Tuesday, December 19, 2017

SiWC 2016 Workshop #6 Worldbuilding

Daniel Jose Older

‘Story’, Robert Mckee, great book for structure

(this workshop is from a Skillshare class he’s speaking from, Google it)

Narrative fundamentals:

Writing is creating, editing is destroying, know the difference.

Why do we put down a book? We probably weight them all differently, but these are the four major ones.


-> Have to have wants/needs (Hamlet, wants clarity, even if he doesn’t really do anything until the end, there’s a lot going on in the peripheral to keep us as a reader entertained), this is what drives the conflict which leads to crisis. Why is THIS the day that changed or is different from all other days? Where is the crisis (the turning point)

->Have to be empathetic -> we have to connect to them, not put them (sympathy), have humanity 


Context (no context would be a white room situation)


Overwriting comes from insecurity, in ourselves as writers most of all, and in the reader, that they aren’t smart enough so we need to keep explaining.

Think of it as having a great conversation, not having to show off. If you’re too caught up in writing that ‘great’ book, you probably will not write any book. Just tell what happened, tell the story.

*If you’re going to flashback, it has to have all the same elements, be just as urgent, have its own arc/etc, as the present timeline. It has to serve a purpose, push forward a moment in the present tense that we don’t really understand so we can move forward. They have to be a conversation, not separate monologues.

How do you know a neighbourhood is in the process of gentrification?

boarded up houses next to new towers
crap cars next to luxury SUVs
the 7-11 switching over to a luxury organic food store
white lady joggers and street people

Who determines this change?

Banks (finance/mortgages/red-lining)
Homeowners Associations
NotInMyBackYard -> institutional power - criminal justice system
Non profits (because they’re dependent on grants/investors) ‘cleaning up the streets’, sometimes they’re doing the most damage because they think they know better (saviour’s complex)
NY PD will arrest a black man in his own building as a ‘trespasser’, pushing the idea he doesn’t belong

Neighbourhood names change, often pushed by realtors & developers, to appeal to white & wealthy

‘The Foot analysis’ -> analyzing what is kicking the ass of certain neighborhoods, displacement, disregard for POC or marginalized groups.

The gentrification example is one map of power, institutionalized power. Where are the sources of power in a neighbourhood, how to their interact with each other, what are the relationships? Those are all different power maps of the same neighbourhood.

So, what’s the power map of your world? How does power work, how does it play out over the landscape? this gives you opportunity, you don’t want your characters to just float through their world, you want them interacting, sticking, detouring, etc. No straight lines. This is harmony. How all the parts work together. How it works over time, because everything changes… how have the power dynamics change over time, or how have they changed?

Setting is place + time, and when you add power, THAT’S context.

You can keep the power dynamic of something, and set it in a complete different time/place. 

How the politics work, that shapes your world more than almost anything else, the power balances.  You have to be intentional, otherwise you’re just towing the line and continuing to marginalize groups that are already marginalized.

Now, take your character and approach this power dynamic map from your MC’s emotional point of view.


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Type me out a line of Shakespeare or a line of nonsense. Dumb-blonde-jokes & Irish jokes will make me laugh myself silly :)