I’ve been on the writing corner of the internet for a while now, and I’ve got a long, involved history with questionnaires.
Whether you’re crafting a single roleplaying OC or an entire world, you’ll find thousands of lists full of all sorts of questions.
Those lists can be super short and to the point (“What does your character want? What are they willing to do to get it?”) or they can be enormous and inane (“Does your character prefer smooth peanut butter or chunky? Does your character dream in color? If your character was an animal, what kind of tree would they climb?”)
For the past several days, I’ve been compiling a list of worldbuilding questions that I ambivalently look forward to applying to most of the countries in my upcoming world. I’m daunted because this is gonna be a ton of work, and I’ll have to repeat the process over and over and over again. At the same time, I’m excited because this kind of thing can create a much more intricate and interesting world.
I have a piece of advice for you, though, if you chose to use questionnaires:
Easily 90% of the answers to those questions– maybe even 99%– will not and should not ever actually make it into the story you tell.
The specific answers to each question don’t matter as much as what they tell you about the bigger picture. Nobody cares what three items your character would bring to a deserted island, they care about what it says about that character– whether they would go for something practical, or something suited to a hobby or interest, or so on. Nobody cares what a country’s tax code looks like, so much as they care about the way the people respond to that tax code, whether with squeezing their employees harder or tax evasion or what have you.
That’s where the story is. That’s what matters. The rest is just a tool to help you flesh out those details.
In my first sketches of this current WIP, the protagonist was one of two children born to a single mother. The family began and ended there; these three were each other’s whole world, and nothing mattered but each other.
It’s a very American family structure, which isn’t a bad thing– but it didn’t fit to the world I was building.
I’m not the kind of person who can just make up a thousand characters off the top of my head. I can’t create a family without first fitting it into some kind of structure.
That’s where the family tree comes in. I used FamilyEcho, but you can find plenty of free software online.
A few months back, I went to a convention that had a fairly unusual layout compared to the rest of my experiences. Instead of me sitting alone at my little table hawking books to passersby, the author’s alley was like a little bookstore featuring all of the guest authors, with volunteers there to tell anyone who came in about all of us and the things we’d created. We were free to hang out in the author’s alley and sign books or just chat, but we were also free to leave whenever we wanted. It was incredibly liberating and relaxing compared to what I was used to.
While I was hanging out, one of the other authors mentioned that there was an abandoned amusement park less than a mile from the hotel– mostly torn down, though supposedly a lone roller coaster was still standing. As my insanity is fairly predictable, I was entranced. Continue reading “A walk in the woods”→
I’ve been a bit quiet on this blog since I published Tatter and Shine, which was one part me trying to figure out how to wrangle the convention circuit, and one part me getting over the marathon that was Urban Dragon.
I’ve got some new projects in the works, and while I hammer away at that, I’ll be sharing some of my process for creating this new world and the people who live in it, along with some thoughts and insights I’ve picked up along the way.
There are a lot of horror stories that like to use monsters as a metaphor for people with mental illnesses. I prefer to think of the monsters as the mental illnesses themselves, whereas the people dealing with them are more the Buffy-esque badasses who deal with them.
An unrelated conversation got me pondering a fairly common question: “Why do kids these days have to put a label on everything?”
Well, since I’ve already got the metaphor onhand, let’s talk about the thing: