Kitty's Writing Toolbox

More fiddly bits! Along with a few details you may have put off addressing because they were so tiny; well, now's the time to go back and address them!

31. Names
32. Progress Check
33. Influence
34. Prejudice
35. Youth
31. Name everything

Name the fuck out of everything. EVERYTHING. (This will probably also be a breather because not EVERYTHING needs to have a different name, you just need to decide whether or not it will.) Go through your outline and decide what this, that, or the other is named. Then go through your notes and decide what this, that, or the other is named. This will prevent you from going back later and flailing because you forgot that you had a city over there with no name and no way for people to refer to it in the story. Keep in mind that "the City" is perfectly acceptable, so long as in-text you make sure to have all your characters treat the same city in the same way, so that there is no ambiguity as to where your characters are referring to/going.
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32. Check your scope again

Check your scope again. Do you need to go further out? Further in? (We'll start with further in.) If you need to go further in, now is where you want to do it. You have a pretty good starting point for the world you're creating so far, now take a bit and read your notes and your outline. What areas seem a little thin? You can expand in all sorts of ways, you can put in more side characters, friends, co-workers, fellow hobbyists, fellow faction members, people who share one category or another with both your protagonists and antagonists. You can include more setting description, you can stretch out the travel time to either give your characters more introspection or more setting description or both.

If you need to go further out, expand your scope, you'll need more character profiles. You'll need more locations, and you'll need a purpose for every extra detail you add. This will likely involve more poking at your outline than your world notes. If there are points you feel you need to make but haven't been, details in your world bible you want to flesh out but don't have room for in your outline, character aspects or dilemmas you want to explore more closely, or global ramifications to character actions. First, expand your outline. Then go through each section of your world bible so far, point for point, and expand your section accordingly. Geography, socio/economic data, factions, skillsets, etc.

One thing I would be very careful about doing at this point, although it's not directly related to the process of world-building, is I would be very careful about adding another sub-plot to your outline. If you do that, you'll have to go back from the beginning and make sure all of these questions are answered for all the new locations and characters you'll be meeting, and it'll be labor intensive and possibly throw a lot of things out of whack. If you think you're going to do that, though, here would be a good place to do it.

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33. List the influences on your character.

On a piece of scratch paper, go through your character section for each character and list off every person, place, or event that had a strong influence on your main characters both protagonist and antagonist. You might even want to separate them that way, as persons, places, or events. This will require a lot of cross-checking all over the place, so definitely use scratch paper. With each influence, add in a couple of sentences explaining how and why.

When you're done with this you'll need to do two things, not necessarily in this order. You'll need to summarize these influences on your character in a brief biography. Make it about a page or two, and start from the earliest point in your character's history you can think of, tracing the events in his or her life from inception to the start of the novel. Remember to add in details like where they learned their profession, when they picked up their hobbies, when they met their friends. Mark off notes in your timeline when specific events happened in your character's past, and this will also help you refresh on what kind of events your character might have been reacting to.

The second thing you'll need to do is go back over these persons and places and shuffle them into your character and setting sections, respectively, if they're not already in there. Flesh out each person influence with at a minimum a seven or so sentence paragraph on how they have interacted with the character you were working on. You can also go back and do most to all of the character exercises in this Leviathan. Then do the same for the places. You might want to locate them on the map or they might already be there, in which case you might want to add in a few more lines of description.

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34. Study your cultural biases.

We have a lot of terms for the ways people interact with and treat each other. Familiar, impersonal, aloof. Racist, sexist, ageist, ableist, classist. Gay panic, transphobia, misogyny, white guilt, whether positive or negative there are a lot of terms for how we feel about each other as an individual about groups. Let me repeat that last part, as an individual about groups. Once you get to know a person on a one-on-one level it's harder to piece out what part of your reactions are to the individual and what part are to a group or classification to which that individual belongs.

So. There are two places where the prejudices of your work's population will come into play. The first is in the outline. Go through it, looking at all the places where people interact. Look at the people interacting and put yourself in each character's shoes. Do they share a trait with the other people in the scene? How do they feel about traits they don't share? Are these feelings, either the in-group ones or the out-group ones, strong enough to affect how that character behaves? If so, is there a term in the society for this? Is this term shared throughout all parts of the societies touched on in the novel or are there other terms? Jot down at least five and at most twenty phrases, with a couple sentences of description, based on what you find in your outline. For example: . This will go under culture.

Next, go through your character sheet and look at both the feelings your characters have about other people in their lives and their similarities and differences, and the feelings your characters have about other people's perceptions of them. The questions will be similar, but you might find one or two other terms you hadn't encountered before. Add in the ones you didn't find in your outline under culture.

Finally, go back and jot down in your outline a one-sentence note for each encounter in which prejudice is a factor, just to remind yourself later. (And when you're hitting those blocks, you might be glad of that note, too!) Go back to your character sheets and summarize the attitudes your character gives out and receives, with a line or two added to each influence on your character's life, how this factored into it. Leave out the ones where it wasn't a discernible factor, of course.

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35. Create your characters' youth and childhood, their life story

You have where your character is now, and it's time to organize this a little better and figure out where your character came from. Go through all the information and straighten it out into a timeline. You can either rewrite your original information so that everything is laid out in chronological order or create a separate document for the timeline.

Once you have all the backgrounds for your main characters, use the very rough progression of a life in this world you're building to create a series of three or four templates for what is the standard of normality. These templates don't have to be of a specific person with a name and a family history, more like a series of experiences, rites of passage, and expectations of a person as they age in the society you're creating. There might be greater or fewer of these, depending again on the scope of your novel and how many different societies you'll be dealing with. Your character specific information goes in your character section, but the general information on a more normative childhood goes in culture.

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