Yeah Write!: Race Building Guide & Resources
Hey there :) I was wondering if you could make a post about culture/race building? Or maybe you already have one and I missed it. Questionnaires, tips, tricks, etc? Thanks!
This is outside of my expertise since I don’t usually write fantasy, but I did some research and came up with some resources for you!
The following attributes differentiate races from one another:
- Geographical location
- Social affiliation
I would definitely write and/or draw concepts of all of those attributes. Writing programs like Scrivener or Yarny have mechanisms to allow you to store all such notes; other writers, like JK Rowling, prefer keeping loose leaf planning sheets in a folder; I have a dream of having a writing office with lots of cork boards!
Here are some other links that define race (which I think will help you think about which attributes you may want to describe/define), give examples of fantasy races we’ve come across in popular literature and how their authors built them, and a few links to other online resources and templates about race building:
On that subject, I think it's also important to back it up (as far as making it not seem cheap goes). Have multiple characters reference the same works; don't just make up a name and use it once. If it's supposed to be famous/intellectual, I've always found it to be wise to ingrain it into the culture of your setting. It also makes the over-all setting seem more real, because a majority of cultures have famous works of literature/authors or historical figures/wars.
Oh, also, forgot to reference that we talked about this topic (sort of) before:
For iambecauseiwrite: Susanna Clarke made up every single book referenced in Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell. Clarke made frequent footnotes regarding these books and made up people from English history. The footnotes become part of the story by adding "historical" citations for references made by Norrell, and help create the appearance of authority on behalf of Norrell. It's a clever device to validate the history and knowledge of the characters.
Re: fictional authors/bookshevles. Reference the ideas or ideals you want the books to be about. If you describe the overarching concepts you are looking for, or the author as a legendary/authortative figure in his or her field, you can convey any subject or allude to anyone without actually naming names. Your more savvy readers will get who you are referencing, and the others will at least understand that the fictitous author/book is to be regarded as an authority on the referenced topic.
^This is what I was trying to say haha.
I thought the Avatar movie--how they have a legend about somebody who rode on a certain type of animal. You can incorporate faux-historical context somehow, so it makes sense and has significance to the reader.
I've have a problem with referencing "real things" in my fictional stories. This particular one is scifi/fantasy so it's removed from the "real world". It's not supposed to be Earth in the future. I need my characters to appear knowledgeable without referencing obvious things in existence like ancient Greek philosophers or medieval wars. Ex: What do I put in my characters bookcase? He's the type to read Marx but I can't say Marx. I could make up some names and titles. Is that cheap or detailed?
Is it really important to you that this planet isn’t supposed to be Earth? Because it sounds like it would be more beneficial to you if it was Earth, just way way in the future. Then you could reference real people.
I don’t think it’d be cheap to make up names at all, but they won’t serve any purpose as a reference to how intelligent your characters are if they don’t mean anything to your readers. The only thing you could do is make up different names for Earth historical people and events—like change all the names of the Greek gods and call them the XYZ gods but keep all of their stories the same.
But I would just make in Earth in the future, if it was me.
Anyone have anything to add?
One of the best tools I've ever used for world creation is Michael James Liljenberg's Seven Day method. It could certainly be added to during the writing process, but this method really helps you think through how your made up world actually works.
To the worldbuilder, my advice is to start writing. It will give you more of an idea of what kind of things will be relevant to your characters (thus avoiding going into too much detail) and it will allow you to start asking questions you might never have thought of before- like how certain people came to power or why a certain building was ruined, things like that. Good luck!
On ze worldbuilding argument: What I try to do is read my scenes as if I didn't know anything. Example: Character picks up some sort of communication device. If I can read the scene without asking "Well, why did she use that weird thing?" or "How does that complicated mechanism actually work?" then I don't think it's necessary to add details about the functions of the device (even if I, as the omniscient author, know everything.) That's why having 1streaders is important. They point those out.
Oh, I definitely agree you need to know your world, I just wanted to caution against feeling like you need to know it all NOW. Heck, I get some of my best world-building ideas when I'm in the middle of a story, a character responds to something in a particular way, and I say "Hold on, that's not quite right." Some pieces come together better from pre-planning, some from working things out in motion.
I thought we were talking about world building. I agree you don't need to actually write these details. I always tell my students that a story is a bit like an iceberg: you need only show 10% of what is in your mind. It is preferable, even. But you do need to know the other 90%. Just as you should know all the mundane details of your character's personality (like favorite movies, etc), if you're writing sci-fi, you need to create an underlying world, whether it's soft or hard sci-fi.
As the writer, it is a good practice to know how the technology works and the reason it was created, but what we have to remember is that the characters living in this world will have lived and worked with the technology and the wonder of the function and the "how and why" of the tech is nearly unimportant to them. I feel like taking the time to explain it out for the reader only burdens the narrative.
Counterpoint to poetnine: In planning and research, you can never get down EVERY detail. Even in fiction based on the real world, you could plot out every secondary character's life story without hitting the bottom of the well, so to speak. At a certain point, you just have to write the story. Where that point lies is up to the author, but you can always put the story on paper and flesh out a lot of the world-building in subsequent drafts.
I'm going to have to disagree with you and thecubeabides. Yes, he doesn't need to know the science behind it, but he does need to know the details to build atmosphere and authority/reality in his world. Start with basics and branch out: how is energy generated? how is food created? how do people meet mates/socialize? How are governments/communities organized? With each answer, you should be asking more questions, like, Who invented? What about infrastructure? Fill these in and whala, a world!
But just because you as the writer should know those things before starting to write doesn’t mean they’re necessary to the narrative story and need to be mentioned in the piece.
reasonable and defendable sci-fi tech is a very specific niche market called hard-sci-fi. Hard science fiction are authors like James P. Hogan who were engineers turned writers that make very complex sci-fi worlds and devices but make educated guesses as to how they would actually function. It's a niche market because few us sit through lengthy descriptions of time-travelling devices and alien technology a million years more advanced than ours. Unless you love hard-sci-fi, don't go for the niche