Tag Archive | yaparadrama

Introductions to Characters – two people in my Nanobook

written while I was waiting for the clock to tick over to midnight on hallowe’en

The government people showed up a week after the test.

Noth wasn’t expecting them. He’d done the test, done what his uncle always said and done his best, but he’d been doing that for years and nothing had changed. Nobody wanted him or his brothers for anything better than the trade school they were already enrolled in. Nothing was going to change. The tests were a pretty stupid formality.

He was at work when they came, in the foundry. His uncle pulled in scrap from four different waste sites around their hometown, and turned all of it into weapons for the army and, sometimes, plows and tools for the village. Noth had been working part-time there since he was old enough to work the bellows or handle the giant crucibles.

He was handling molten steel when the government workers came in, so he didn’t pay that much attention to strangers. The foundry rewarded inattention quickly and painfully, and Noth had only had to learn that lesson once.

When he was done pouring the steel into the molds, then he pushed off the visor and turned to the visitors. He found himself freezing.

They were too clean for the foundry. They were too clean for reality. They looked like they had come out of some book, some un-real story.

And they were looking straight at him.

She’d been expecting a transfer for years.

She was better than anyone at her local school, so they’d sent her to a military school when she was ten. That had been fine for a few years, but Zara was driven, pushed, and she was better than anyone in her school.

It took her a while to convince them of that. She was smaller, more “delicate.” She hadn’t really finished growing yet and, the way they fed them at the school, she might not have ever, except she got good at stealing food, good at bribing others to give her their food, good at taking things people hadn’t realized yet that they didn’t want.

They were either going to send her to a better school, or they were going to Disappear her, and either way, she wouldn’t be bored anymore and, with luck, she wouldn’t be hungry anymore, either.

When the transfer came, Zara wasn’t quite sure which she was getting – a new school or a vanishing, into some deep cell or deeper grave. The plain government vehicle, the armed Main Office workers who were actually better than she was, the manacles – it could have been either one.

She was pretty sure that being Disappeared didn’t come with the sort of food only Main Office high officials and ranking officers ate, though.

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Worldbuilding for Preptober… Working out an Antagonist

First, a link – How To Vividly Describe a Setting That You’ve Never Visited: http://romanceuniversity.org/2016/07/22/how-to-vividly-describe-a-setting-that-youve-never-visited-by-angela-ackerman/

Okay, I have my character dressed (or I will as soon as I figure it out); I know where she starts out the story (with her mother, fathers, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandmother, nieces, and nephews), what sort of schooling (loosely) she’s had, and what sort of technology the world has. I know it’s a totalitarian govern without the technological control to be as invasive as it could be. I know it’s a poor nation, with far too much of its resources going towards war.

…Crap, I need a bad guy.

My preferred sort of antagonist, as many of you have noticed over the years, is the Setting Is the Problem: Tír na Cali, Addergoole, Unicorn/Factory, probably Things Unspoken. I mean, in The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper, the main antagonist, technically, is a collar.

I should probably branch out a bit.

And yet, because I decided I was using some parody twitter accounts as the launching point for this series/world, I have a dystopian world. I have an oppressive government, in part because I wanted to play with some elements from some of the best-known dystopian worlds. Also, the idea of having the protagonist be “Chosen” reminded me of some real-world totalitarian governments, so…

The world itself is creating problems for my protagonist. She doesn’t want to be Disappeared. She doesn’t want to live the life the government has picked out for her. Yes, I’m running on tropes for that part; that’s the whole idea of the series. 🙂

But the world doesn’t actually act on its own.

For instance, in Addergoole, there’s a lot of elements that are setting-creating-problems, but some of those were caused by the gods – they could make some awesome antagonists for something a bit more high-powered… – right, back on track. There are elements which relate to the school, but those are caused by students (Ardell, for instance, Baram, Rozen) or by the staff – especially Regine, who created this little corner of hell intentionally and caused it to be as bad as it is through a combination of mindful goals and failure to understand certain parts of human nature. In Tír na Cali, slavery is part of the world, but the abuses of such are caused by specific people and institutions.

Bear with me; I’m talking through this as I go.

Cal got me thinking the other day about antagonists being people – okay, yeah, it’s a little late for that – but with mutually exclusive goals to the protagonist. So I’m going to think about that for a bit.
If your protagonist wants to overthrow the government, why does their antagonist want to keep the government intact?

If your protagonist doesn’t want to be Disappeared, why does the antagonist want to Disappear her?

My protagonist wants to make her own choices about her life. She wants to find a niche that makes her happy.

The government wants to make her choices for her, based on her skillset. This is supposed to also make her happy; indeed, a lot is put into propaganda about how being properly chosen for your ideal job should make you thrilled. “A well-placed nation is a happy nation.”

The agents of the government going against her plans will be working within the government’s goals (stability of the nation, success and victory in war, the power remaining in the hands of the powerful). (Note that these are the goals of people, too; government does not have its own thoughts or plans…)
(That would be a good idea for a novel, although Person of Interest might have covered some of that…)


Government doesn’t have its own thoughts or plans. That’s all people.

There’s a person in charge of the military/government. Are they good? Evil? Neutral? Okay, that’s not very nuanced. What are their goals?

There’s a person who acts out the will of the military on my protag. What about them? Do they enjoy being mean, or are they pressed by orders? By the will of the greater good?

And then there’s the antagonist for the book: someone in the government, acting out the government’s will while also having their own agenda.

I keep picturing him as President Snow. I’ve really got to work on that. I mean, I don’t even know he’s a he.

The theme of the novel is recruited. It’s even the title. Thus, it would help if the antagonist had something to do with recruiting.

So: Avo had skills that will allow the Governor to achieve their goals. They have been relegated to the back-office job of teaching/monitoring upstarts, abnormals, and rebels because they were themselves an upstart of some kind. They might have a bit of a superiority complex, and they definitely want to get out of running the School for Misfits and climb to what they think is their true position.

If Avo (protagonist) is cautious of the propaganda and learning how many layers deep it has gone, Governor both believes in it whole-heartedly and uses it to their own means.

How does the Governor want to use Avo’s skills to achieve their own means? How will that go against Avo’s goals and wishes?

I still have a lot of work to do on this!

What about you? What do you know about your antagonists? What are their goals, and how to those goals put them at odds with the protagonist(s)?

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Worldbuilding Bingo – ‘Verse now called Arlend, Card 2

To fill a bingo on card one of my Worldbuilding Bingo Card: Culturebuilding. Fashion – Body Types, Housing Arrangements, Fashion – Clothes, Entertainment

In my new world for my YA paro-drama, different characters (although my protag appears in discussion)

“Come on, Shekie, you’re going to be late.” Miagreth burst into the older-girls’ bedroom, her Daybreak-finest twirling as she did a couple pirouettes. For a couple years, it had looked like Miggie was going to be in the Home Office dance corps, but she’d been shoved out in favor of a General’s daughter and a Corporal’s niece. Their family line was not military-oriented, so Miggie was left dancing for fun and entering reports for a cigarette manufacturer for her vocation. She tugged on her cousin’s arm. “You look fine. The dress is beautiful. Come on.”

“I don’t know.” Shekleen twirled around three times in front of the mirror, frowning. “I think it makes me look flat.”

“Oh, nonsense.” Miagreth squeezed Shekleen’s small breasts. “You have plenty, and you’ll grow into the rest. Just wear something really tight at the waist like this and poof the shirt up a little more, like that. There.” She moved around Shekleen, tugging and fussing and arranging. “You look beautiful. Just because Peyy Redhouse has,” her hands described round in the front and round in the hips with hourglass like-gestures, “and she’s sticking them in everyone’s face like she’s been..”

“It’s not Peyy,” Shekleen demurred. She adjusted a few of Miagreth’s changes and looked at herself again. “It’s Onnal. He’s…”

“Tch. You don’t want to end up with an entertainer, anyway. A boxer? They don’t last past their thirties, Shekie. Sure, he’s handsome right now and he looks like he could pick up a cow, but think about after someone breaks that nose… or he gets hit in the head too hard… or he breaks a leg and can’t run those miles every day. And if he’s telling you that you need to rounden up, well, he needs to ante up, doesn’t he? First baby will get those things nice and round.”

“He’s waiting till he has a good run of fights,” Shekleen offered weakly. “But I think he’s going to start going after Avy from the mill-run anyway. He’s been eyeing after her for a while.”

“Well, then what do you care if he thinks you need more rounding? It’s Daybreak. We’re going to go eat until we want to puke, and then we’re going to wait twenty minutes and eat some more. Come on.” Miagreth grabbed Shekleen’s hand and dragged her outside. “The dancers are just about to start, and the drummers are already going.”

The Square was crowded cheek-to-jowl, everyone in their Daybreak Specials. Shekleen looked around for Onnel, but there would be boxing demonstrations, so he’d be preparing for that.

There was Avy, of course, prepping with the dancers. Their little town wasn’t big enough for one of the professional troupes, but their amateur, second-hobby dancers were pretty impressive. Shekleen couldn’t dance. She hadn’t managed to pass even the hobbyist test. Miagreth had, but then she’d had a bad fall during combat training, and that had been it for her dancing.

Avy had the sort of chest and hips Shekleen wanted, wide in the stance, round in the bottom, and with plenty of breast over impressive pectoral muscles. Of course, she spent her days hauling grain and tinkering with the mill for her family’s business. Shekie’s family ran the local fabric mill, which meant a lot of fine work leaning over a loom and less heavy lifting at all.

“There he is!” Shekleen grabbed Miagreth’s arm and tugged. “Come on, I see Onnel.”

“You don’t really want to go after Onnel right now, do you?” Miagreth dragged her feet. “For one, I see Tibor over there, and I’ve been meaning to talk to him for ages. Look at that hair.” She made a soft noise of approval.

Shekleen shook her head. “Come on, Miggie, Tibor, really?” She might have unreasonable taste in men, but Miagreth’s was no better. “Where would you live? He lives in this little apartment over the grocery shop with his mother and his mother’s mother. You don’t want to try to raise a family in that. And you’re not going to get a three or a four and live with their family, not with… well.” Miagreth really did like Tibor, but…

“It’s not like he’s ugly,” Miagreth countered, a little too loudly. She dropped her voice. “And nobody really knows why his father Disappeared. And you know full well that’s why his mother didn’t remarry, and why she doesn’t live with her other family. And why they only have one kid.”

“I know. You know. But how does any of that help you?” Shekleen moved through the crowd to the demonstration rings. In the first one, two boys they knew from school were oiled up and ready to show off their wrestling skills. “Your family’s place doesn’t have room for anyone else, and there’s no place left to build on.” Miagreth was the baby of her family, and three of her older brothers had moved their spouses into the family house already. “His family place doesn’t have any room… and neither of you are in one of those really money-making careers.”

Miagreth frowned. “We could do an apartment, you know. A little place, just until we had a bit more money.”

“Babies cost money, Miggie.” Shekleen sighed. Her friend wanted to dream of happiness, that was all. “I bet the two of you could pull it off, though. It would be hard work, but Tibor does work hard.”

“He does. He really is trying to fix the mess his father got them in.” Miagreth sighed deeply and melodramatically. “Getting himself vanished like that. I mean, it’s just inconsiderate to the family.” She shook her head, in a perfect if unconscious imitation of her maternal grandmother.

“And to you, of course,” Shekleen teased, although it was unkind. “Oh, there’s the boxing ring. Let’s go see what On… oh.”

“Oh?” Miagreth pushed up behind her. “…Oh.”

It wasn’t Ava, and Shekleen wondered if, somewhere, Ava was making the same frustrated trying-not-to-cry face that she herself was making right now. Ava, she could have stood; Ava had the same carefully-patched hand-me-downs as Shekleen, and though she had more curves, she had the same slightly pinched look they all got in a lean year. Ava was someone she knew, someone she’d grown up with, someone she could compete with fair and square.

This girl had the Main-Office look, her dress cut in the latest fashion, the skirt long, full in the back and over ample, well-fed hips, the jacket tight in the waist and open over her broad chest. She’d had her hair curled and twisted up into an elaborate up-do with ribbons of cloth woven through it, and the dyes in the whole thing were bright, vibrant, standing out against the faded look of the rest of the town. “She’s beautiful,” Shekleen muttered jealously.

“And rich,” Miagreth agreed quietly. “Look at that. I saw it in the latest Conscientious Citizen Monthly, well, a smaller version of it. That extra fold of cloth at the back, think of how much fabric that uses.”

“I could make those ribbons. I could take some of my spare pay and buy the materials from the mill, and make myself something like that. Do you think my hair would look nice, curled up like that?”

“I think,” Miagreth offered, in a voice that suggested she was trying to be kind, “that without changing the dress, too, it’s going to be like hanging ribbons on a goat, Shekie. The goat will look fancy, but it’s still going to look like a goat.”

Shekleen couldn’t even bring herself to be offended. “It’s not fair.”

“It’s not.” Miagreth stood up a little straighter. “You’ve given Onnel so much attention, and look at him, ignoring you for some silly Main-Office sort of lady. Come on.” She tugged on Sheckleen’s arm. “I’ve got someone I want you to meet, He’s a troubadour, Shekie, an honest-to-goodness singer, and we got him here, in our little town, for Daybreak. And you know what? Troubadours can keep singing as long as they live, they don’t have to worry about broken bones or twisted ankles. And they take their family travelling with them sometimes, all over the country. Come on, Shekie,” she tugged again. “This one won’t care about Main-office ribbons or how much fabric’s in your skirt. Come onnnn!”

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Worldbuilding for Preptober… Fashion Questions

First, some more Links:
I keep thinking of all these fun, serious sorts of topics, and then realizing I really want to write about fashion.

Well, then why not? It’s on my worldbuilding bingo, clearly I’m not the only one that thinks about it.

And in some situations it can make or break your story.

(I read a lot of stuff written in the 50’s and 40’s growing up. What I remember most in terms of confusing terminology was fashion terms. Nothing else really said this is a period piece the way the clothing terms did).

I’m going to diverge into actual historical stuff for a moment: If you are writing a period piece, know your terminology, know your fashion era. Do the research! Don’t put your heroine in a bustle when she should be wearing a farthingale, or a corset when it would be “stays.”

Okay, back to worldbuilding and fashion. If you have an urban fantasy world set in nearly-Earth, your fashion choices are likely to be more about character building and less about worldbuilding. But if you have a fantasy, sci-fi, post-apoc world, then you can say a lot about your world by the fashion you put your people in.

If fantasy, are you riffing off a particular historical period or a particular part of the world? Do some research into that period and region: if you want to change things up, do it knowingly. If you want corsets over 13th-century kirtles, well, have a reason for that. If sci-fi, are you extrapolating out from a particular fashion and era?

Basic questions that cover all eras of fashion:
* What is the technology available for weaving cloth and manufacturing clothing?
* What is the climate/are the climates of your setting? Equatorial people are going to end up wearing different things than arctic ones, for one.
* What functional purposes, other than protection from climate, do clothing serve in your culture(s)? Blacksmith’s aprons fall here, as do clean-room suits.
* What are the social mores surrounding clothing, decoration, head- and limb- covering, facial and head hair, body hair, and so on, in your culture(s)?
* What is the economy of your nation(s) currently? (see the Hemline index for one way that might determine what’s currently in fashion).
* What is the current body type fashion for men? For women?
* Is there a strong gendered dichotomy in fashion / in life? A weak one? An aggressive lack of dichotomy?
* Are their actual laws regarding who can wear what? (Sumptuary Laws). Are these laws morality-based, class-based, designed to set off a certain portion of the public?
* Does your culture / do your cultures have strong class divisions? How do these divisions show up in clothing?
* are there non-humanoid aspects to consider? Tails? Horns?

For instance: In Inner Circle/Jumping Rings, every citizen is issued cheap tunics. The climate is warm, Mediterranean general trends; they have no nudity taboo, and they tend towards portable decoration and clothing that can move around the Changes brought on by magic. Technology is barely early-industrial-era, but supplemented by magic. There is very little gendered dichotomy in base clothing, but some people will choose to emphasize traits of one or another gender.

The cities are divided into Rings representing walls separating the citizens from the dangers of the Circled Plain. The lower number of Ring you are, the further inside the city, and thus the safer you are – and generally far more affluent. The outer rings are often very poor people, and these people generally will just wear the government-issue tunic. In the innermost rings, the tunics are either donated directly out-circle, or worn for dirty jobs or slumming around, and in the middle rings, nobody would be caught dead in a government-issue tunic.

And, let’s see, in Arlend, which is my Nano-project-place’s name (Finally! A name!):
* Weaving is mechanized, but still requires human labor. Complex patterns in the weave are possible, but subsequently much more expensive. Luxury tends to be shown in a combination of more fabric and more complexly-woven fabrics.
* The climate is cold in the winter (thick snow) and warm but not oppressively so in the summer. Clothing tends towards layers that can be easily added or shed.
…Still working on the rest!

What about you?

Do you have anything specific in mind for the clothing in your world?
Is it based of a specific Earth era? Are you making it up whole-cloth(ha)?
What does how your protagonist dresses say about them?

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1186502.html. You can comment here or there. comment count unavailable

Worldbuilding for Preptober… The Family Answers

First, some other people’s Preptober-related links:

Find Your Story Plot By Asking These 7 Questions
NaNoWriMo Triage Center: Helping You Get To 50K
Some Writing Worksheets
5 Ways to plot your novel

I was all ready to start this post with “Oh bog, I forgot technology”… and then I remembered that I’d covered it in a handwave in the basic questions post.

So, with technology handled, at this point, I look at my story, and see what I need to know to get it started.

My protagonist starts out at home, so, as mentioned in the Family post, I need to figure out what that looks like.

Here’s a bit of my process in picking family type:

I was super tempted to go with line marriage, because I’m a Heinlein fan and because I’ve never played with it before (the basic concept: a group marriage continues to add spouses over time, so that the family never ends as a unit). But the premise of my story is that it’s based on YA tropes, and attempting to find a line marriage to join wouldn’t fit the young-romance sort of thing well (brb, adding that to my what-to-write-later list in my bujo).

On the other hand, I want to play with some non-“traditional” relationship types, so it can’t be just “man/woman all the time,” hetero-monogamy.

The only other thing I know going in is I don’t want a dead/absent/checked out mother. Divergent had its flaws, but I really liked that there was an active, involved mother figure.

I ended up settling on extended family living arrangements with group marriages of three to five being common. This provides more family support, less duplication of both effort and things needed, and the ability to easier cover for a missing family member, should the government or other circumstances call them away.

So that’s her home life. Things I’ve already picked because of the nature of the story fit in here, too.

For instance:

Their government does yearly testing on people, although I haven’t figured out when it stops. Students gifted in a given area are tracked into that field. Schooling is directed by that testing, leading students into very specific areas. There is no opting-out of the testing, or of the directions it sends one.

This gives me: a governmental, nationwide educational system. A testing system, and the authority to carry it out. Adults who have been tracked into fields they are capable in.

It also gives me the question: what happens to people who aren’t skilled in anything? What about people who hate what they’re best at?

Also, what about people who are skilled in several areas? Or people tracked their whole life into something that’s made obsolete?

No answers yet, but I’ve found that often questions (looking at you, [personal profile] kelkyag, [personal profile] inventrix) stretch and build my world the most.

What parts of your world does your story dictate you understand? What parts of the world are themselves dictated by the story?

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1184360.html. You can comment here or there. comment count unavailable

Digression: Looking for name suggestions for three characters

The world is the one I’ve been building. It’s at least 200, maybe as many as 5-600 years past a society-destroying apocalypse that left people spending years just trying to survive.

(go fig; it’s one of my worlds)

I want a feeling of old names that have shifted, a vowel changed, an add-on. For example, variations of names here.

I need (at least) three people born around the same time in the same country:

* Our protagonist (female)
* Her love interest (male)
* His love interest (female)


This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1183430.html. You can comment here or there. comment count unavailable

Worldbuilding for Preptober… The Family Questions

All right, so far I have:

  • An urban-fantasy post-apocalyptic setting, several generations (probably 2-400 years) after a major catastrophe.
  • Magic which is limited in scope but, within that scope can be very powerful. It is only wielded by 5-10% of the population, and only about 10% of them have any formal training. Exactly what it can do is going to depend on the story for the moment, as will how it works.
  • The government of [country] is intrusive, totalitarian, and controlling, although it loses some control in the remote areas. It covers a country approximately the size of Texas. It is not necessarily malevolent but it is intent on being in control.

Places to go from here include:
The Physical World

  • Geography: what sort of place is it? Are there mountains? Lakes? Islands? Oceans? Is it flat and boring? Hilly and gorgey?
  • Climate: How much weather does your main location get, and of what sorts (obviously not an issue on a space ship, unless you want it to be)

The Governmental World

  • How much does the government interfere with people’s day-to-day lives? Do they even notice it?
  • How granular is the government? Are their regional leaders? How far down (state/town/ village?) do the governments go?
  • What are the leaders called and how do they become leader? (Queen, hereditary; Innermost Circle, wealth-boosted meritocracy; President, representative election by proxy votes).

Where I’m going first:
Family life: What is the family structure, and how did it come about?

  • Who did your protagonist(s) grow up with? Is this common?
  • Who is responsible for child-rearing? Education? Punishment? (are children punished?)
  • What age is adulthood?
  • Marriage? Does it exist? How does it relate to child-rearing, if at all?
  • How much is the state involved in the government?
  • Potential family units include:
  • Polygynous: One husband, many wives. Common in fantasy. Not my fave.
  • Polyandrous: One wife, many husbands. (See Wikipedia). An option that intrigues me here is fraternal polyandry.
  • Polygamous: all the spouses, everywhere! Group marriage, in this case, since polygamy covers both of the above options. This includes Line Marriage, a la Heinlein.
  • Single-parent households.
  • Extended families as a household (Addergoole’s Shahin, for instance, grew up in an extended family of her mother, her mother’s sisters, and her mother’s mother).
    …You know, all of these are based on a dual-sexed human species. If you’re going alien… well, you’re well outside of my expertise, but have fun! Five-pointed marriages, anyone?

I’ll note here that what kind of upbringing characters have had will color what they expect out of their life — what partners they may or may not be looking for. Is their family (or their government) going to arrange a marriage for them? How do they feel about that? Are they looking for a partner, three partners, a line marriage to join? It may not be their primary consideration, but even the lack of a consideration is worth a note.

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A Worldbuilding Digression: Limiting your Scope

After a brief conversation with Rion the other day, I thought I’d talk about limiting scale.

The thing about worldbuilding in a fantasy or sci-fi world is that your space if effectively limitless. On a fantasy world, you might only have one planet, but you also have the possibility of other planes (or underground worlds, or sky-worlds, and so on).

Sometimes, that’s a bit much, and you want to keep your characters in one place and/or just focus on a small area of world-building.

Starting with Sci-Fi, ways to limit your scope include:

  • Write something set on Future Earth/Future Other Planet without FTL travel or with really expensive FTL travel, so that people are mostly stuck on one place.
  • Write a bubble city/something stuck under a dome (or a sky city, belt city: a self-contained metropolis, at least)
  • Start with a claustrophobic setting: set in a quarantine, or stuck in a locked-down megacity (think Dr. Who, the episode in the flying cars in the perpetual gridlock)

For a fantasy setting:
  • Set the story on an island nation. Maybe a very small island.
  • Your nation is isolated from the rest of the world, if not by water, then by mountains or desserts or a very very tall wall, or possibly by walls and regulation.
  • The portals are cut off. You can only access other worlds (or other cities, or maybe even other blocks) by two portals that open sporadically and otherwise just lead into the bathroom.

The smaller you dial things down – a bunker! A single room! A closet! – the less you have to flesh out about the world outside.

Of course, your characters still live in the world outside, unless they’ve spent their whole lives in this closet (and, even if they have, someone has fed them, someone has spoken to them, we assume. They’ve interacted with something in the world). That means you will have to determine some things: for instance, how their names work, why they are in a closet, etc.

(If you want to write feral children, more power to you, but from my research, this would be an immense challenge, and outside the scope of this particular article.)

But, by pulling the scope in, you’re buying yourself some time – if your character has never seen the next city over, then the most you have to do is give secondhand descriptions of it.

(Come to think of it, Inner Circle and Addergoole both have a lot of limiting-of-scope going on: In Inner Circle/Jumping Rings, you generally move slowly through the rings of your city, if at all, and most people never travel to another city. The government and the walls limit the first, and the monsters and raiders of the waste limit the second. And in Addergoole, you have people ignorant of the “world as it really is,” stuck in an underground bunker with only a few other examples of their species.)

Of course, if you don’t want to limit scope, you’re free to make your world as big as you want to.

For my YA Para-Drama, I haven’t yet decided to narrow the scope, but I’m starting with an insular nation that does not talk much about its neighbors, preferring swords to plowshares. And I have a young student, at a training camp/school, which limits her ability to move around a bit.

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Worldbuilding Bingo – ‘Verse in Need of a Name, Card 1

To fill a bingo on card one of my Worldbuilding Bingo Card: Oppression & rebellion, road systems, luxuries, calendar.

In my new world for my YA paro-drama, different characters.

Aemula hated going up into the mountains, especially this time of year. The roads were shit, since they didn’t head anywhere “useful”, just up to the isolated villages and the hillfolk who ran them. The rain made everything even worse, until her vehicle was squooshing through mud and chugging along at a pace slightly slower than her walking speed.

They always sent her up after the last of the Spring celebrations were over, so everyone in the hills felt slighted by the government – again. They sent her up with announcements, rulings, and trinkets, and expected her to come back with glowing reports, convinced citizenry, and quality trade goods.

Aemula hated it, but she went up because nobody else in the Remote Territories office could get anything back at all. At least when she talked to the hillfolk, they sent her back still able to file a report. They’d send up old Teb Ghrory from accounting one year and he’d come back missing a hand and four teeth: hunting accident. Everyone in the tiny village of Lakeview stuck to the same story, and Teb hadn’t been talking at the time, so no punishments had been laid down.

Aemula knew why she came back with all her teeth and both hands. Everyone in the Remote Territories office knew, just like they knew why she was working Remote Territories in the first place.

The country was scattered with these little pockets of rural living, places that the Main Office couldn’t quite force out of their homes and couldn’t quite bring into line with the rest of the nation while they were — like the name said — so remote. The hillfolk weren’t Aemula’s people, but it wasn’t like the fisherfolk were any more friendly to outsiders — or any easier to get to.

She had spent weeks with the mechanics at the Main Office, trying to get them to understand what she needed. They were the best possible mechanics that the country could put out. They were well-trained, brilliant, and very skilled. And over ninety percent of their time was spent dealing with the main roads and the Main Office vehicles that traveled them.

The main roads and the back roads might as well have belonged to two different nations. The main roads were smooth, maintained, and all the latest technology went into keeping them clear and easy to travel. The back roads were gravel and old, old asphalt, pitted and potholed, up-kept only enough that a government vehicle could get through if it absolutely needed to. But it needed bigger tires, suspension of some sort, and a system of gears that most Main Office vehicles just never had a use for. Once she’d explained, one of the mechanics had hugged her. It turned out that they really did enjoy a challenge.

It didn’t mean she hated going into the mountains in the wet of early spring any less, but at least she could get up there in relative comfort and — more importantly, even to Aemula — safety. This vehicle wouldn’t roll, it wouldn’t get stuck in exactly the wrong spot, it would not run out of fuel on the top of a mountain, and it was bulletproof and very nearly flame-proof.

The last two might be the most important. Spring visits to the mountains had more than one reason to be awful, and the roads weren’t even the biggest reason. The lowlands and the central towns were in the middle of Daybreak, their celebration of survival and winter’s-past indulgence.

It would be all over the airwaves, it would be on the bulletins, and it would be in the fireworks set off in the lowland cities. Even up in the lowlands, they wouldn’t be able to avoid it.

And instead of sending her up there with spices and new fabric, salt and fresh fruit and rare imported candies, the Main Office would – like they did every year – send Aemula to the mountain people with trinkets. Cheap recycled-metal statues of the Leader. Storybooks for the children telling them all about the glories of the Testing and the wonders that could be found down in the main cities. Honey-candies that any granny could make, impressed with the Main Office seal, with”clever” saying printed on their waxed paper wrappings.

It was no wonder they tended to send Main office agents back missing limbs, missing teeth, or just missing entirely. It was no wonder they liked to steal the Main Office vehicles and then claim that they’d fallen off a cliff somewhere. There were a lot of cliffs around the highlands, after all, and some of them were unmarked and just off the edge of the road.

Aemula gritted her teeth and maneuvered her vehicle around yet another hole in the road. She was only a half-hour or so from the first town on her circuit, and the sky was clear at the moment. She needed to focus on her presentation. She needed to focus on her bright smile and the sarcastic edge, on her fisher-folk drawl she spent most of the year carefully scrubbing away.

“Hey, all youes,” she murmured. “The Main Office, well, you know how it is. They pass out candy and I get to count heads. So let’s get the candy part done and then I can show you what else I managed to bring in.”

The contraband was illegal, by nature. But there were more than a couple reasons the Remote Territories head honchos kept sending her out here to the hillfolk, and it wasn’t just because she could survive the walk out, if her vehicle vanished.

next card: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1188156.html

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Worldbuilding for Preptober… Some Basic Questions

First, a disclaimer:

Normally, I world-build accidentally: I start writing a story and then end up building a setting around it.

This works decently for me, but it ends up with a couple problems, the biggest of which is artifacts of old ideas hanging around (seems like that part in the Matrix where they meet the vampires, etc.): is it Calenta, Calenna, Catenna? And shouldn’t that be an initial K anyway?

Sometimes I start with a mood, or a specific scene – Emrys being forced by his vow to kneel for Shahin, for instance – or a feeling. That determines certain things: if the mood is oppressive-government-control, there must be an oppressive government. If a vow forces someone to their knees, then vows have that power.

A lot of times, the worldbuilding comes from a question or a plot bunny or just an idea that appeals to me. That stuff is organic, and sometimes it Tribbles, grows out of control, and is hard to track.

Sometimes, I answer questions, and those questions set things in place, and lead to more questions. For instance, right now I’m pondering how a sexist, tightly-gender-bound matriarchal monarchy (Tír na Cali) handles transpeople (Carefully).

But before you get more than a few drabbles in a world, there a few questions even I like to answer first (after you’ve picked a broad genre, of course)

  • Is this on Earth? If not, where are we?
    • Sci-Fi offers in-and out-solar system, in- and out-galaxy, space ships, asteroids, and the question of whether or not they’ve ever heard of Earth (Star Wars for a “no”; Star Trek for a “yes.”)
    • Fantasy offers: second-world, a place that is in no-way Earth (Middle Earth); a place that one travels to FROM earth (Narnia); a place that is disturbingly earthlike but the countries have different names (too many to name).
      Science Fantasy (Darkover, Pern) offers… lots of options, mostly combining the first two.

  • What is the scope of the magic or science? For instance, can it:
    • Cure disease
    • change someone’s appearance
    • Travel long distances quickly or instantaneously
    • shift between universes
    • Kill
    • Make someone love you; make someone obey you.

  • How far-reaching is your government, and how powerful?

  • And what form of government is it, and is it benign or malevolent or… other?

To be fair, that last one can be hand-wavey for a while in, say, urban fantasy, if you’re talking about the governing body of your magical group, not the government of the real-world-like “normal world.”

As a note, while urban fantasy is often set in “a world just like our own, except xx beneath the surface,” I’ve read some interesting books where the world is NOT just like our own in some critical ways, and/or the magic is overt, not at all beneath the surface.

And as a second note, in any urban/modern fantasy setting, or cyberpunk/Shadowrun-like setting, you’ll have to figure out the scope of both your magic and your technology…

…which is where I am. And, because it’s a post-apocalyptic setting…

…First I have to figure out how badly everything was ruined, then how long ago it was ruined, and then how much they have built back up, and in what directions.

That being said, I think the magic is totem-based, with superimposed animal spirits and some *ahem* non-animal spirits.

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