Thursday Writing Prompts: A Few Questions to Consider in World Building

I was thinking about an exercise that I once had to do for a cultural anthropology class. Our assignment was to take an ordinary object (like a paperclip, hair tie, or empty thread spool) and pretend that it was 3000 years in the future and we had no idea what the object might be for. We were to create a scenario for the use of the objet and tell its cultural significance. So if a site had hundreds of paperclips, what might be made of this? Were the paperclips a type of currency? A symbol with some sort of religious significance?

I also recently read an article by Michael Moorcock where he described having a kind of pre-created bank of fantasy items that could populate his stories and give them everyday realism. Today’s writing prompt is an exercise to do just that. Here are some questions to consider to help build a realistic fantasy/science fiction world:

1. Look around your bedroom. What would have not been present in the room 200 years ago? What forms of technology are present in the room? What do they do? How might those pieces of technology move forward and become changed/advanced? Technology having to do with transportation, communications, and information storage have changed dramatically in the last two hundred years. How might these change over the next two hundred years? What about medical technology? Might it become more independent and less dependent on the oversight of doctors? More oriented towards people taking care of their own health? What might it look like?

2. What might ordinary things like pencils, clothing hangers, books, a printer, a bed, a table, a chair, or headphones look like in a future setting? How could they be transformed?

3. What materials might clothing be made of?

4. What might an ordinary citizen in your created world have in their pockets? What routine objects might they use through out the course of a day?

5. Mobile smart phones are almost indispensable at this point in history. Seven years ago almost no one had even heard of them. Think of some gadget/device that might be indispensable in the world and time period of the fictional setting you are creating. What does it do? Why is it indispensable?

6. What does the food look like? What kinds of things do your characters eat in a day?

In thinking about these questions, go beyond your first thoughts. First thoughts are usually obvious thoughts that have been seen/read/stated previously. Delve deeper and explore creating the rationale behind the setting and objects that you create. Make it seem as real as possible.

Writing is cool because we get to be wizards of words and make realities! Have fun creating!

What should go into thinking about a fantasy world to make it more real?

I rested on my futon this morning and watched the morning light grow stronger and illuminate my patchwork curtains like stained glass. I have a rough draft of a novel that I want to revise. I have a hereditary wizard of noble background who eschews his birthright, defies a powerful Queen because he knows her secret, and loses his direction because he has been told what to do and where to stand. He has to redefine himself and determine who he will be as opposed to who he won’t be.

I know this character inside and out. I laid the rough draft aside last August because I could not stand how bad my own writing was and I needed to improve my skill to do him justice.

This morning I thought about his world. Changes. How marvelous it is that I can imagine a world of magic and gun powder, sloops and dragons, schooners and wee folk. I will be re-imagining his world and his story. I am anticipating great hours spent in incubative darkness and solitary meditation to give birth to a re-imagined world. To create a lifelike realism in fantasy, there are so many details to think through. Think of all things in our everyday existence that we take for granted. While much of it may never come through in the actual novel, it has to be background that is there and assumed. I have to move from the created and assumed as opposed to the never given a thought.

What things or considerations should go into creating a fantasy world?



Geography and its impact on society?

How people go about their daily business?

Folk tales? Songs? The local humor?

Dress? Diet? What constitutes lifestyle?

Can you add to my list? What should go into thinking about a fantasy world to make it more real?