Having trouble with world building

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Having trouble with world building

#1 Post by MaskedVillain » Sat Oct 07, 2017 5:51 am

I'm thinking of expanding this idea I've had and turning it into a vn. unfortunately, I can't figure out a certain aspect of the storyline.

The story is about a human girl who becomes suspicious of her small town after a series of disappearances happen. She decides to figure out the mystery by secretly investigating one of the town's oddballs (which person she chooses is up to the player) and finds out that they're not human, but actually a member of a species long forgotten by modern society. Basically, they are a "hidden" species that lives in harmony with nature and prefers not to let their existence be known. My questions are: why and how would they keep their species a secret from humans? Every reason I can think of is cliché and uninteresting.

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Re: Having trouble with world building

#2 Post by PMscenarios » Sat Oct 07, 2017 9:25 am

I was actually just working on a draft about world building yesterday, so here's sort of an abridged version for your world.

One of the most important things you can do is establish the world your story exists in - the rules and lay of the land that have molded and influenced the slice of the world you're writing about.
From your description you seem to be doing a modern day fantasy with a small town mentality - is this for all intent and purposes part of our society and earth?(and if so, in which country is it placed?) - Does other fantasy species hide in other places of the world or is it only your species?
Then you need to know your protag's place in the village - her status, relationship to others (the smaller the town, the closer the community) - who is she?

Usually a writer can almost automatically answer questions like these, even without having consciously thought about it before bc they have a view of their world and their character in their head. But for extraordinary settings especially, the more building you do -outside- your story - setting description, time line, character backgrounds, architecture..- the deeper and more alive your world becomes. And remember, any outside establishing can always be changed and molded as your story develops.

When you know your setting and your character then you ask yourself the million-dollar question:
Why do they need to hide?
Then you can define who they are - what their powers/abilities are, how they've stayed hidden, etc. When you know your conflict you also know your characters' motivation.

The biggest mistake a new writer makes - is try to be original. There are no original stories. There are no unique plot elements that have never been done before. Then why write? Bc the one thing that is original - is you. How you write the story, how you build elements and create a world from many different influences, including your own experiences - that's what will make your story unique. Don't try to write the next "Lord of the Rings", "Harry Potter" or even "Twilight" - write the story you wanna read, no matter how "cliched" or "unoriginal" it feels.
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Re: Having trouble with world building

#3 Post by gekiganwing » Sat Oct 07, 2017 10:13 am

MaskedVillain wrote:
Sat Oct 07, 2017 5:51 am
Basically, they are a "hidden" species that lives in harmony with nature and prefers not to let their existence be known. My questions are: why and how would they keep their species a secret from humans? Every reason I can think of is cliché and uninteresting.
A couple possibilities:

1. The hidden creatures are unusually strong or agile. They have trouble relating to people because they routinely break things.
2. The hidden creatures have short life spans. Maybe they reach maturity within a year, and rarely live past age five. This makes it challenging to interact with humans.
3. The hidden creatures' existence was deemed heretical. But that was centuries ago, and now only a few believers still insist that only humans can be intelligent.

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Re: Having trouble with world building

#4 Post by TheJerminator15 » Sat Oct 07, 2017 2:18 pm

I think the first question you should have is, what is the history of your world? Does it follow the same history as our world? If so, you can use worldwide events such as the world wars to explain that those incredibly destructive events either inadvertently killed many of the species in question, or a lot of the written knowledge relating to the existence of them. Then, as the already limited knowledge base dwindled further, their existence was reduced to mere rumours. It's an example based off the lore of my own project, but you could take it in a far different direction.

But even that explanation doesn't explain the big question PMscenarios asks, why do they need to hide? If they are supernatural existences, then in all likelihood at least one of them would be superior to a human, which then begs the question of why their existence is hidden anyway and why they don't just take over the human populace.

Honestly, you don't even always have to answer these questions. Is it integral to the plot, or does it merely add flavour and expand the world? If it's a small town supernatural mystery, focus more on the mystery and the character's motives and conflicts than creating an expansive world for example. Write the story you want to, but always make sure to properly prioritise your writing based on what you are trying to convey. If it's a game about dating these people or trying to find out why they committed such actions, such extensive world building may not be necessary.

Another question I have to ask, why is it purely the oddballs that are the creatures? Are all the creature simply incapable of properly integrating into human society? Or do they do it out of a purely stubborn pride. If one species is excessively prideful, that could shine through in the character's personality rather than you expositioning the traits of the species as a whole to the audience.
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Re: Having trouble with world building

#5 Post by MaskedVillain » Sat Oct 07, 2017 5:59 pm

TheJerminator15 wrote:
Sat Oct 07, 2017 2:18 pm
I think the first question you should have is, what is the history of your world? Does it follow the same history as our world? If so, you can use worldwide events such as the world wars to explain that those incredibly destructive events either inadvertently killed many of the species in question, or a lot of the written knowledge relating to the existence of them.
The history of the world is the same as our world. However when I think of my species being involved in a war, I can't imagine they'd allow the humans to destroy their home. They are deeply connected to nature and their gods (who have granted them their supernatural abilities). However, I feel like their connection to their gods would also make the majority of them less likely to engage in war with the humans. There's also the fact that humans have developed weapons that put them on almost an equal standing as my species, so if they got into war it would jeopardize everything. So here's the dilemma I'm facing: if they get engaged in a war their existence would become known and their home might be destroyed through war, but if they don't intervene the humans would slowly destroy their home. Should I make it so their home is protected by some kind of magic that confuses humans? I don't know if that's such a great idea because they don't have magic like that. their magic is related to nature and animals.
But even that explanation doesn't explain the big question PMscenarios asks, why do they need to hide? If they are supernatural existences, then in all likelihood at least one of them would be superior to a human, which then begs the question of why their existence is hidden anyway and why they don't just take over the human populace.
They definitely need to be hidden or it wouldn't be much of a mystery anymore. And if the humans knew of their existence, they would definitely blame the disappearances on them and try to kill/dominate them.
Honestly, you don't even always have to answer these questions. Is it integral to the plot, or does it merely add flavour and expand the world? If it's a small town supernatural mystery, focus more on the mystery and the character's motives and conflicts than creating an expansive world for example. Write the story you want to, but always make sure to properly prioritise your writing based on what you are trying to convey. If it's a game about dating these people or trying to find out why they committed such actions, such extensive world building may not be necessary.
It is integral to the plot because it is the first breadcrumb for the character to find. if their existence wasn't a secret, she would not be introduced to this world and wouldn't be curious about the relationship of the creatures and the disappearances. Basically, there would be no mystery for her to figure out. By the way, there is romance routes, but that is not the only focus in the game. I personally like otomes with more story than the romance itself, and having just the romance would make the plot boring to me.
Another question I have to ask, why is it purely the oddballs that are the creatures? Are all the creature simply incapable of properly integrating into human society? Or do they do it out of a purely stubborn pride. If one species is excessively prideful, that could shine through in the character's personality rather than you expositioning the traits of the species as a whole to the audience.
It is not that all of the creatures are odd, but each character suspected has an oddity that made her suspect them in the first place. Although, now that I think about it, the species would have a hard time integrating into society anyway. Their values are very different from humans and modern technology confuses them. They settled into this small town to get away from the high tech cities and the pollution they cause, and they guard the surrounding forests.

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Re: Having trouble with world building

#6 Post by PMscenarios » Sun Oct 08, 2017 8:47 am

TheJerminator15 isn't asking you how your story is plotted, they're asking how these elements are explained in the narrative.
You already know the plot and what -needs- to happen, now you need to justify your choices and the narrative of your story.
MaskedVillain wrote:
Sat Oct 07, 2017 5:59 pm
The history of the world is the same as our world. However when I think of my species being involved in a war, I can't imagine they'd allow the humans to destroy their home. They are deeply connected to nature and their gods (who have granted them their supernatural abilities). However, I feel like their connection to their gods would also make the majority of them less likely to engage in war with the humans. There's also the fact that humans have developed weapons that put them on almost an equal standing as my species, so if they got into war it would jeopardize everything. So here's the dilemma I'm facing: if they get engaged in a war their existence would become known and their home might be destroyed through war, but if they don't intervene the humans would slowly destroy their home. Should I make it so their home is protected by some kind of magic that confuses humans? I don't know if that's such a great idea because they don't have magic like that. their magic is related to nature and animals.
I feel like this is a tangent - if your creatures are deeply in-tune with nature and have a spiritual connection with the living things in it/connections to gods with a spiritual connection to nature, then war would be a purely negative, horrifying event for them - war destroys the environment its fought in, and takes lives, so many lives. Humans might be negatively affecting nature, but they're still an integral part of the eco-system and a natural life-form on earth, why would it be okey for beings in harmony with nature to kill them in masses?

This is about alt-history; when you have a setting set in our world but introduce an element that's different from our current reality - you have a divergence, and that divergence influences and affects -everything- that's happened since the influence was introduced.

I have a setting I'm currently working on/of where demons were the original inhabitants of earth, and have lived in plain sight among humans since they were placed on earth - influencing and molding everything that's happened.
My question in this case wasn't "how has my world diverged bc of the existence of demons?" but "how have the influence of demons made the world the way it is?" They have then had a hand in every major event that has shaped the world, puppeteering humanity almost - which of course lead to me having to ask "why are the demons influencing and manipulating humanity like this? What is their gain?" - which gave me motivation, history of their kind, power set, etc.
And yet, the scale of my story is so narrow almost none of this will be actually relevant for the story itself, and will probably never be brought up. (I'm a bit too thorough about world building..)
And if the humans knew of their existence, they would definitely blame the disappearances on them and try to kill/dominate them.
Why? What is it that's so special with these creatures that humanity would be instantly afraid of them and try to control them? They are after all just as natural a part of the world as we are, and have presented as humans all this time. in 2017, would society at large be fine with humanity murdering and enslaving an intelligent species that are on par, or even superior to humans? - Look at how our view of intelligent species as dolphins and monkeys have changed with the years, it would be even more problematic with a human-like species.
Even if they're framed as murderers, there would be people who'd be highly against their extinction/enslavement.

Is it your species that's highly suspicious of humans? If so, it'd be interesting to explore why they have such a negative view of humanity.
It is not that all of the creatures are odd, but each character suspected has an oddity that made her suspect them in the first place. Although, now that I think about it, the species would have a hard time integrating into society anyway. Their values are very different from humans and modern technology confuses them. They settled into this small town to get away from the high tech cities and the pollution they cause, and they guard the surrounding forests.
I guess my biggest question, as a reader (remembering I'm question the narrative, not the plot) would be: why are they living among humans in the first place? Their values are different - they don't like technology, they struggle to integrate, they have a stronger connections to the forests - so why aren't they just living there? Why is this nature-loving species even living among the part of nature that disturbs and confuses them? They don't seem to like or care about modern amenities.
  • Maybe they've been hiding all the time bc they're deliberately distant from the other beings on earth - their gods representing a neutral "let it progress as it is intended" view of observe, not intervene?
  • Maybe they're extremely pacifist and cannot abide by killing or harming whatsoever and have kept away to make sure humanity won't know about their powers and try to use them for their own goals?
  • Maybe the guys living in the town are anthropologists sent from the gods to keep an eye on humanity and human affairs, and that's why they're all a bit quirky - they're not used to living among humans and human customs?
  • Or, following up on that, maybe they're a weird off-shoot of the species who're fascinated with humanity and want to know more about them? - think Arthur in Harry Potter (Ron's dad)
So them being a part of the town isn't a reflection of how this species is integrated into the world, but an unique occurrence in this town, and only this town, where they observe and try to integrate with humans.
  • Maybe the creatures living in town are descendants of a member of their species falling in love with a human and ending up having a family with them. As half-breeds they don't really fit in in either society, and have reach a sort of compromise living on the edge of human society?
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Re: Having trouble with world building

#7 Post by Jain » Sun Oct 08, 2017 9:44 am

For the main question, why would they keep their existence a secret and how?

I usually make my secret races have really small populations, and are pretty rare. They're not exactly set to take over all of mankind if they have a low birthrate (maybe because they're long-lived?) and there just isn't that many of them around. Their "otherness" being discovered by humans will be similarly rare just because of how skewed the human to other ratio will be: most people can simply not have met one, it doesn't have to be a huge conspiracy.

Your race could also live only in certain remote areas, like your small town setting.

Of course a big factor is if they're physically distinct from humans-that makes it a lot harder to hide in plain sight if they're very different than humans. But if they can pass for human in looks then it's just their powers that separate them from the humans.

Why wouldn't they like to remain hidden amongst the humans? Just out of self-preservation if nothing else- we humans still have problems with people with different skin tones,people who just so happen to come from a different country than us- different species would be a bigger problem altogether. With that in mind, maybe they're happy living a double life: one "person" out in public and the "other" in safety at home. Besides, they're surrounded by humans, their species must have evolved alongside humans, even if a little bit distant, they must have learned to deal with living in such close proximity, unless your species is home to super-remote regions in under-developed parts of the world.

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Re: Having trouble with world building

#8 Post by MaskedVillain » Sun Oct 08, 2017 2:34 pm

PMscenarios wrote:
Sun Oct 08, 2017 8:47 am
TheJerminator15 isn't asking you how your story is plotted, they're asking how these elements are explained in the narrative.
You already know the plot and what -needs- to happen, now you need to justify your choices and the narrative of your story.
Ah, I'm sorry! I'm very new to all of this!
I feel like this is a tangent - if your creatures are deeply in-tune with nature and have a spiritual connection with the living things in it/connections to gods with a spiritual connection to nature, then war would be a purely negative, horrifying event for them - war destroys the environment its fought in, and takes lives, so many lives. Humans might be negatively affecting nature, but they're still an integral part of the eco-system and a natural life-form on earth, why would it be okey for beings in harmony with nature to kill them in masses?
I don't know why I didn't think of this. I guess I was too focused on the negative affects humans would cause to them that I hadn't even thought about the creatures wanting to protect them. But you're absolutely right, they would not be fine with killing people in masses.
This is about alt-history; when you have a setting set in our world but introduce an element that's different from our current reality - you have a divergence, and that divergence influences and affects -everything- that's happened since the influence was introduced.

I have a setting I'm currently working on/of where demons were the original inhabitants of earth, and have lived in plain sight among humans since they were placed on earth - influencing and molding everything that's happened.
My question in this case wasn't "how has my world diverged bc of the existence of demons?" but "how have the influence of demons made the world the way it is?" They have then had a hand in every major event that has shaped the world, puppeteering humanity almost - which of course lead to me having to ask "why are the demons influencing and manipulating humanity like this? What is their gain?" - which gave me motivation, history of their kind, power set, etc.
And yet, the scale of my story is so narrow almost none of this will be actually relevant for the story itself, and will probably never be brought up. (I'm a bit too thorough about world building..)
Right. So I should be asking myself what the motivation and influence of my species is.
Why? What is it that's so special with these creatures that humanity would be instantly afraid of them and try to control them? They are after all just as natural a part of the world as we are, and have presented as humans all this time. in 2017, would society at large be fine with humanity murdering and enslaving an intelligent species that are on par, or even superior to humans? - Look at how our view of intelligent species as dolphins and monkeys have changed with the years, it would be even more problematic with a human-like species.
Even if they're framed as murderers, there would be people who'd be highly against their extinction/enslavement.
Again, I hadn't thought of that. :oops: I'd figured that these people's ability to control and connect with nature would make most humans scared of them. Especially since their species disapproves of human interests. But in reality, a high number of people would be more compassionate/curious of them than scared in modern-day society. Perhaps, that could be why they are interested in interacting with human society? because they are curious about human personalities and how they vary so greatly?
I guess my biggest question, as a reader (remembering I'm question the narrative, not the plot) would be: why are they living among humans in the first place? Their values are different - they don't like technology, they struggle to integrate, they have a stronger connections to the forests - so why aren't they just living there? Why is this nature-loving species even living among the part of nature that disturbs and confuses them? They don't seem to like or care about modern amenities.
  • Maybe they've been hiding all the time bc they're deliberately distant from the other beings on earth - their gods representing a neutral "let it progress as it is intended" view of observe, not intervene?
  • Maybe they're extremely pacifist and cannot abide by killing or harming whatsoever and have kept away to make sure humanity won't know about their powers and try to use them for their own goals?
  • Maybe the guys living in the town are anthropologists sent from the gods to keep an eye on humanity and human affairs, and that's why they're all a bit quirky - they're not used to living among humans and human customs?
  • Or, following up on that, maybe they're a weird off-shoot of the species who're fascinated with humanity and want to know more about them? - think Arthur in Harry Potter (Ron's dad)
So them being a part of the town isn't a reflection of how this species is integrated into the world, but an unique occurrence in this town, and only this town, where they observe and try to integrate with humans.
  • Maybe the creatures living in town are descendants of a member of their species falling in love with a human and ending up having a family with them. As half-breeds they don't really fit in in either society, and have reach a sort of compromise living on the edge of human society?
I really like some of your suggestions! I think I would combine two or three of the reasons above because I could see them being pacifists, a watchful eye, and/or curious on-lookers. Thank you for this, it was very helpful!

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Re: Having trouble with world building

#9 Post by MaskedVillain » Sun Oct 08, 2017 2:48 pm

Artalija wrote:
Sun Oct 08, 2017 9:44 am
I usually make my secret races have really small populations, and are pretty rare. They're not exactly set to take over all of mankind if they have a low birthrate (maybe because they're long-lived?) and there just isn't that many of them around. Their "otherness" being discovered by humans will be similarly rare just because of how skewed the human to other ratio will be: most people can simply not have met one, it doesn't have to be a huge conspiracy.
That's a good idea, I was actually thinking of doing something like this.
Of course a big factor is if they're physically distinct from humans-that makes it a lot harder to hide in plain sight if they're very different than humans. But if they can pass for human in looks then it's just their powers that separate them from the humans.
They are a species that is different in looks, but they can hide their distinctive features in a way that's similar to camouflage. Therefore, they would appear human.
Why wouldn't they like to remain hidden amongst the humans? Just out of self-preservation if nothing else- we humans still have problems with people with different skin tones,people who just so happen to come from a different country than us- different species would be a bigger problem altogether. With that in mind, maybe they're happy living a double life: one "person" out in public and the "other" in safety at home.

I agree with this. It would also make their task (protecting the forest) much easier if humans didn't know of their existence.

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Re: Having trouble with world building

#10 Post by arisan » Sun Oct 08, 2017 10:37 pm

MaskedVillain wrote:
Sat Oct 07, 2017 5:51 am
The story is about a human girl who becomes suspicious of her small town after a series of disappearances happen.
Given the setting and the protagonist's objective, this seems like a small-scale story rather than a fate-of-the-world kind of story. So while it'd help to know the big picture, you can also focus on things on the more personal level. Also, it means as far as events unfolding are concerned, you might be able to stick with simply the potential reactions of the townsfolk, not ~humanity altogether.
MaskedVillain wrote:
Sat Oct 07, 2017 5:51 am
they are a "hidden" species that lives in harmony with nature and prefers not to let their existence be known.
I'm getting a sense from the other posts in this thread but... what does "harmony with nature" even mean? Does that mean they don't adapt the environment to suit them? Do they not engage in artifice at all (this would make chimpanzees less aligned with nature than they are)? And what is nature? Are humans nature? What about inanimate objects? And extraterrestrial matter/life?

However you define nature in this case, it's going to be sort of setting an agenda. There's a lot of symbolic weight behind defining/distinguishing the natural and the unnatural. What are your reasons for making such distinctions within the story? And what are its implications?

For example, if nature is an active force capable of bestowing powers, that's, well, not natural according to several interpretations. It's quite supernatural, in fact. And if you're going with supernatural elements, how much of your world is governed by the natural laws of our universe?
MaskedVillain wrote:
Sat Oct 07, 2017 5:51 am
Every reason I can think of is cliché and uninteresting.
Building on my first point, given the scale of the story you might want to look less at why the race, on the whole, hides from society but why each of the individual members of that race within the community choose to do so. What is at stake for them personally if they choose to reveal themselves?

(It would help us if you provided some examples, though. Interest is subjective, after all, and we might inadvertently suggest something you've already suggested.)
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Re: Having trouble with world building

#11 Post by SundownKid » Tue Oct 10, 2017 2:25 am

Basically there is no such thing as a cliche and uninteresting idea, only a cliche and boring story. An original idea will conversely not save a boring story. You can get the most boring and played out plot tropes in existence and if they're pulled off well, people will give you a standing ovation.

In any case, if nonhumans are hiding from humans, it's usually because of fear, or at least self preservation. There will always be that one human who tries to capture or kill them out of fear of the nonhumans and what they represent, or possibly try to rope the nonhumans into human conflicts. Even humans who are curious of them can potentially ruin their way of life, like getting overrun by tourists, or captured. Less commonly they hide because of boredom of human affairs or pure dislike of humans, usually when they are stronger beings who can stand up to humans easily. Even less commonly they have already gotten involved with humans and it hasn't worked out well (e.g. they ended up trapped there by magic, etc.)

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Re: Having trouble with world building

#12 Post by ArcialIntegra » Mon Nov 20, 2017 3:27 pm

Personally, I'm a fan of the classics. You can make their need to be hidden based on survival. There used to be monster hunters, and while they're not really heard of anymore, this species of monsters has kept to themselves so much that they don't even know that there is no more reason to be afraid, with their race not even being acknowledged and therefore no monster hunters should be looking for them anyways. (You can then include *that* one family line of monster hunters who have documentation and still are hunting even this "hidden" race of monsters, if you want to justify their fears.)
The issue I see is this: why would they open up to the main character. Love doesn't trump survival when fearing everyone has become second-nature to your people. Does she stumble across the information? If so... how? If they're so hidden, nothing will exist online and the library will likely be void of information. Does she threaten one of them? If so, what can she do to make it possible for one of these monsters to be willing to put their entire people on the line just for the slim possibility of themselves living? The only thing I can think of is having one character who she was friends with as a kid (or possibly still friends with) find her and asking her for help, then following it up with the elders of this community admonishing her for putting the group in danger. This will actually give the main character a realistic opening to start earning the trust of the other characters, allowing you to build from there.

Ideas aren't cliche... they're tropes. Tropes Aren't Bad, they are merely tools. It doesn't matter if it was used before. Feel free to use any idea. All ideas exist to be used, built upon, and made new once again... So do it. Don't be afraid of cliches, because everything is a cliche, and that's okay. It doesn't matter what ideas you use, just make sure you use them well. Work with the ideas you thought of because those are the ideas you'll be able to use the most effectively.

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Re: Having trouble with world building

#13 Post by Katy133 » Tue Nov 21, 2017 11:32 pm

Speaking of tropes, if you're worried about not being original or fresh, you may want to look up TV Tropes' articles of the Masquerade and how various films/books/game/etc approach this idea. The examples listed may give you some new ideas. You may want to go even further back in time and read about how this idea was used in fairytales and folklore--and before the written word! :shock:

Don't worry too much about being totally original. Nothing is new and everything is a remix. Focus more on finding an idea that you're happy with for this premise. :D
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Re: Having trouble with world building

#14 Post by Caveat Lector » Thu Nov 23, 2017 10:23 pm

Try playing around with the characters instead of the world, and see where that takes you. You might accidentally uncover more aspects to this fictional world just by how the characters react to it, or how they talk about it with each other! Let the characters reveal the world to you.

Also, you may want to consult this: http://springhole.net/writing/worldbuilding.htm
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