Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My ulterior motive (Mwa-ha-ha-hahhh)

I see I've got some comments already telling me about the larger story context for these excerpts. Thanks so much for your speed, guys.

My plan is to use this material for a devious purpose. :-)

With well-developed worlds like the ones I'm seeing, very often writers develop their own world-related notes and research at home. For a novel-length piece, it might even get its own file on the computer. A world developer will probably have worked to answer some of the following questions:

1. What is the nature of the environment? Planet? Nation? Underwater world?
2. What is the climate? What are the physical dangers?
3. What is the geography where the story takes place?
4. How do people live? In cities? In an air bubble on an inimical world? What do their homes look like/feel like?
5. What is the political layout of the area where the story takes place?
6. What do people wear? How does this reflect the climate and their social status?
7. How do people move goods around? Is it easy to obtain supplies in this environment?
8. What do people eat?
9. What kinds of objects or substances have value? Is there an economy? What kind?
10. Are there regional differences?
11. Are there religious differences?

Obviously there are many more questions that can be answered, and some questions are more relevant to a story than others. On the other hand, while you wouldn't expect regional differences between the different areas of Mars in Bill's piece, you might discover that the characters come from different regions of Earth, and that could conceivably have bearing on the plot. Which is just to say, think about all the possible ways that these world details can influence the story before ruling any of them out completely.

In this workshop, I didn't want to work with world descriptions so much as world demonstrations. So now that we've considered knowledge sets in each piece, I want to zero in on something else.

Consider how your world saturates your point of view character.

Let's take the questions above and put them differently, from the protagonist's point of view.

1. What is my home like? How do I visualize its boundaries?
2. What weather and physical conditions do I consider normal? What do I fear?
3. What kind of topography did I grow up in, and how did it influence my physical condition and my concepts of comfort?
4. In what kind of place do I feel most at home? What shapes and textures give me comfort, or discomfort?
5. Who is in charge here? Do I respect them, fear them, both?
6. How do I show who I am in the way I dress? What is comfortable? Will I endure discomfort for the sake of looking good or looking powerful?
7. Where do the things I own come from? Do I worry about getting more?
8. What is delicious to me? What do I consider unworthy of consumption?
9. What are my most prized possessions? Do I hoard anything? Do I have so much of anything that I care little if I must give it away?
10. Who do I consider to be unlike me? Are their differences charming or alarming?
11. Am I in control of my own actions and the happenings around me? What or whom do I believe in?

Changing these questions from general world questions into personal protagonist questions can deeply change the way you write about your world. This is why I have asked you to tell me about the point of view character and the main conflict. Once I have all the descriptions in hand I'm going to go off and think, but I'd like you guys to start thinking too, because I'm planning to give each of you a set of questions geared to your particular piece, and in the end I'm going to ask you to make changes to your text.

Here's the central issue:

Think about who your main character is, and what that person's goals are in this scene that you've given me. What does he or she want? Then think about how that person's goals relate to the world that you've created and the personalized questions above. Why does he or she want it? What value does it have, and why? What is standing in the way of him or her getting it?

The goals of the protagonist, and the worldview that lies behind him or her, including any specialized knowledge or experience in his or her untold backstory, will influence the protagonist's judgment of everything.

So to summarize what happens next: once I have a sense of the main character and the main conflict from everyone, I'll post a set of questions for each of you that relates specifically to your own piece, and we'll see where we can go from there.