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First! Some thoughts on world-building and hole-punching

One of the best things for me to do with a story idea is to bring it to someone else who isn't as close to it as me, and have them smash it with a hammer.

Seriously.  If you have never done this, I'd like you to consider how violent creation can be.  Sculpture is an easy example, writing can be a bit trickier to think about.

We start with a big idea!  It's amazing and awesome and we want to talk all our friends ears off about it!  And we think it would make an amazing story!  So we sit down and start writing!  BUT!  It's more challenging than we thought :\  There are bits that don't make sense with the rest of the story and conflicting logic, so we get depressed.  This isn't fun anymore.  We give up.


We pick up our chisels and tap off the bits that are hindering us.  We let go of some of our favorite things that are "so cool," but don't work in this story.  It's painful.  It makes us question ourselves as artists.  There is a lot of doubt.  But at the end, it is absolutely worth it.  Our story is stronger than we thought, even at the beginning.  And we are more excited.

So let's go back to the big, dumb question:  why do we make art?  My go-to answer:  to communicate.  And if all the wrapping on my present to you is keeping you from experiencing the gift within, then by all means, let's tear it off!

I usually run ideas by my husband, who is extremely good with the ramifications of ideas.  For example, which would be more important to a people group in the long-run:  having something to sustain your bodies, or being able to do what you want with your bodies?  So, food or free-will?

This week, I sent an overview of my world, magic system, classes, and a little about the plot to a D&D (Dungeons and Dragons, a role playing game for you uninitiated) group that I know.  If you are writing science fiction or fantasy, this is a great way to break off the clumsy pieces of your world and get you to fully consider what your ideas signify for your story.  Full disclosure, this was recommended by Brandon Sanderson on his Writing Excuses podcast.  So far, I have gotten feedback that both challenges my preconceptions about my world and feedback that gives me entire new directions to take the story if I wanted to write further than the plot I have outlined.  This is also a great way to "test the field" as it were, because if you are writing sci fi or fantasy, people that play D&D are going to be in your target audience.

So, what are your thoughts?  How do you narrow down or expand an idea to take it from good to great?


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