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

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Build a Story World

History Introduction

“Place in fiction is the named, identified, concrete, exact, and exacting and therefore credible, gathering spot of all that has been felt, is about to be experienced, in the novel’s progress. Location pertains to feeling; feeling profoundly pertains to place; place in history partakes of feeling, as feeling about history partakes of place.” Eudora Welty

According to this quote history and setting are not meant to be dull, dusty tomes but living and breathing credible locations.

What is the civilization? Is it in decline or in ascent? What is the regime? What difference does it make if we don’t know? For example, in episode one, Serenity, why did Joss Whedon pick the first scene in Firefly to show a battle from several years earlier? What difference does it make to see it all in actions as opposed to a brief narrative story opening with lines of a diary?

We have all had years of reading history and sometimes still not really understood, and then we see a photo or painting from that era and everything suddenly makes sense. We see the multi-faceted layers.

So another decision that needs to be incorporated is what is the level of historical importance to your world and what are the key factors that you want to maintain as influence?


1.     Make a list of the first three questions above and answer them with as many specific details as you have at the moment. If you’re undecided then list both possibilities.

2.     Next, thinking in terms of atmosphere that we’ve already discussed, answer the fourth question for each of the three categories and write out a brief reason why.

For example, a couple on a road trip take a detour to see an historic site—an old western town, so gives us all the mythic sensory details that resonate with that setting. Answer also=in decline. Regime= non-existent—or the hideout for modern day smugglers or underground aliens or avenging ghosts. For the non-existent regime then we don’t need to know. The setting can simply be a potential symbol of their dried up relationship. However for either of the other regimes you must know what and why because that choice will affect your entire novel.

Share: Did any of your answers surprise you? What detail did it bring into clarity?

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