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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Building a Story World

“Three crucial aspects—who the story is about, what you show about the setting, and how everything feels to the reader—must be consistent in mood and reinforce one another. Your viewpoint character, like people in the real world, will interpret the setting through the lens of his current emotions.” Jack M. Bickham


The ability to communicate within their world’s setting will have a strong influence on the emotional safety or danger for our characters. Culture in world building has a vast array of influence in the arts, crafts, food, clothing, holidays, celebrations, mores, and attitudes towards each. As Bickham points out, the specifics for each and the influence they have will be a direct link to character. How does your character approach a new environment—ready for adventure and exploration, or with trepidation and confusion?

Two main areas that produce strong mythic impact for a character to communicate are language and culture. In this next segment we’ll look at some ways these areas can be mined for possibilities.

Communication is built into the fabric of everyday life. A family can spend a day without words and still know what another is feeling, or knows what needs doing because of the rhythms of the household. A glance, a gesture, and body language all speak volumes within a family unit with or without spoken words. Close friends have a private form of communication. And there are separate methods of communication within the workplace—vocabulary, codes, abbreviations that make no sense to outsiders. All of these areas have the potential to build tension and conflict to our characters. First we need to establish what the ‘language’ of the land is, and whether it is understood by your character or completely confusing.

Exercise: Think of a day when you and someone close to you could not (or would not) speak openly to each other. List all the non-verbal actions you remember using to get ‘heard’.

Share: Which incidence was the most difficult to experience? Which was the funniest?

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