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World-building: It’s not just for fantasy


This week’s talk is in response to a question that came up during a previous livestream that went something like this:

Yes, research is a useful tool for brainstorming new books, but how do we do “research” if we’re writing fantasy?

I love this question, as it gives us a lot to think about. What is fantasy, really? Isn't all fiction “made up?” Is there any such thing as truly “realistic” fiction, when you think about it?

Practically speaking, world-building for a fantasy realm involves a lot more than drawing maps and making lists of slang words in Elvish. The world of your story is nothing less than the crucible of transformation of your hero, the arena of combat, the rules of the game.

In other words, the world-building is storytelling, too. 

Let’s go through the phantom tollbooth, hop on the transporter and take a fantastic journey to the world of world-building. We’ll explore the...

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the rules of the game

I like baseball. It has a storytelling rhythm to it.

There’s one test after another, as the role of hero is passed from batter to batter. There’s a mentor in the dugout yelling instructions and encouragement. Back when there were crowds in the stands, the trickster mascot would trot around between innings, shooting t-shirts from a cannon.

The pitcher is the hero of his own tale, facing down that club-wielding shadow with the help of his faithful ally, the catcher. The promised scene may be hours away, but the ninth inning is always out there, waiting. 

What can baseball teach us about writing? Two things come to mind:

  • A story is far more engaging if you have someone to root for. A tale with no clear protagonist doesn’t grab the reader’s emotions. The deep, passionate attachment sports fans have for “their team”  is what makes sports so fun (and such a big business). Does your story invite the reader to feel...
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storytelling is golden

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