already envision in your story, and any details you see as important.
You can spend as much time on Story World as you want. You can get incredibly detailed here. The thing of it is that the more brilliant stuff you come up with, the more you’ll be tempted to put it into your story, whether it actually enhances it or not. So BEWARE.
That said, there’s a lot of stuff that goes on in a novel. In addition to your plot, your subplot, your characters, their relevant backstories, their interpersonal relationships, you’ve also got to be a director, dialectician (possibly not a word), a costume designer, and, yes, a set designer. So don’t forget that we do need to have a sense of place in your story. Sometimes working through your locations outside of the story will keep those details at your fingertips to be inserted when you need them, rather than the info-dump that often occurs when you’re designing on the fly.
Let me know when you’re done describing the curtains so I can get back to reading your story…
Yeah, just don’t go there.
For some of you, story world is everything. And I’ll confess that I LOVE a good world-building. I love the endless surprises that can happen in a fantasy world. While I choose books for character development and relationships, the books I remember are most often the ones that also delivered a richness of place.
Author Larry Brooks has a nice article about thinking of the concept of “Arena”. It’s about how thinking of telling a story from a specific time and place, one that has critical impact on its events and characters, can really elevate a story to greatness. (This is an awesome blog for writers. Subscribe while you’re there.)
And that’s kind of what I want you to take away from this part of the series. When you’re developing these places for your story world, really give thought to how those details may be relevant to the story you plan to tell. Sometimes details are just there for the sake of detail, and that’s ok. Often that’s your subconscious at work, and those details are picked up and made relevant later on–in the story or in the series. Finding the balance between a rich sense of place and boring the crap out of your reader with your inner Martha is something to strive for. Part of that balance can happen at this stage by finding ways to connect story and place at this stage.
If you need more help with world-building, you might check out that section of Lynn Viehl’s Novel Notebook.
In our next episode, we’re going sketch out your Main Plot Points. I’ll be doing an overview on some story structure basics to get through it.