A way with worlds: 36 - The March
by Steven Savage of Seventh Sanctum
Page 1 of 2
When we build our worlds, we
may know some fine details. We may know whys and hows and ifs and
whens. We may know a thousand years into the past to explain the
finest details. Even if our readers may not see some of the
subtleties, its a lot of fun to know these things.
Then, when we write, we have
a huge amount of data to call on - as I've noted before, you may
even know enough that your stories almost write themselves.
Knowing your world, your setting, can be a magical or even
However, it's very easy to
miss something in the midst of writing the present and basing it
on the past - the future.
CHANGE IS THE ONLY
It's easy when we make worlds to think of history as the
past - but as we write, history is happening to our characters
and in our setting. Our world and characters are changing - at
least they should be.
Change is a hard thing to
write in our worlds - easy to forget, easy to overdo, easy to do
by accident. However, change is the very essence of writing - if
nothing happens, you don't have anything to write about. All
jokes that this describes too much literature aside, change is
Doing it right is the
problem, and that's what this column is about.
ACCUSTOM YOURSELF TO
First and foremost, it helps to be aware that your world
and all in it will change. This may sound overly simplistic, but
it's easy to get lost - easy to push the reset button, easy to
resist logical changes to preserve elements you like, easy to
How do you get aware of
change in your world? Well, we all write differently, but the
best advice I've found is:
- Treat your world as
under construction. It's never finished. This keeps your
- With your stories,
record the historical elements in your own timeline, even
if your writing isn't particularly timeline-driven.
- Review your past and
current history occasionally to stay aware of what has
and is happening in your plots.
- Be open to change. If
you stifle change, you stifle your world - and your
readers will know.
WRITE WITH CHANGE IN
When you write, make sure you're aware of what happens -
consciously or unconsciously. Keep track of plot outlines, notes
to yourself, reread your stories - know when change is happening
or just happened in your last writing binge.
Always reread your material
- and for more than just spelling and grammar mistakes. Make sure
there is cause and effect, make sure there is, essentially,
history happening. If nothing happens, if you force your ideas
down certain paths, it will affect the story negatively.
Be aware of the following:
- What changes in your
world - Is your world a culture of evolving technology,
or hindered by superstitions that direct efforts only in
certain directions? Some things change quicker or
differently than others.
- How fast change happens
- Change may happen in your world at different rates
depending on a variety of factors - if your world has a
super-intellectual race, they may change quicker than
others, for instance.
- How far change spreads.
- What barriers prevent
changes - Change doesn't always occur easily. Cultural
elements may stop things from evolving, a lack of mineral
resources may slow technological development, etc.
- What things encourage
and enhance changes - Sometimes change is abetted by
various elements - a war makes people innovate, a
renaissance unleashes imagination, etc.
Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Steven Savage, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.