Category Archives: Worldbuilding

Why I Wrote It – News, Media, and Worldbuilding

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr. Find out more at my newsletter.)

Why would I do an entire book on news and worldbuilding? Because I was (and am) pissed off at people misunderstanding the importance of news in fiction and life. We’re not talking about my most noble of goals, but it led to a good book.

When I wrote this book in 2019 people were waking up to the impact of disinformation, news-as-propaganda, and internet bullshit. Many people wished this had happened much earlier because plenty of people sounded the alarm, but at least there was an alarm. I was one of the people wishing this had happened a hell of a lot earlier because, look, it is evident that people are tragically deceived between networks like Fox and internet propaganda.

Of course, when I think about real-life issues, I start asking how these issues are portrayed in fiction because it’s what I do.

I realized quickly that fictional settings rarely deal with the questions of how news works. Sure we sometimes get great things like Sir Pratchett’s The Truth, or maybe a reporter character, but I couldn’t recall anything that stood out beyond that. It was time to do two things:

One, keep doing my political activism.

Two, write a damn book on worldbuilding and news.

If that seems petty, it was – I was annoyed and wanted catharsis. However, there were two benevolent motivations:

  • Fiction is a tool to help us understand the world, to think, and imagine. If people who were worldbuilding thought about news, their stories would in turn, make the audience think. Plus, we might get more cool stories out of it.
  • Those reading this book would also think about news and media in general and become more thoughtful. Worldbuilding is very educational, very thought-provoking, and I view it as a form of personal growth.

It was time to write a book on news and worldbuilding – which was also easy.

Remember when I said this age of disinformation got to me? I’ve been a news junkie since I was in my early 20s; I was the guy buying the newspaper in college and turning on 24/7 news on my radio at work. My career in IT has been dependent on information, reporting, and data. You can see why I was annoyed – and that I had a great foundation to write another worldbuilding book.

Yes, some of it felt good to get out.

The result is a pretty good worldbuilding book. It’s got some great questions, some thought-provoking bits, and comes from both the heart and experience. Definitely, one I’d put as high up in my collection because it dealt with something that wasn’t typical to worldbuilding coaching.

It’s also a reminder that a mix of irritation and personal experience is a surprisingly solid start for a book.

Steven Savage

The World And The Story

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Special thanks to Serdar for inspiring me to write more on my experience’s guts with one of his latest columns.

“Oh no, not another learning experience,” reads many a t-shirt, coffee cup, sticker, and almost assuredly a few tattoos. Writing means one is always learning, and I view every book as a learning experience. My current book, A School of Many Futures, has been exceptionally informative.

My latest finding? I saw how worldbuilding and story could work together – and conflict.

For those unfamiliar with my return to fiction, ASOMF, as I call it, is a sequel to my techno-fantasy novel A Bridge To The Quiet Planet. The first novel was fun – “a romp,” as one person put it – but also my first fiction piece in awhile. I want to keep growing – and ASOMF taught me a valuable lesson about how worlds and stories interact.

ASOMF takes place in a very “built” world – that’s how I operate. It has politics and economics, sorcery and gods, technology and culture. I like worldbuilding, and believe it makes good stories and better authors. But I also know one can go overboard with showing off worldbuilding.

A list of facts and places is not a story in most cases – but that detail matters as it brings the world to life.

ASOMF also involved me diving deeper into making stories compelling – better structure, better flow, and so on. The previous book had pacing issues, and I wanted to keep it snappy and compelling (Knives Out was a major influence). But my story was also hip-deep in detail, giving it meaning, and I didn’t want to follow some common plot structure and lose the heart.

Just because you follow good writing rules doesn’t mean the story is meaningful – but good fiction writing helps people come into your world.

There’s my challenge – and yours in a worldbuilding-heavy story. What fits the world may be hard to put into a compelling story. What fits good storytelling may not reveal the heart of the world.

I realized that the two of them should work together, and neither dominates the other. A few things I can share:

One.  What made a good pace for fiction did not help explore the setting deeper. I added an entire chapter that enriched the story – and got exciting with a few useful storytelling techniques.

Two.  Some parts of the story weren’t compelling. My worldbuilding gave me options to tweak the story to make it more interesting. Changing one minor character’s motivation to another equally likely reason made the story much better – and you only see this character three times.

Three.  Writing-wise, a part of an arc lacked a particular “identity” – there was a lack of emotional resonance. A review of my characters’ viewpoints helped me find a view that made the arc compelling and brought everything into perspective.

Four. A general structure I aimed for was each chapter should have an arc to keep people interested. That meant thinking and rethinking when chapters ended and what was revealed. I had to ask what mattered to start a chapter, what mattered to end it, and what meant something to people.

Good writing and good worldbuilding should support each other. It may mean not showing something in your world as it does nothing. It may be going deeper into your world. But don’t view them as in conflict.

Steven Savage

Why I Wrote It: Fashion And Worldbuilding

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Clothes are something people need to think about. I fell down a well-dressed rabbit hole, and I had to share it with people, so I wrote a book about it.

So “Fashion and Worldbuilding” is today’s subject, my book on the role of fashion in setting development. I didn’t mean high fashion, but more clothes and ornamentation and uniforms, all the things we’re used to. Well, used to until you design a new setting – like I did.

When I was working on A Bridge To The Quiet Planet, my techno-fantasy adventure, fashion quickly came into play. Thinking over a space-age world rooted in what is basically a JRPG/mid-level fantasy setting requires you to think about clothes in fantasy worlds. Uniforms and holy outfits, flowing robes and enchanted armors, all require you to ask why do people dress this way? Then you have to ask how did this translate to a modern world?

I had a lot about fashion and clothes.

You’ve got over-organized sorceress Marigold Rel-Domau, a sorceress who is legally required to dress in Guild robes to show she’s a walking weapon. Cleric Beacon Rindle is expected to wear the colors and symbols of his goddess who might send him emails to remind him. A long-suffering team of Military specialists have to dive in and out of “Military Blue” depending on how undercover they’re hoping they’re being. Fashion became important.

So I of course realized it was time to write a book. I’d thought about clothes and fashion in worldbuilding, but not like this. In turn, I then realized how many times fashion had affected my life, my writing, or come up in both fiction and the real world. I’d thought about this alot over the years, from game design to watching Tim Gunn analyze comic book superheroes.

In the end? A book came out of it, turning my own experiences into helpful coaching questions.

A lesson for me here is that you may need a more visceral, hands-on experience to create something. These experiences don’t just inform you or make you aware, they also collect thoughts and experiences to let you write. You might be surprised what you know and what you’ve thought of and what you can do – once you have the right experience.

Steven Savage