Archive for April 24th, 2013

World Building Through Questions

No, this isn’t part of the World Building Questions series. Except in that it’s about world building and the power of doing so through questions and answers.

Once upon a time I was working on a novel set in or around the singularity, about 70 years into the future in an almost unrecognizable Northern Virginia. I had ideas on how big chunks of the world worked and changed, but I wanted to make sure I was focusing on the right elements of the world. So I wrote it all out, handed it out as copies to my writers’ group, and sat down with a pen and paper ready to take the questions they asked about it. What parts of the world were they curious about? What did I not have answers for? By the end of the session I had several hand written pages of questions, notes, bits and pieces of the world that people wanted to know about but I’d not thought about.

Were they all important? Yes and no.

When it comes to crafting a narrative there are two categories of information: what the reader would like to know and what they need to know. The latter are the essential details, the former are fun little additions to the story. They don’t directly influence the story, but a setting is just like any other character in that the author needs to know far more than every appears on the paper. This becomes more and more true as the setting is more and more alien to the reader. A non-magical story set yesterday, down the street from the reader? He or she knows the place well. Around the world? Perhaps less so. A century ago? A century from now? A spaceship? An alien world?

Unfortunately I don’t meet with my writers’ group as much as I once did. It’s one of those things that there’s just less time for with a baby in the house. So instead, I’m turning to you, dear readers of this blog. All three of you. After the break is a brief rundown of what I know about the GS Sarah Constant. It’s not exhaustive, but it’s those details that I think best paint a broad picture of the vessel and life on board. Then I’d be open to questions. If I know the answer, I’ll let you know. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll thank you for your question, and copy it into the part of my Scrivener file dedicated to things I don’t yet know about my setting.

Let’s begin.

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