Friday, January 16, 2015

Structuring A World

I'm having a problem. It's the same one for most of my stories in that they are mostly set in the same universe and it's this universe that's in disarray. There are stories teetering on holes. Falling through gaps never to be seen again. Sliding through rents where they are not meant to go. Why? Why? Why?

OK, people say, that's worldbuilding. 

Worldbuilding is great. I love it. is the site where I sometimes go to be remininded by way of a check-list if I have covered everything. EG of the first check list :
But it's not my problem, I know how to do the geography, politics, money, language, dress, stage craft of worldbuilding. All my stories own a subset of that world. There's parts that are ongoing, parts that are new. 

There are dozens maybe hundreds of backstory generators online. Big Huge Thesaurus: Story gave me half a dozen backstories, two examples as follows:

  • A sniper having flashbacks has 24 hours to save his family from kidnappers.
  • The principal of a school fights for his life in a burning building.
Actually they generate story ideas, give a scenario, a story starter, if you like. I've never had any problems making up a scenario. Not my problem. Not the problem. 

I think the term 'backstory' has lost its meaning. Overuse, probably, for too many different, if related, concepts. 

Thinking. Thinking. Thinking. It's kept me going all week, this problem. My new understanding is that this universe, that all these disparate stories take place in, is itself a story, and so must be structured like any slip of a tale. 

To learn, and re-learn, about structure, I turn to Orson Scott Card's How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. His MICE quotient. I'm using the original text. Googling it, I got 152 000 references. I don't have time to find the best one for you. Every learner is different. 

M = Millieu; I = Idea; C = Character: E = Event. 

OS Card posits that 'all stories contain all four elements but that the one that the author cares about most, dominates. Discovering the structure of a story is a process of self-discovery. 

I laugh, reading that. What I was obviously doing all week.  

The Milieu is the world. Not the problem. Idea stories are about finding out information that will solve a question posed at the beginning. Not that. Characters rule in character stories. Their stories are about the transformation in themselves with which they bring change to their communities. Your typical Vogel character arc. Not character. 

'In an Event Story, something is wrong in the fabric of the universe; the world is out of order.'

In the universe in question, an AI ship carrying a precious cargo, enters a star system and begins to cause disruption on a particular planet. Individual stories describe one or the other's tactics and strategies as played out through the lives of the people (human and other) ruled by the ship and the planet. 

So, it's an event story. Summarised nicely above, I'm now writing it out in detail. (Thank you for your patience during my thinking-aloud process.) That's what is keeping me from posting on #Saturdayscenes this week.

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