World building
Thursday, March 1, 2007 @ 10:21 PM

I have been spending my days worldbuilding (well, yesterday afternoon and today).

I've been using Holly Lisle's Create a Language Clinic and her Create a Culture Clinic. Of the two, I'd say there's more to the create a language clinic insofar as the work it took her to put it together and think it out is concerned (though I may be wrong). I've enjoyed what I have done of the process, and it does indeed give insight into the kind of culture one is dealing with. I don't know that I'll use much of what I've made up in dialogue and the like, but knowing that they're speaking in some version of this language (and what that does with regard to implications--e.g. the race I've created has three sets of pronouns for each other, based on rank, plus separate pronouns for humans, two for animals [affectionate/neutral and derogatory], and one for inanimate objects. They don't differentiate between male and female except in one instance. This does imply a lot about the importane of hierarchy to these people) does add a fullness to the culture and also provides nuances.

The Create a Culture clinic is likely as thought out, but I guess as someone doing it, it's a little less methodical and more free-form. It's nice to have the framework she provides, but it's meant more as a something to turn to when you're stuck or need to think about important culture-related questions that will figure in the story (which is good--she even emphasises that it's important to stop once you've planned out what you need and resist the temptation to keep delving deeper and deeper because then you'll never get any writing done). I did glean a lot of interesting insights into the world, which is cool.

It's also nice to get a structure and organization to all those details (where before, it was pretty haphazard for me--big, messy files that I'd have to do searches on). This time, I'm using Word's indexing and TOC tools to help sort things, and the broad categories she has provided for slotting things in. With any luck, this'll work.

Worldbuilding is coming along. I think it's time to move on to story building and also to character sketches. I think I'll end up with a fairly large cast of characters, so I may need to draw up sheets for them.

I also downloaded her book of workshop exercises as well, so I'll try my hand at her story arc planning exercises and see where I get with them. Then, it's back to the text. I'm looking forward to that. My one hesitation is that the forces and complexities of the world as they are emerging seem to demand a shift from first- to third- person narration, and yet, I think the first person narration is strong. I'll have to mull over that question (multiple 1st person narrators? Some third and some first?).... We'll see.

But at any rate, if you're looking to worldbuild or create a language, or even fill out details you'll need to know for a historical (or present day) novel you're planning to write (after all, cultures are pretty diverse, and the devil is, indeed, in the details), I recommend her books. At $10 (US) each, they're well worth it, IMO. Those are for the e-copies, which I also recommend, as it's useful to be able to print out as many worksheets and the like as you require. I just bought a ream of three-hole punched paper and printed it with two pages per sheet, then stuck it all in a binder. It's not super portable, but for many of the exercises, you need to spread out anyway.

She also has a free giveaway book called Mugging the Muse you can download that is a great primer and contains tons of sage advice and interesting insights. I don't agree with everything, but it's an interesting read all the same (I'm maybe a third of the way in on that).

Posted by Anduril Elessar.

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susan deefholts
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