Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Towards a Farthing Party con report: Worldbuilding and Writing Funny

Building Fantasy Worlds. Cuvier was quoted as saying that he could deduce an animal from a single bone. This, the panelist noted, was not guaranteed to get you the right animal, but the deductions Cuvier made were fascinating and detailed–which can be a lot more important in worldbuilding. Other panelists agreed with the “single bone” theory of worldbuilding, starting with something so small as a single word, or with an image or a cool concept. Start with fun! Sometimes things get unfun later, but starting with the unfun guarantees you unfun. For most of the people on the panel, the emotional expression in worldbuilding was a target rather than a starting point or the only point. Unintended consequences are awesome but also inconvenient.

In worldbuilding as opposed to mimetic fiction, small error can have unintended ramifications–if someone says that Napoleon is still ruling France in 1817, in mimetic fiction they’re just wrong, but in speculative fiction they’re giving you information about an alternate world–so get good fact-checkers so that you’re not misleading readers who know more about various things than you do. Or write such fun stuff that the more knowledgeable readers are willing to go on with it; this is less reliable than good fact-checkers. However, the willing suspension of disbelief can in some outstanding cases move into the willing construction of a lattice to hold up disbelief.

No one on the panel did all their worldbuilding explicitly before starting to write, but more than one person felt that the details were implied in what they knew before they started, if not spelled out. Broad intersections were encouraged, as were leaning on history and knowing the metaphysics of the world you’re building. No one used all of Patricia Wrede’s worldbuilding questions, but they can be useful individual jumping-off points rather than exhaustive complete surveys. One of the hardest parts of worldbuilding was agreed to be getting really into really foreign mindsets, such as the idea that Plato had literally no notion of progress, or even of things being different over a thousand years. Shifting one’s brain around to apt characterization of that sort is hard and fun.

You Write Funny: The Process Panel. I am going to use first initials since I don’t know who is all right with being quoted, and it was a very personal-context panel. I do think it’s important for people to be exposed to different styles of work, though, because I have run into any number of people who have said that I introduced them to something like writing out of order and in some sense gave them “permission”–this is of course a nine-and-sixty ways sort of thing. If you are one of these writers and do not want to identify yourself in comments but feel that I have mistaken something you said, please let me know on e-mail, and I will correct it.

T needs silence to work. She thinks in freewriting. Her freewrites go into narrative gradually, changing tense and acquiring dialog and other narrative characteristics from previously being “talking” to herself in writing about the characters. She has a target last scene but works at a deliberate pace up to the end. She does not conceive of her characters as interactive and uses the “talking to herself” mode to bounce things off–any resistance is intrapersonal, not character dialog.

A also needs silence to work. She describes her method as organic and composting, going into notebooks and talking to herself therein also. She shoots down her own ideas and builds up better ones, although this behavior is more pronounced at the beginning. She almost always finds that when she gets to the end, the beginning is misaligned and must be rewritten. A’s characters stick around rattling around her head until the next lot take over.

L writes in coffeeshops to do the emotionally wrenching bits: the noise and distraction of people can be useful. L is a kinesthetic writer who uses a blown glass metaphor. L translates those blown glass shapes into a prose rhythm, which gives what’s needed for going forward, but then must go back and see what was foreshadowed earlier. This makes the prose style intrinsic to the substance of the book. The endings become more polished, more formal, and more informed thereby. L finds revising the fun bit and does not do outlines. L rarely writes short stories and does them in one draft. L’s characters’ known lives end with the book.

J gets a pointless feel from outlining, as though she’s already told the story at that point and does not feel any additional urge to do it more. She gets much faster towards the end of a book and often has to rewrite, which she said she enjoyed, but she does that on the go rather than in separate drafts. Her least favorite part about finishing books is not spending more time with these people. She knows what her characters are like at all ages up to their death, and they will sometimes argue or volunteer for books they are not already in.

D feels like the last 50-100 pages are like packing a suitcase for a trip while the cabbie honks outside–she works with a writing partner and gets him to do the outlines, and then strings cool/interesting things along them, knowing the gestalt in advance but not the details of the story. She does, however, know worldbuilding details, often with footnotes. She used to use 3×5 cards but has switched to Scrivener. She feels that short stories are more linear and have only room for one thing.

Tags: cons

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