I just have a big picture and don't know where to go from here. Any tips?
Well, the first question should probably be: why are you doing this?
I don't mean that sarcastically/aggressively. Conworlding is a hugely open-ended project, with no real standards to judge not only quality but even progress or completion. If you're not driven in a particular direction with it, it's worth bearing in mind: what are you really aiming to produce here? That can shape how you proceed.
Here's some suggestions:
- you want to create a conlang; the world is just there to provide cultural background
- you want to create other cultural artifacts (music, poems, art, etc), and you need the world for background
- you want to create a webpage, article, chapter, etc, presenting a general idea of an interesting setting for others to build on or be inspired by
- you want to create an introduction suitable to let the world be used as the setting for an RPG or other game or activity
- you want to create an encyclopaedia of a conculture
- you want to write a novel and need somewhere to set it
I'm not saying you have to have only one project in mind, or that you can't switch projects - but if you have writer's block, having a specific project in mind can help you focus on one thing, or one style, and avoid being overwhelmed by possibilities.
Note that different projects often suggest different styles of approach. Let's imagine you're writing about Middle-Earth. If you're creating Middle-Earth as background for a complete description of Gondorian culture and society, then you're going to have to go into a lot of detail about Gondor... but you can ignore most of the rest of the world, and have only a slight, passing awareness of ancient history and elves and whatnot. On the other hand, if you're presenting it as an RPG setting, you don't need much detail at all - you need a big-picture overview of geopolitical relations, and some catchy hooks to identify each culture and possible adventure area. If you're writing a novel, I'd suggest only a very vague outline of the world as a whole (too much detail can cramp your imagination for the story itself), but then a relatively detailed focus on the specific area your protagonist comes from, to create some verissimilitude for the protagonist - and then move on to think about other regions as you get there.
Whereas if you just want to write a brief intro to Middle-Earth as a concept, you're going to focus on the things that make it unique, and you're going to take a very wide-angle look - you're going to talk about the creation of Ea by Illuvatar, and weird things like the world having been flat but then being remade into a ball - which you almost certainly don't have to mention in a novel! The less fantastical version of this is often talking about things like orbits and moons and stuff like that.
And my second question would be: why do you care?
Again, not sarcastic. What you've presented so far is very minimal (unsurprisingly, for a beginning). Most people reading it will shrug and move on. But you personally want to write more about this world. Why?
I tend to find, whether it's a conworld or a story, I have a kind of 'image' of the thing - not necessarily visual, sometimes more a feeling. I write more about it (or more often: think more, intend to write it up, get distracted) because something about that image hooks me - there's something there I want to explore. It can be a moment, a fear, a dynamic, a visual image... something.
Let's imagine Middle-Earth again. Let's imagine we've invented a very vague idea of middle-earth (or have heard a vague idea of it and want to write fanfic!). What makes us carry on with this world rather than any other? There's got to be a hook of some kind. Maybe it's: the Shire is a buccolic idyll, like England before the War; but its inhabitants don't realise that it is encircled by incredible darkness, ancient and almost unstoppable, and posed to destroy it. Maybe it's: Gondor is a warrior kingdom created to keep watch on the Dark Lord; but the Dark Lord seems to be gone, and the kings have gone away too. Maybe it's the feeling of being lost in the dark, mossy woods and having the creeping fear that you can see the trees starting to move out of the corner of your eye. Maybe it's the sadness that a great power and beauty has passed from the world, and the world is now dreary and mass-produced and normal... and yet, at the same time, safer and more comfortable as a result. Maybe it's just the idea of a lonely mountain in a desolate waste, inhabited only by a dragon and memories, and an intrepid band of refugees who want to rebuild what was lost, despite having no apparent way to do so.
As these suggestions indicate, you don't need to have only one hook (indeed, because LOTR has had relatively little editing, you can almost feel the clunks as Tolkien realises a new idea is more interesting to him). But it helps, in getting started, to have one thing, one dynamic, one image, that really calls to you, that you want to explore. Find out what it is!
LinguoFranco wrote: ↑08 Sep 2020 05:25
So, I'm stuck with my setting. It is science fantasy.
Magic exists in the setting, but it is an untamed and unpredictable force, so phenomena such as magic storms are common. Civilization occurs in areas without as much magical activity.
Is it science fantasy? At the moment, I'm not sure it's either science or fantasy. On the one hand, if it's not future tech, how is it 'science'? On the othe hand, if "magic" is unusable and just creates storms, is it really fantasy at all? Is it really magic, rather than some sort of ion storm?
What is 'magic' in this world? What is a 'magic storm'? Do bunnies pop out of the air? Is it just big lightning bolts? Or is it a jumbled terrain in which the space-time continuum is knotted up?
And the people on this world. So far, we just know that they have some sort of technology level, we don't know which, and they live in places where there isn't any magic. You may need to be more specific!
Since the magic storm zones are the only solid thing so far, maybe ask more questions about them. Specifically, what is the relationship between the magic and the people? Do they avoid it, try vainly to harness it, run in terror from it? Worship it? Theorise about it?
Here's three images:
- a scientist in a tower, with a telescope and an array of strange mechanisms, measures from a safe distance some aspect of a magic storm, in order to write his groundbreaking new paper for the Society
- a priest bows before a magic storm, performing ancient rituals to placate it - even though he doesn't understand it and knows his rituals are probably useless. Nonetheless, the fact that he cannot understand or control the magic is why he worships it, the one incomprehensible thing in an otherwise orderly and dull society
- a farmer sees a magic storm coming, and is consumed by terror. Knowing he doesn't have time to bring his family to safety, he lets his animals out of their byres, hoping desparately that they will run for their lives, and shelters with his family in a deep cellar cut into the rock, surrounded by warding iron - not knowing if they will survive a direct hit, not knowing if their house will be destroyed, hoping they will not end up as more of the ragged storm-refugees who line the streets of the local city, begging.
All three images are possible responses to the idea 'magic storm'. All of them answer the question: how do people interact with this phenomenon? And of course, a complex world might well have room for all three images in it! But it can help to pick one image and use that as your lens into this world, your viewpoint. And which viewpoint you choose - whether you think of this as a world of terrified refugees, or of fascinated academics - can substantially shape how you develop the world, both in the features you give it to make that image more vivid, and in what you choose to write about and what you choose to ignore...