Monday, January 12, 2015

How to be a God

Over the past few weeks I've been asked by several writing friends (some new writers, some not) how it was I came up with the worlds that I do for my stories because (apparently) they're so detail rich. I was a bit surprised to be asked because honestly voices in my head my characters often come to me fully formed and show me their world without me needing to think about it very hard. So I felt a bit intimidated by my friend's eager eyes and slight desperate tone.

I've also been asked to help write for LARP's recently (that's right, you heard me! I'm a geek and I wear it proudly!) and with that comes a lot of thought on world building and taking in not only 100's of peoples personal character plots, but also the environment around them (both landscape and political). So in light of recent questions I'll give a little lesson on how to be a God in your world! Because lets face it, saying you're a God is waaaaaay cooler than saying you're a writer! As a God you make and break worlds, nations, and your character's sanity. So lets get to it shall we!?



1. Start with you're landscape

Seriously. Start here. I know you want to go and jump off into creating costumes, castles, love triangles, and political intrigue (high school or otherwise!), but first you have to ask yourself: what kind of world is this? Are your characters living in a tropical paradise but have killer bugs? Or a suburb where all the houses look the same and the weather never changes? Or perhaps they live in caves on a rugged mountain range where it snows 7 months out of the year? Clothing, Religion and politics are also shaped by landscape (do you have people who worship trees? Or a land with little water will have lots of wars over water and prayers to sun or water gods etc). Everything snowballs from your landscape.

 When creating a world, you actually need a world for your character's live in more than they need clothes. Mostly.

2. Create Culture

Once again, before you throw clothes on your character (I know you want to so badly. Just let them be naked for a while. They can handle it.), take culture into account. Culture is created by the environment you've made. How the houses look, what sort of clothing material they have to work with (do you have weavers for actual cloth, or do they just slap on some deer hide and call it a day?), do they have music and plays because they're advanced? Or are they storytellers/singers because they live in a cave in the mountain where it snows 7 months a year and wooden instruments would rot from the dampness? Do they have a lot of rules and pomp and circumstance, or are they simple 'don't get eaten by bugs, and stay alive' rules?

 This is also where you decide what sort of government you have. Are they run by a religious person/sect, or a hierarchy/patriarchy/monarchy/anarchy/democracy? This will also help in creating clothing, you'll see! So think about your culture!

3. Clothe them!

Now comes the part you've all been waiting for! Clothes! Clothes are important because of the other two things. Sure, I could have made this the second thing, but trust me. Trust my madness, I promise it'll be good! The reason I saved this for last is because clothing--while wonderful and fun to describe--is dictated by Land and Culture. If your character's live in a cold region then clearly they would wear lots of layers or animal hide. But wait!

What if the culture is advanced!? They don't live in caves, they live in an underground city inside the mountain and are run by shamans! Then probably clothing might be a bit less thought about in favor of praying to rock gods (aka: you!). Now twist it. Instead, they're run by a monarchy. There are rules, and clothes probably denote your rank in society. The color (how do they make colors? do they use berries?), what sort of material (oh you have silk skirts from far away lands instead of the local goat hide? You must be rich!), and the style will probably denote your station in life.

Humans are highly visual creatures, so clothing is very important and says a lot about not only your world, but your character as well. Unless your main character is a bug. I'm sure what they consider clothing will be very different. Probably.

But clothing is completely useless until you take into account the first two things. Honestly, I realize now that maybe I should have put religion in its own category, but it took forever to get to here and I'm just too lazy to go and re-write. So lets pretend that there are four, okay? Great! So. Clothing. Another reason I saved it for last is because it's also my biggest pet peeve. Why you ask? Why because clothing is often overlooked! No, seriously. It's overlooked all the time.

There is nothing I hate more than watching a show or reading a book where a character is wearing clothing that is inappropriate to the environment or culture. Running around in snow with a light jacket on and they don't get frostbite or thrown in jail for wearing too little? That's suuuuper annoying! Or a tropical island where they wear long dresses or restrictive like clothing because you want your characters to look pretty instead of being able to run away from killer bugs? Also annoying and unrealistic.

As you can see clothing is important--very important--but not as important as the landscape and culture. Those two things (again) make the clothing and the rules regarding clothing. You can also probably tell that I think about these tiny minute details waaay too much! But these are seriously the questions I ask the voices in my head my characters when making worlds. And the reason my worlds seem so rich. There needs to be a reason for the way characters dress, act, and eat. And those reasons need reasons.

To be a God you must first create your world and then create the people in it so that you can run and ruin their silly little lives. Or reward them. Or send in a dragon to smash their underground society. Or eat a doughnut.

You know, whatever comes first.

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