Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Oh, my glory, I forgot again. Someone said something to me today and I said I'd do it on Wednesday. She said, "This IS Wednesday." I slapped my head and thought of you-all sitting there at home wondering if I I'd lost my mind again. Drat.

I have to start associating the workshops with another event that also happens on Tuesdays. I know! NCIS is my current must-watch. New episodes air on Tuesday nights. NCIS=Writing workshop! Help me remember, guys. Send me tweets, emails or, if you're near me, Gibbs-slap me into remembering to post.

Of course, that actually leads into today's topic. The world of NCIS (heck, the world of most TV shows with plots) all have something in common: a world created by their writers and peopled with characters that have backstories of their own. And so, this week's workshop:

Backstory and world building…not just for fantasy any more

Knowing the world in which your story is set is vital to good storytelling. Don’t assume your reader knows what you do. While you want to be careful about bogging down your story with too much detail, knowing the world cold will help you give a thorough picture to the reader.


Choose a story you’ve had rumbling around in your head. In your writing journal, answer the following questions about your setting and society. 
Use the questions below on a story you've already started but are stuck in. Perhaps one will jog your imagination just enough you can get started again.
World Building Questions

In what country is your story set?
What is the monetary system there?
The political system? Who is in power?
Are there any laws germane to your story the reader will need to know/understand?

What languages are spoken there? Do your characters speak that language? (think street talk or dialect as well as invented languages)
What are the curse words of the language? Which ones would your character use? Under what circumstances?

How does the country's economics affect your characters?
What social classes exist? How do they interact?

How is affection expressed in this country? What is taboo? Any mating rituals?

How powerful is religion? What religion? What do your characters think of that religion?

Is there anything in this country's history that is important to your story? If so...why is it important to the characters?

Is there anything in particular about naming conventions (first born always named after the father, for example)?

What is the balance of power between the genders (men more powerful? Women? Equality for all?)? What about between races?

How technologically advanced 1) is the society, 2) are your characters?

Are there any particular foodstuffs that are germane to this group of people? What role does food play in their lives?

What is the climate of the country? Does it have any bearing on your character’s actions?

How educated is the society? Is education important to the people? The government? Your characters?

What about medicine? Is there insurance? What happens when people get sick?

Caveat: it's easy to fall into the World-Building Trap. You get so into creating the world, you don't actually write anything that takes place there. Be sure this doesn't happen to you!

One way around the trap is to answer only enough of the above questions to get yourself started. Fill in other questions as they pop up in your story.

That's it! Have fun with this...creating new worlds out of whole cloth is what writers do and it should be a fun process.

 Remember, all these workshops will eventually be collected and published together. If you are enjoying them and would like to make a donation, please use the yellow button below. Those who donate will get the collected volume at no cost.

Play safe!


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