Friday, June 6, 2014

Creatures, Lands, and Powers, Oh My! World Building 101

Recently I traveled to Orlando and visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Orlando Studios. As I walked around Hogsmeade, looking into the shops full of books, brooms, I couldn't help but be impressed by the togetherness of the scene and how all of it came from J.K. Rowling's imagination. Of course, I've no idea how authentic it is. After all, did Rowling picture Hermione to look exactly like Emma Watson? The robes to be exactly as they were in the movies? Or the butterbeer served in plastic collectors cups rather than frosty glass mugs? I can't say for sure, but surely the movies and the merchandising warped the original vision, before it made its way down to me. 

But the details are still impressive. Not only did she name a village (Hogsmeade), but also the shops there, what would be inside, the money used--galleons, sickles, etc--to pay for those items. What people would be wearing when they bought them and for what purpose. The rules of the village (can't go to Hogsmeade without those permission slips) and so on. The same can be said about the other details of Rowling's world:

                     Housing: Diff wizard houses and Hagrid's hut, muggle houses and dormitories
                     Transportation: flying cars, portkey's, hippogriffs, brooms,
                     Clothing: formal robes, school uniforms, and otherwise
                     Food: school lunches vs. homecooked meals vs. sweets: every flavor beans, chocolate frogs, etc.
                     Sports: Quidditch--professional and otherwise
                     Occupations: which the children must study for.


In a lot of ways these details mirror our own world--we have clothes, school, jobs, homes, and transportation after all. In other ways they are unique and to each situation and wizard's capabilities. So when a writer wants to create their own world, they might want to take Junot Diaz's advice and consider: "What are its primary features—spatial, cultural, biological, fantastic, cosmological? What is the world’s ethos (the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize the world)? What are the precise strategies that are used by its creator to convey the world to us and us to the world? How are our characters connected to the world? And how are we the viewer or reader or player connected to the world?"

And like any good teacher, Diaz provides a reading list where you can see a good amount of world building:  “You will need to have seen Star Wars (episode four: A New Hope) and read The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien"...and read:


“A Princess of Mars” by ER Burroughs
“Dracula” by Bram Stoker
“Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” by Frank Miller
“Sunshine” by Robin McKinley
“V for Vendetta” by Alan Moore
“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collns
“The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” by NK Jemisin
“Lilith’s Brood” by Octavia Butler
“Perdido Street Station” by China Miéville
“Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson

So keeping all of this in mind, what struggles do you personally face when world-building? What details do you think are absolutely essential to a cohesive world? Any good examples of world-building you want to share? What are your favorites and why?

Kory 

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