The Difficulties of Large-scale Worlds

tree-desert-namibia-dead-vlei-68661.jpeg

Final Fantasy: XV may be the most controversial entry of the series to date. There are both positives and negatives—many people that like it and many people that believe it is a stain that tarnishes the name. Did Square Enix succeed in world-building? Let’s take a look.

First, let’s start with weaknesses of the entry. The world of Eos is massive and on a scale that none of the other entries can compare to. For RPG fans this seems like a dream, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, this is the biggest contributor to why fans dislike the game. We had a massive landscape that, sadly, was mostly empty. Enemies were scarce out in the open, and secrets were few to none. Straying off the path is rarely rewarded and when it is, the reward is hardly worth it.

Before the release of Final Fantasy: XV, we were given a movie (Kingsglaive) and an animated series (Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV), both prequels. This, to me, is where Square failed the most. The movie was the prologue to the story and contained important information as to why the game is even happening. If you didn’t watch the movie you missed out on 1/4th of the game. It is a prologue that was needed in the game but was cut out. The journey of the four main characters is the best part of the game but if you didn’t watch Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV you would have no clue as to why our band of brothers were together in the first place.

Square failed to deliver a complete experience due to putting necessary information in forms other than the game but there’s still beauty to be found in game—mainly the journey of Noctis, Prompto, Gladio, and Ignis. As all Final Fantasy games go, we must save the world from the encroaching darkness. All four of the characters have their shortcomings as people but all four together balance that out and become a family faster than we can blink.

The world of Final Fantasy: XV is lacking in depth, but the story most definitely is not. The brief conversations and events that happen between the characters are, to put it simply, beautiful. We watch as all four of them grow, become more vulnerable with one another, and eventually become a party that no other Final Fantasy party can compare to. Sure, their goal is to save the world, but towards the end of the game I recognized that the most important story that was told is brotherhood.

Square created a landscape that was desolate, but their story was as rich as one would desire. It is hard to judge whether this entry should be deemed a failure in terms of world-building or not. They created relationships and characters that will persist beyond the game, but they also failed to create a world as full as their relationships. I don’t think it is one or the other, personally, but it is a game that should be looked at with satisfaction and dissatisfaction.

For people that are interested in creating a fantasy world, I would suggest playing this game as it will teach you many things. But the main thing you should take away from Final Fantasy: XV is that creating a large world needs a lot of planning and time. You can create a massive world but a world that is 1/8th of the size and has every landscape, every town, and every forest mapped out to the final speck of dirt will be much more fulfilling.


animal-animal-photography-barn-owl-105810.jpg

Tyler Connolly

Tyler Connolly is a second year student in the Professional Writing program at Algonquin College. He is passionate about fantastical stories of any form. A lot of his time is spent thinking about how little time he has. He is also quite fond of Owls and Foxes.

Why Saving the World is a Terrible Idea

IMAGE COURTESY OF PEXELS.COM

IMAGE COURTESY OF PEXELS.COM

Don’t misunderstand me, dear reader! The world is an important place, especially for world-builders such as ourselves. And yet, when it comes to “saving the world” as a plot, I’d argue it is the least fulfilling story a writer can tell. Why is my opinion on this matter important, you ask? Hell if I know, but since you’re here why not see what I have to say about it?

To start off, I want to get my biggest point out of the way: saving the world isn’t relatable. Let’s be honest with ourselves, not many of us have what it takes to save the world. At least, not in the way fiction oftentimes depicts saving the world. We aren’t powerful sorcerers, nor are we predestined heroes of justice with divine blood running through our veins.

Or maybe some of you reading this are. In which case, feel free to hit me up! Would love to know what that’s like.

Reeling this back towards my point, stories the reader can relate to are far more compelling than ones where the fate of the world is at stake. That’s not to say we can’t enjoy stories like the latter. If we didn’t find them enjoyable, then we wouldn’t have as many superhero movies as we do. There’s nothing wrong with escapism, but even with superheroes, we enjoy them because their characters resonate with us, not because they’re saving the world for the fifth time this week.

But a plot focusing on people’s day-to-day struggles leaves much more room for memorable characters and stories. Some of them are larger-than-life, certainly, but there’s a higher chance somebody is going to relate to the story of personal struggle versus bearing the weight of the whole world on your shoulders.

My second point ties into this mindset a great deal, so much so that you might as well just consider it point one and a half. What point is that, you ask? Well, maybe it’s just me, but saving the world seems pretty boring. It’s one of those things you decide to write about when you run out of ideas. They’re easier to write - in my experience, anyway — but usually lack the same kind of depth that down — to-earth stories do.

Bringing it back to superhero movies, I’m going to sort of spoil Avengers: Infinity War (not really, but there’s a warning for those who are extra sensitive about movie spoilers). The movie isn’t interesting and successful because it’s another “let’s save the world” story, but because the audience is invested in the characters. And the reason they’re invested in the characters is because they’ve watched them go through much more personal struggles.

So, start there! Write stories that focus on more intimate story-lines and build up your characters. After that, if you’re still interested, then by all means write about them going through one of the weakest story-lines imaginable.


IMG_6231.PNG

Daniel Neubauer

Daniel is a second-year student of the Professional Writing Program at Algonquin College with a terrible sense of humour and an interest in all sorts of music. Whether it be due to raw talent or absolute dumb luck, he’s somehow made it this far and is ready to subject more unsuspecting students to his opinions.

The Bad, The Ugly, and The Worst of Cities

picture courtesy of pexels.com

picture courtesy of pexels.com

Let’s say you want to write a historical story about a rebel uprising and coup d'état. You plan to have your character start in the slums of the capital city before becoming embroiled in conflict that puts him front and centre in the rebel faction. (Side note, this is just my example, these tips can also apply to modern, future and even dystopian worlds.)

Now, one of the first things you’re going to need is a cause of action; some reason to overthrow the current ruler, be they a monarch or president. This can come in various forms, such as corruption, lack of action, or too much action. This will help you build the ugly elements of your world.

A government that overtaxes its citizens to fund a war will suffer from famine and general loss of function as the men are shipped out to fight in the trenches and the women work to the bone just to give their money back to the taxman. That’s going to raise your crime rate, too, as not only do people have less to eat, the police force is going to be even more understaffed. You’re not going to be able to get away from any kind of crime, murder, theft, even rape.

You need your audience to feel that. They need to be truly afraid that the witty, street smart orphaned main character could wake up one day with a knife in his chest for the half a loaf of bread he stole the night before. He lives in a dangerous area known as a slum, where people have no hope.

Something else to consider is hygiene. Living on the street is not the cleanliest, and depending on your story, there will be deaths during the night, and no one may care to remove them in the morning. That leaves rotting bodies outside for rats and other nasty creatures to feast on, while they spread god knows what other kinds of disease to the living inhabitants of the city from the sewers.

But, if that’s not your story, and you have a corrupt government that takes all of the wealth for the upper class and leaves the remaining citizens in the dirt, then the streets will also have a tone of rage and anger. Riots and public demonstrations of force would not be uncommon. Your rebel faction would definitely have a much more prominent presence in that kind of city.

But again, there is no way for you to remove the criminal element from any city. Some people will do anything to live — in some situations they will not care who they do it to, and so children and women would not be safe anywhere. Shying away from this is unrealistic and your readers will lose touch with both your world and any characters in it.


20180925_174814.jpg

Nick Rakowski

Nick is a second-year student in Algonquin College’s Professional Writing program. He is an avid reader and writer, and can usually be found hiding in a book. He likes rock music and fantasy books, and one day hopes to publish his own work.


Legally Up To You

IMAGE COURTESY OF PEXELS.COM

IMAGE COURTESY OF PEXELS.COM

We have all grown up with laws that we must follow, a legal system that keeps us in check. It’s one part of your world that must be thought out. For example, you may have a rebel that wants to fight against every law, but what are those laws? What are the penalties for breaking them?

Your laws can be changed by aspects that exist in your world. Like the world of Altered Carbon, a TV show based on the novel written by Richard K. Morgan. In this world, people are able to transfer their consciousness to another body, allowing them to live endlessly if their brains are not harmed in death. This kind of aspect will affect your world since bodies are just objects to the characters, and their penalties for certain crimes could be much different from ours.

So, everything that you choose for your world will affect the laws, their penalties and those that enforce or fight against them.

What if you have magic in your world? Would those that work for the government have magic? Would those solving a crime be able to use spells or incantations to find the perpetrator? Would that magic be acceptable as evidence in a court of law? Is there more than one court so each species can have a fair trial?

IMAGE COURTESY OF PEXELS.COM

IMAGE COURTESY OF PEXELS.COM

Are criminals with magic placed in the same prison as humans? Are they stripped of their powers for minor and/or major crimes? Are they placed in power-dampening cuffs and put in specific cells, like meta-humans in The Flash?

What about the classes? Are some species more noble than others? Are they considered above the law? Are they given easier sentences? Are weapons given to the classes? Are there types of weapons only specified for certain classes? Are certain classes trained in particular skills?

Are those certain species born on different worlds? Are they treated differently than those born on your world? Are those species chipped and tracked to protect those living on the world, like the aliens in Supergirl? Or are they all given the same fair trial as everyone, without incorporating their differences?

Does more than one government create the law for the world? Is there one for humans and another secret one for a hidden world? Does the human government know about the secret one? Do they communicate, but keep the secret government hidden from the human world? Does the human government have a say in the secret government? Is the secret government divided into smaller separate parties?

Your legal system is as important as creating the places that your characters live in. Whether they are criminal or social laws, you can’t have a villain or a hero without your laws. In one world they could be a villain and a hero but in another their roles could be switched. Laws are the backbone of society, whether that society is organized or chaotic.


Image-1 (1).jpg

Marli Jago

Marli is an aspiring writer in the Professional Writing Program. On the off chance that she isn’t writing, she is playing card games, reading, or hanging out at the nearest Tim Horton’s with her friends.


How to Make Your Fantasy Economy a Reality

image courtesy of pexels.com

image courtesy of pexels.com

It’s now time for everyone’s favourite world-building topic: the economy. Wait, come back! Yes, it can be a dry topic but it can also have a big impact on your world.

Consider Black Panther and the fictional country of Wakanda. Its primary resource, Vibranium, is a powerful metal that allows Wakanda to remain rich yet completely isolated—a premise that raises interesting economic questions. The Economist magazine, for example, has an article called “Wakandanomics” which considers what a Wakandan economy would look like in the real world and how it would compare to the economies of other countries.

As the article explains, Wakanda is unusual in that it doesn’t export its most valuable resource. Instead, Wakandans use Vibranium to make their own weaponry and transport, as well as the “nano-tech” panthersuit. From the article: “It is as if Botswana not only mined, cut and polished diamonds, but also designed and produced the world’s diamond necklaces, drills and bearings.” Even Wakanda’s finished products are bought and sold almost entirely by Wakandans themselves. With that in mind, you should ask yourself what effect the economy has on your world’s trade relationships (and vice versa).

“Given that economic conditions can have a significant impact on people’s motivations, you may want to consider whether your fictional world is capitalist, socialist, or something else entirely.”

Another example of a fictional, robust economy can be found in the Star Trek universe. In the “post-scarcity” Star Trek federation, money as we know it no longer exists. Everything they need—including hot meals—they can get through the use of replicators.

Manu Saadia, who appeared with Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman on a New York Comic Con panel, is the author of Trekonomics. He points out that a society in which material wealth is abundant changes people’s priorities. Its inhabitants are more likely to value status and therefore want to cultivate talent and intellect. People continue to find things to compete over, as well. As Saadia says, “[w]hat’s not abundant in Star Trek’s universe is the captain’s chair.”

Krugman, for his part, provides a real-world example of shifting values due to economic equality: “Some of us live—actually college professors—live in an environment where there isn’t that much disparity in salaries but there’s lots of disparity in prestige and how you’re regarded….” The end of want does not guarantee the end of evil or major problems, either. Referring to the Star Trek universe, Krugman says “there’s violence, there’s war, there’s an amazing number of holodeck malfunctions.”

Given that economic conditions can have a significant impact on people’s motivations, you may want to consider whether your fictional world is capitalist, socialist, or something else entirely. Maybe, like Star Trek, your world doesn’t have money but, unlike Star Trek, is primarily agrarian. In Lord of the Rings’ “The Shire”, for example, it appears that its Hobbit inhabitants rely almost entirely on local resources and agriculture. The One Ring itself, however, could be considered the ultimate currency. In a world that includes limited access to magic, anything that makes magic possible, such as the One Ring, becomes immensely valuable.

Granted, you likely won’t take a deep dive into economic theory in your actual narrative. But knowing how your world’s economy works can help you better understand your characters’ motivations and shape the way your stories unfold.

 


Parliament.jpg

Alex Dempster

After graduating from Ryerson University in 2009, Alex spent many years trying to figure out exactly what he wanted to do in life. Eventually he decided to focus on writing. He spends his free time following the latest political news and cheering on the Toronto Blue Jays.

What Do Your Characters Do For Fun?

image COURTESY OF PEXELS.COM

image COURTESY OF PEXELS.COM

Everybody needs a day off, even superheroes. When creating your world, you may want to consider what people do when they’re not busy fending for their lives or reaching for the far ends of the galaxy. Let’s look at a few examples.

Poker night in Star Trek: The Next Generation. From time to time, Captain Picard, Commander Riker, Commander Troi, etc. get together for a game of poker. It’s how they bond and forget that they’re a long, long way from home. In other episodes, we catch a glimpse of Commander Riker playing the trombone for his fellow officers. The familiarity of these activities helps bring people into that world. It also helps make the arcane elements such as the Prime Directive or the physics of warp speed more palatable, and can add a little levity to overly-serious story lines.

Other times, these activities can make for great comedy while maintaining or even adding to the realism. For example, in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, there is a hilarious scene in which a small, sparse crowd attends a “children’s matinee” gladiator competition. After one fight, someone is seen picking up the limbs of the deceased gladiators.

Of course, this scene is supposed to be funny and absurd but, surprisingly, it adds an element of realism. Life of Brian is set in Biblical Israel during Roman rule. When we imagine a gladiator fight, we probably picture a packed stadium with the Caesar present—basically, the championship match. But what about during the regular season? Like poorly attended sporting and theatre events of today, there would likely have been gladiator fights that few people were interested in. From that absurd scene, we also learn something about that society’s mentality: they did not prevent children from seeing deadly fights.

Of course, you can make up your own fictional activities as well. In Harry Potter, for example, we are introduced to Quidditch, the game played with flying broomsticks. In Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, we are introduced to Podracing. The addition of both these sports does more than merely entertain—it also adds depth to their respective worlds. The activity doesn’t need to be elaborate, though. Even something as simple as a hobbits’ drinking song in Lord of the Rings makes the characters more relatable.

Weaving characters’ everyday activities into the main narrative can be tricky but, done right, can make for some of the most memorable scenes.


Parliament.jpg

Alex Dempster

After graduating from Ryerson University in 2009, Alex spent many years trying to figure out exactly what he wanted to do in life. Eventually he decided to focus on writing. He spends his free time following the latest political news and cheering on the Toronto Blue Jays.

A Way to Remedy Predictability

fog-foggy-forest-40726.jpg

Hope can typically be found through the actions of heroes. Their noble deeds inspire those around them. Having one character that people can look towards for hope in conflict can usually be found in every story; the underdog that nobody believed in initially that rose to defy everyone’s expectations, the strongest warrior the world has seen, or an intellectual that aids the world through wisdom instead of fighting. These are all common elements we have seen in stories. But what about characters that aren’t good or evil? They are the key that will allow you to explore your world in ways that could not have been done before.

A good example of a character like this would be Illidan Stormrage, The Betrayer, one of Blizzard’s most iconic characters that was born from the Warcraft universe. Illidan is a character that wavered between good and evil, teetering between the two, and eventually landed himself in the middle. His philosophy was sacrifice, something he knew very well himself. He gave up his family, birthright, and the love of his life. He tossed his previous life aside and became what he would eventually set out to destroy.

We can’t say that Illidan is a misunderstood hero; he did things that can’t be forgiven. He was given the title Betrayer for a reason, after all. But despite him making these mistakes he eventually found his place in the world and what he fights for—himself. Don’t let that fool you, though. Illidan’s endgame was to put an end to what would destroy everything in the universe, the Burning Legion. He did things his way, sacrificing what he must, so that he could achieve what he set out to do. Illidan made several decisions towards the end of his story that inspired the people around him, even those that hated him the most. His unorthodox approaches filled people with hope for their survival.

Without a character that sits between good and evil, our stories can be sort of predictable. A character like Illidan, however, is the exact way to remedy that. This character’s action has little to no repercussions as they act of their own accord and belong only to themselves. Due to this they create events and interactions that probably would have never been guessed by your readers—maybe even yourself.

We don’t need an Illidan to add depth to our stories. But, depending on the story you wish to tell, an Illidan may turn your story into a great one. If you do choose to take this route, your character(s) don’t need to accept the enemy’s powers to destroy them and they don’t need to teeter between good and evil, but when a war takes place—whether it be a threat that will end all life or something as small as a fight between two people—having someone that is not ordinary and may sometimes go to the extreme will make the actions of those on either side of the conflict more intriguing. It can make your characters, the readers, and even yourself find hope in ways that we never knew could have existed.


animal-animal-photography-barn-owl-105810.jpg

Tyler Connolly

Tyler Connolly is a second year student in the Professional Writing program at Algonquin College. He is passionate about fantastical stories of any form. A lot of his time is spent thinking about how little time he has. He is also quite fond of Owls and Foxes.

Location, Location, Location

Picture courtesy of pexels.com

Picture courtesy of pexels.com

Locations are an important part of your world. They are the surroundings your characters exist in, whether they are passing through or staying there for an extended period of time. They can be the sites of monumental plot twists that will change how your readers see past and future events, or just the street they walk down to get to the nearby corner store.

Personally, I feel like the first thing you should do is decide what kind of feeling you want your characters, and readers, to feel in this location. Do you want them to feel comfort and warmth, or are you looking to make them quake in their boots — shivering with fear and jumping at every shadow? Not every “magical” location is the deep dark forest where every manner of snarling beasts lurk, just waiting for their next meal to walk by unbeknownst.

picture COURTESY of pexels.com

picture COURTESY of pexels.com

Once you have decided on the feeling of that particular location, you can have a better idea of how to execute it. For example, if you want a heavy, solemn feeling as characters travel towards the unknown, you could add fog or mist. The temperature would be lower, their vision would be less, and as a bonus they would likely be much happier when the fog clears and they reach a safe haven.

Of course, the actual surroundings can help as well, so no need to focus on mist or noises. Dark caves are naturally spooky, whereas a fair is naturally a loud place full of good smells and can bring someone joy just by being there. Forests can be useful, as they can go both ways, and a scary forest can lead to a bright forest.

At the same time, you should also consider what kind of scene you have in mind for this location. If you’re looking for a thrilling chase scene, maybe don’t use a largely open area, as the characters would be able to see each other without interruption. There would be no way for the escapees to slip away. But if you use a crowded downtown or a dense forest, your escapees have any number of choice hiding spots, twists and turns to lose their pursuers in.

There are all kinds of locations for you to use in your settings. Open plains, vast mountain ranges, deep caves, and each has their own personality for you to play around with. Have fun with it. That way, your readers and characters will too, unless you’ve put them in prison.


20180925_174814.jpg

Nick Rakowski

Nick is a second-year student in Algonquin College’s Professional Writing program. He is an avid reader and writer, and can usually be found hiding in a book. He likes rock music and fantasy books, and one day hopes to publish his own work.

Questions To Detail Your World

IMAGE COURTESY OF PEXELS.COM

IMAGE COURTESY OF PEXELS.COM

We create worlds from our imagination. Each one is different and each one is our own, from a hidden world of magic to the secret life of aliens. There are endless thoughts that race through our minds every day, but only few are able to catch those that create the fantasies.

A world is created from just one thought, a thought that makes you think. A thought that asks you questions upon questions and this post is going to do the same. These questions will make you think about the details, so you can walk in your world.

Geography

First things first, how is your world set up—how does it look from a satellite? How are the continents placed on your world? Does it even have continents? Does it have oceans? Is there a north and south pole, like Earth?

IMAGE COURTESY OF PEXELS.COM

IMAGE COURTESY OF PEXELS.COM

Speaking of Earth, how does it compare to our planet? Does it have mountains and mountain ranges? Does it have forests? What types of forests? All of them? None of them?

Has the civilization ruined the world—similarly to Morag and Xandar from Guardians of the Galaxy? One planet was destroyed by a global warming catastrophe and the other demolished by the need for power. Or has the civilization thrived with the world and its resources? Like that of the country Wakanda, hidden in a forest in Africa.

You choose how your world looks, how the people on it live, and how each area of the world is different—if at all.

Climate

With different areas come different climates. Earth’s climate works both from the sun’s heat and the axis of our planet. How does the sun’s heat cover your world? Do you even have a sun? Does your world defy the science we have been shown? Are there only spots of cold, or is the whole world always freezing?

IMAGE COURTESY OF PEXELS.COM

IMAGE COURTESY OF PEXELS.COM

However, climate cannot be described just by hot and cold. What about humidity? Is it as sweating hot as our summers, or a dry hot like the Caribbean’s? Is it as bone chilling as our winter or just a quick chill like Manitoba? What makes your world’s climate similar and/or different to reality?

Also, remember that climate affects the vegetation of areas, which in turn affects the animals that live there. So you should think about both vegetation and animals in the area, and how they interact with each other. Because you could make it any way you wanted—you could have it the other way around, where the vegetation is affected by the animals.

Civilization

Now, the people that live in your world also depend on the area that they live in, whether it is from their resources, their societal norms, or from their religions. Each aspect of the people living in your world comes from where they are, who they are surrounded by, and what their personality is.

So you need to ask yourself… What do they look like? How do they act among themselves and/or others? What do they eat? How do they live? Where do they live?

There are so many pieces to creating a world, you just have to be willing to piece them together to make the full picture. Without you, it will never be achieved.

Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it, we go nowhere.
— Carl Sagan

Image-1 (1).jpg

Marli Jago

Marli is an aspiring writer in the Professional Writing Program. On the off chance that she isn’t writing, she is playing card games, reading, or hanging out at the nearest Tim Horton’s with her friends.


Why is History Important for World-building?

IMAGE COURTESY OF PEXELS.COM

IMAGE COURTESY OF PEXELS.COM

Everybody has a different way of starting the process of building their own world. Some writers start by drawing a map, detailing how everything looks and marking down key locations. Others begin the process by writing up characters, building up their personality and then molding the world to fit around them. Personally, I always start with the history of my world. Feel free to disagree with me here, but I’d say history is the most important aspect of world-building as a whole. “Why do you think that, Daniel?” I hear you asking me... or maybe I’m mishearing you. Oh well, doesn’t really matter because I’m answering that question whether you like it or not.

IMAGE COURTESY OF PEXELS.COM

IMAGE COURTESY OF PEXELS.COM

The driving force behind this belief of mine is that history provides answers to all sorts of different questions. Say you want to focus on the languages spoken in your world, and you want to know why the people of a certain continent speak a different language than their neighbouring one. You’ll find the answer lies in its history. Or perhaps your world is filled to the brim with bards and storytellers. Where did they get these songs to sing and stories to tell? You see where I’m going with this?

History can also help you drive home the hook of a story you might want to write. Maybe your story revolves around how history is repeating itself, and the people in power are making the same mistakes their ancestors did thousands of years ago. Better yet, the main character and their friends have to save the world by awakening a slumbering god that was forced into a deep sleep long ago.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say that starting with the history of your world is the best way to begin the world-building process. Every writer has their own method, and none of those methods are wrong. After all, a world wouldn’t be very interesting without cool locales or compelling characters. I just find that history often serves as the backbone to the ideas writers have when building up their worlds and the stories that take place in them. Maybe you agree with me, or maybe you think I’m full of shit and built this belief on a foundation of sand. Regardless, I hope that this at least gave you, my dear reader, a different perspective on an important part of world-building.


IMG_6231.PNG

Daniel Neubauer

Daniel is a second-year student of the Professional Writing Program at Algonquin College with a terrible sense of humour and an interest in all sorts of music. Whether it be due to raw talent or absolute dumb luck, he’s somehow made it this far and is ready to subject more unsuspecting students to his opinions.

How to Break Your Own Rules

Courtesy of  Unsplash

Courtesy of Unsplash

When creating a new world, consistency and continuity are key. Once you know what the rules are, you may intentionally break them, but only if the audience understands why you’re doing it. A good example of purposeful rule breaking is in the movie Pleasantville, which is set in both the real world and a fictional black and white fifties-style sitcom world called Pleasantville.

The premise of the movie is that the main character David (Tobey Maguire) loves fictional Pleasantville so much that he wishes he could live there. One day he receives a magic TV remote that sucks him and his sister Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon) into that world. Everything is perfect and undisturbed until Jennifer rocks the boat by not behaving “correctly”. The result is that some objects turn to colour. At first, just a flower or two, but eventually people as well. It’s not what’s supposed to happen and it freaks out the inhabitants of Pleasantville.

These changes are intrinsic to the main plot. The longer David and Jennifer inhabit the fictional Pleasantville, the more Pleasantville deviates from its fictional foundation. It’s not just that the black and white world turns colourful. It’s also that people no longer behave in predictable ways: wives no longer prepare dinner for their husbands, and a fast food worker decides to become an artist. Also, people learn about sex, something that is never discussed in old black and white sitcoms. Basically, we know what Pleasantville is supposed to look and feel like before the changes occur, which is what makes the changes so jarring.

Another example of deliberate rule breaking is found in the movie Hook, starring Robin Williams as an adult Peter Pan. The movie turns the idea of magic versus reality upside down by taking magic away. When Robin Williams’ character returns to Neverland, he is an outcast. The boys of Neverland hate the now middle-aged lawyer who tries to impose his own order on them. Of particular note, he can no longer fly! By playing against expectations, the writers of Hook give a fresh take on the fictional Neverland.

Other times, changing or breaking the rules merely confuses the audience, like in the Star Wars universe and its depiction of the Force. In the original movie, A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi explains the Force to Luke Skywalker in a mystical way. In the first prequel, The Phantom Menace, however, we are introduced to the concept of midi-chlorians. A young Anakin Skywalker has more midi-chlorians than average and therefore, the story goes, he is better connected to the Force.

Things change again in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, when it becomes clear that everyone has access to the Force, undermining the idea of there being a genetic basis. I would argue that the introduction of midi-chlorians was a wholly unnecessary pseudo-scientific addition to the Star Wars universe, which did not align with the franchise’s otherwise spiritual dimension.

So, writers, you can break the rules of your universe to great effect, but make sure you know what the rules are in the first place, and why you’re breaking them.


Parliament.jpg

Alex Dempster

After graduating from Ryerson University in 2009, Alex spent many years trying to figure out exactly what he wanted to do in life. Eventually he decided to focus on writing. He spends his free time following the latest political news and cheering on the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Line Between Light and Dark

pexels-photo-983200.jpeg

The concept of good and evil, warriors of light and darkness is something that we have been exposed to in nearly everything we watch, read, and play. There are good guys and there are bad guys, nothing between them or beyond them. The one thing I find most appealing in worlds of others’ imaginations is the use of confusing what is good and what is bad. Today I want to look at what makes the battle between the two so interesting, if done correctly.

While a piece of art can be successful with the use of generic good and bad—something we see frequently in Hollywood films—it isn’t necessarily because the writing surrounding the concept is well done. The use of characters, the combat scenes, even the world-building in general can carry the generic approach to good and bad.

The way I see it, and the way I believe it to be, the good/light in a story can and should be equally as mentally corrupt as the bad/darkness. The good guys typically want to eradicate the bad from the world, right? Sometimes the good side will go to extreme lengths to do so, just as the bad often does. While the good and the bad want vastly different things, their methods are almost always the same: rid the world of their perceived problem.

Picture someone—a person you know or an established fantasy role—that is incredibly devoted to the light; a Paladin, per se. They are righteous and want to cleanse the world of evil. They are the warriors that are typically closest to the gods. They do their god’s bidding while never second guessing it. This is something that is commonly accepted due to the nature of people wanting to see the good side succeed but this is where it gets boring. We get the Paladin is a good guy and that his god is a holy being, but what sort of things does this god whisper into his ear? Was this Paladin a normal person before but was chosen against his will to fight? Small things like this that make your reader think can add much more depth to not only the conflict between good and bad, but also the character itself. Make them question if the light’s way is the best option. The line between light and dark is so… very thin. If you want to create a world that is more than just what you present, try to make your reader feel that.

There is never one side that is completely correct, and I think that applies to more than just fiction. We tell things how we want them to be told and our memories tend to include elements of fiction. I think it is essential that we create characters, greater beings, bad guys, and side-characters that we doubt at times, even if it is the main character. There are many ways of doing this other than just having a good guy versus bad guy approach, but if you are thinking of or creating a story that does have elements that were mentioned above, take some more time to think about what exactly good and bad are to your story. Think about how you want it to be told, but also think of including the right amount of ambiguity so that the readers can come up with many theories. It is always the most fun when the reader can participate in the telling of the story.


animal-animal-photography-barn-owl-105810.jpg

Tyler Connolly

Tyler Connolly is a second year student in the Professional Writing program at Algonquin College. He is passionate about fantastical stories of any form. A lot of his time is spent thinking about how little time he has. He is also quite fond of Owls and Foxes.

Making a Magic System

abstract-art-burnt-266429.jpg

Catalyst or Tools?

The first thing you may want to consider is whether or not you want your magic to work with a catalyst. Do they need some kind of wand or spell book, or various herbs and tincture for the magic to activate? Then there is also the case where none of those things are needed, and the magic can be regarded as something the character just has and can do, much like a superpower.

Of course, if this is the case, it may be better to limit the powers a character can use in some way. For example, limit their use to once a day, or only controlling fire. Naturally, some limitations are always necessary in order to balance your world. Catalyst limitation could be the lack of available wands, or that one has to copy a large amount of information into a spell book. It could also take lots of time to cast the spells or brew ingredients.

Spell Words

Something else to consider is if you want spell words or not. Spell words add a little more mysticism to your world, as wizards have to speak in long forgotten tongues that change the very world around them. On the other hand, spell words can also be a little nonsense: for example, “bibity bobity boo”. And sometimes you can walk the line between both by making spell words necessary, but also making it possible to learn how to cast spells without words. The actual words can be based on a real language, or just be words spoken with the right power and a wand in hand. If you want to take it a step farther you can make your own language… but that has many problems of its own.

Effects on the World

Another thing you should consider is what kind of environmental damage your magic can do. For example, if they throw a fire ball, how hot is it? When it hits, will it explode or just burn? Will it burn anything around your target, or is the magical effect to just burn the opponent? Alternatively, do spells last? And how long? If you turn a tree into a wall, is it forever that way or just for a specific time frame? Leaving the effect around could also add an interesting element to your world and allow you to create locations that have been permanently warped by magic for some purpose. For example, as a defense against some kind of monster or enemy that no normal army could stand against, or as a hidden safe haven for a number of small magical creatures.


20180925_174814.jpg

Nick Rakowski

Nick is a second-year student in Algonquin College’s Professional Writing program. He is an avid reader and writer, and can usually be found hiding in a book. He likes rock music and fantasy books, and one day hopes to publish his own work.


Who Are The Forgotten Characters?

In every work, there is a setting. The place where the characters are, whether they are in an endless void or the main coffee shop in their town. In many cases, there is more than one setting that the characters go through and in many of them, there are “extras”. These are characters that are a part of the setting: the characters that are normally dismissed.

Image Courtesy of Pexels.com

Image Courtesy of Pexels.com

When you, the creator, make a character walk into a busy restaurant, how are they told to wait in line? Who is waiting in line in front of them, or behind them? Who brings them their meals and drinks? Who sits around them but aren’t interacting with them? These people are placed in the settings to create the full effect of the place — because you can’t have a busy restaurant without the busyness that the people make.

When creating a world for your story or novel, you have to think about the people within the background that we take for granted most days. The people that your character, at some point, has to interact with so they may follow the rest of your plot-line.

These characters are a part of the setting, so you don’t have to build them in the same way you would for your main characters, but you should describe them to some extent. What are they wearing? What are they doing there?

This extra look at the setting and the people within it will help you have more of a sense of what to describe when your main characters first come into contact with the place.

Image Courtesy of Pexels.com

Image Courtesy of Pexels.com

On the other hand, you don’t have to describe every character in the setting, but it is your choice on how far you want to go. I would suggest focusing on the extras that will interact with your main characters in some way, such as waiters, bartenders or porters.

Overall, creating a setting is not limited to objects and backgrounds incorporated in the environment, it also includes the people within it. Those that are a part of the place. Those that are just there, never really part of the plot.

The Forgotten Characters.


Image-1 (1).jpg

Marli Jago

Marli is an aspiring writer in the Professional Writing Program. On the off chance that she isn’t writing, she is playing card games, reading, or hanging out at the nearest Tim Horton’s with her friends.


Five Aspects to Consider When Building a Settlement

IMAGE COURTESY OF PEXELS.COM

IMAGE COURTESY OF PEXELS.COM

Whether it be a corporate-owned statelet in a dystopian future or a small and homely farming village in a high fantasy setting, settlements can serve as a good way to start when one wants to begin building a world. But starting such a process is never so simple, and writers might find themselves struggling. Have no fear, for this short and sweet list is here to help, with suggestions and examples to spare!

  1. The Settlement’s History.

    Before a writer can focus on the present day affairs of a settlement, they should start with building up its history. How was it founded? Is this a new settlement, or one whose roots were set long ago? How far the writer goes into these details is completely up to them, but building up a settlement’s past can lead to some interesting story hooks for the future!

  2. How the Settlement is Governed.

    Another aspect to focus on is how your settlement goes about governing itself. Maybe the government isn’t located out in the open, but rather underground - where a dangerous guild of thieves pulls the strings. Perhaps you’d prefer a totalitarian king and his noble family grinding their heel into the common folk. Does your government impose a curfew? Do soldiers march up and down the streets because people are unhappy with how things are run? The list goes on, but as you continue to build up your ideas, consider how heavily the government influences your settlement.

  3. Where your Settlement is Located.

    Location is an important cornerstone for any settlement, as it can help an author determine its culture. Maybe it’s a series of intertwining tunnels carved out of the side of an active volcano, or perhaps your sci-fi story takes place inside a large colony-ship drifting through space.

  4. Your Settlement’s Resources.

    How loaded is your settlement? Do they have a bountiful amount of material wealth and live everyday as if there were blue skies? Or do people scrounge around and engage in seedy activities because supplies are scarce? Maybe whoever founded this settlement didn’t build near enough natural resources, and now they have to turn to their neighbours to make due. Speaking of which...

  5. Settlement’s Relationship with Neighbours.

    Is your city at war? No? Phew, good to hear, but remember some settlements might be! Regardless of the reason, having settlements with a patchy relationship could make for an interesting story. That being said, other settlements have completely peaceful relationships, engaging in lucrative trade and maybe even arranging marriages. The motivations behind “why” is secondary and totally up to you, but stop to consider how your settlement might interact with others.


IMG_6231.PNG

Daniel Neubauer

Daniel is a second-year student of the Professional Writing Program at Algonquin College with a terrible sense of humour and an interest in all sorts of music. Whether it be due to raw talent or absolute dumb luck, he’s somehow made it this far and is ready to subject more unsuspecting students to his opinions.

Introduction

Welcome to Maps of the Imagination! This blog has five Professional Writing students taking you through the world of...well, worldbuilding! From suggestions on what you might want to cover when working on your ideas to analyzing what makes some of the most popular works of  fiction so compelling, Maps of the Imagination is here to help you chart a course to your own fictional world.