NaNoWriMo 2019: Setting

It starts next week, guys. The big 50k challenge is right around the corner. I hope at this point that you have a pretty good grasp on your project, whatever it is. But if you’re otherwise finished with plotting and characters, then take advantage of the last week of prepping to flesh out your world a little.

Personally, I don’t like going in blind when it comes to the world. I think it’s a lot easier to learn about characters as you write, whereas exploring the world while writing might mean making a lot of pitstops for research. So when I begin a new project, I love to explore the setting before I begin writing. Sometimes, I will use existing tropes as my base, either finding a way to make it new or by going in a completely different direction. For example, dragons never get old, but the lore can be changed to fit the rest of your world so that both dragon and setting seem fresh and new. Or, what new creature could you make to replace the dragon? Crown of Feathers notably replaces the oft-done dragon with the less-used phoenixes, as an example.

A lot of the times, though, something world-specific is what sparks the story idea, and I can just use that as a spring-board to fill in a lot of blanks. As a fantasy writer, I’m used to having to fill in a lot of blanks, too, but it’s really just a matter of thinking through how something would change society as we know it. As I believe I’ve mentioned in previous posts, if the world is populated by people with wings, it’s going to be a lot different from our own. Their religion might put more focus on the weather and the winds just because that’ll play a major role in their lives. Their architecture would have to be adjusted–more spacious and open for flying around within the house. Horses might not even be domesticated, since they could fly around almost anywhere. Once you start making note of all the major differences, the smaller stuff just fills itself in automatically.

For NaNoWriMo, though, I think you don’t need to know much of the smaller stuff. Having the plot on hand will help you figure out what exactly you might want to focus on, but here’s a list to get you started:

Basics of the Magic/Science System: Assuming you’re a fantasy/sci-fi writer, one of the most important things to get out of the way almost immediately is the system by which your world operates. Because of its nature, magic or theoretical science can make for an easy deus ex machina. Know what the system can do and can’t do, perhaps what restricts its abilities. It might make it harder for the characters, but it also allows them to get creative with their solutions, which is never a bad thing.

General Setting and What’s Happening in the Present: The inciting incident is what gets your character moving, but something must spark the inciting incident. Knowing a little bit about your setting, what sparked the conflict, and how things got to the point where your MC needs to do something can help the story flow better. “Why Now” is a question that often gets overlooked, but knowing can help make the story more unique and interconnected.

The New and Unknown: Falling quite closely in line with the first point, fantasy/science-fiction stories often introduce places and things that do not exist in the real world. Mostly, fantasy stories have the “things,” and sci-fi, the “places.” These are things that you’re going to have to explain to the reader, since they do not exist in the real world… or, if they do, it’s in a different capacity than what the reader might be familiar with. You’ll want to have a bit of an info-sheet on hand so that it’s easier to introduce them. If it’s dragons, what should the reader expect of your dragons in particular? If it’s another world, is there anything about it that’s notably different from earth? The number of moons/suns? The atmosphere? That sort of thing.

Those are primarily the big ones, but of course, I would keep going with it until it’s time to actually write. Sometimes I’m still tripped up in my main project because I realize I don’t know something such as what a woman’s dress might look like in a small town in the middle of winter, or what a band of travelers might do in their down time. You can make it up, as you go along, but sometimes it’s just easier if you’re able to anticipate what details you’ll need to know.

Best of luck for the remainder of October. My first post of November will be something fun that I actually wrote in the beginning of September that I’ve been saving for you guys. If it gives you some inspiration, go for it, but next week will return to my usual posting schedule! Happy planning, and best of luck.


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