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Old 12-15-2011, 08:05 PM   #1
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Planning stage: World Building Templates?

So I'm working to develop my new world and I've run into an interesting question.

I've seen templates for character sheets, location dossiers, chapter and scene breakdowns, and even a few for timelines.

What I've not seen is a basic template for a world building worksheet.

While I imagine that lots of people have different requirements for laying out their worlds (politics, history, religion(s), et al) I think it would assist some writers to see how they lay out their information. It would also help me find if I'm missing something in the world(s) that I've built to improve my stories.

I tend to take existing forms and futz with them until they work for me, so if you offer a link, I'm not going to steal your idea and post it elsewhere. It's just for my edification.

Hope that makes sense...
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Old 12-16-2011, 04:07 AM   #2
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Try this link.
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Old 12-16-2011, 04:30 AM   #3
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great resource Ace!
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Old 12-16-2011, 04:00 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by AceTachyon View Post
Ah, I've seen that link before. Those didn't help me. It may help others, though, so thanks for offering the link for them.

(Questions are no help to me. I've tried them and find I can never answer them to my satisfaction. Not sure why, but they just aren't my cup of ... construction material. )
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Old 12-18-2011, 10:48 AM   #5
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Real world history is a good start. You can blend the history of ancient Egypt with that of modern U.S.A.'s - all in all, it should serve your plot, unless you're going the other way around and making the plot secondary to the world you've created (which is weird - I've never heard of someone create a world first and let the plot follow afterward...except for myself. But then, I'm not as well-read as the more prestigious posters here).

In any case, my point is that a believable world is hard to create without an understanding of at least one nation/city-state/whatever's history. A general understanding of history is great, but a more detailed understanding of a particular place's history is even better when you're writing about a similar place!
As for a template - can't you start by making one yourself?
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Old 12-18-2011, 11:31 AM   #6
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I don't have many notes going into a project and don't outline, but I like to be able to have answers to lots of the questions posed here http://www.larseighner.com/world_builder/
it's by Patricia C. Wrede and it's pretty comprehensive.
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Old 12-18-2011, 11:58 AM   #7
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Droemar's got some sort of worldbuilding template. Not sure if this is what you're looking for, but here.
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Old 12-18-2011, 11:16 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gilroy Cullen View Post
Ah, I've seen that link before. Those didn't help me. It may help others, though, so thanks for offering the link for them.

(Questions are no help to me. I've tried them and find I can never answer them to my satisfaction. Not sure why, but they just aren't my cup of ... construction material. )

So, what exactly are you thinking of when you say "world-building template", then? Because putting something in question-form vs. statement-form isn't really anything but an aesthetic difference. Is it that you want something more specific?
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Old 12-18-2011, 11:51 PM   #9
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Why do you need a template. Just make it up. Isn't that the name of the game?
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Old 12-19-2011, 05:47 AM   #10
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If by "template" you mean a way to keep all your facts straight, just create a spreadsheet for yourself.
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Old 12-19-2011, 07:53 AM   #11
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You might want to have a look at "The Rivan Codex" by David Eddings. It's all his world building notes for the Belgariad and Mallorean series. You might be able to find a copy at the library?
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Old 12-19-2011, 08:29 AM   #12
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Not a template, but a couple of great books, IMO, for running through the process are from Writer's Digest. "World Building," edited by Ben Bova, a big author among the hard SF crowd, and Writer's Guide to Creating a Science Fiction Universe. Orson Scott Card wrote/edited several books like this for Writer's Digest. I respect his opinion a LOT. Alvin the Maker and Ender's Game (plus sequels) show Mr Card's abilities in both hard SF and in Fantasy.
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Old 12-19-2011, 03:48 PM   #13
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(I)t's by Patricia C. Wrede and it's pretty comprehensive.
I saw Patricia Wrede's questions, and its just a rewording of the questions listed on SFWA's website. Thanks for the tip.
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Old 12-19-2011, 03:53 PM   #14
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So, what exactly are you thinking of when you say "world-building template", then?
Look at the examples I gave: Character building worksheet. Location Worksheet.

I'm looking for a worksheet or form that one can use to fill in details. Most character worksheets ask that you fill in details regarding the character. Hair and eye color, mannerisms, goals, basic history, etc.

Could I create one? Probably, but I don't know where to start. I thought if I could see other examples, it would give me a starting point for creating my own that works for me.
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Old 12-19-2011, 03:54 PM   #15
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Not sure if this is what you're looking for, but here.
This is a good start! I'll poke at it some and see what it offers.

Thanks!
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Old 12-19-2011, 07:17 PM   #16
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Their very organization is one danger of sticking to spreadsheets. They'll work well to record the basics. But when you are in a worldbuilding frenzy, you may find yourself zapping all over the place with ideas about this culture or that person. Have a physical notebook, or a section on your laptop, and take notes. They can always be worked into the spreadsheet or series bible later.

You run the risk of spending more time designing your worldbuilding worksheet than you do in actual worldbuilding - or more importantly, storytelling.
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Old 12-20-2011, 07:12 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gilroy Cullen View Post
I saw Patricia Wrede's questions, and its just a rewording of the questions listed on SFWA's website. Thanks for the tip.
That's because SFWA took from Wrede... who originally posted it on a usenet group. (Well, asked permission for it.)

http://web.archive.org/web/200812161...kit/index.html

is the famous worldbuilding toolkit.

The other thing to consider is that you can have all the questions in the world, but have no way to answer them, or only be able to answer them in the context you know. You are limited by what you know. So you may want to consider asking for books that are useful for world building that's not the usual set.

Anthropology helps a lot in this area. (The whole field).

I'd also consider geography/geology, psychology, sociology, physics, biology, economics, art history, clothes, world history (especially outside of Europe and non-Eurocentric). I collect those books like crazy.

Sure... we have tons of agricultural states with polytheism/monotheism (which both suspiciously smell like some version of Judeo-Christian values--scratch that--modern Christian values.), but how many fantasy stories do we have on a forager group? Pastoral? Horticulture? Without exoticizing them as either barbaric or the "noble savage"? How many feudal systems are clearly British/French in their systems? If you never learn what is outside of your own culture and your own comfort zone, you won't be able to build something that looks unique because really, you don't know the range of human capability and thought. Once you see the range, then you can choose to build with knowing why and how things are, came to be and what things don't need an explanation for. It's useful if you choose to build before hand, after the fact, during or a little of each and you can pull strings of internal logic pretty well to satisfy even the pickiest of us. *Cough* Paolini v. Writing world *cough*
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Old 12-21-2011, 11:39 AM   #18
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Hmm, might I suggest NewNovelist? It's not free, but it's fairly cheap. About the same price you'd pay for any PC game.

http://www.newnovelist.com/index.html
SCREENSHOTS

Not only has it been one of the best investments in my writing, but I'd wager the most helpful investment I've made in my life lol. They have tons of templates to select from that would fit your novel, and I believe you can even create your own templates with just the features and things you need. It's an entire content database. Can be as in depth or as simple as you want it.

Can do everything from timeline in various forms (line graphs, pie graphs, etc), to character databases with notes and details, a storyboard panel, chapter organizer/rearranger, intergrated web-browser (kind of useless, since we all have a web browser), bunch of different printing and formatting options (better than word imo), charts and graphs to monitor the breakdown of chapters (how many words, percent of the novel it takes up, etc).

The new version even has animated readback as well as a dictation feature if you don't want to type. I use it sometimes to spam ideas that are in my head.

Anyhow, sounds a bit more like what you are looking for I think. It's been invaluable (along with Wrede's questionnaire) to my worldbuilding.

PS: Hah, and no, I don't have anything to do with NewNovelist. I just really love it and I know how much it's helped me. Mainly because I am HORRIBLE at organization, and I suffered through losing a folder with hundreds of worldbuilding word files.
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Old 12-21-2011, 11:44 AM   #19
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Write your story. Let it inhabit your world, rather than letting your world dictate your story. It doesn't matter a damn what your Fantasy world looks like, if your characters don't take part in an interesting story. In Fantasy manuscripts I've reviewed, the major flaw, by far, is obsessive concentration on details of the fantasy world, to the great detriment of the fantasy story.

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Old 12-21-2011, 12:49 PM   #20
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Quote:
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Write your story. Let it inhabit your world, rather than letting your world dictate your story.
Hmm, not sure that always applies. I would have no story at all if I did that...because the story revolves entirely around the world. The Wheel of Time series is much the same way. It's world-driven, with characters responding to what is happening in the world.

Quote:
Originally Posted by blacbird View Post
It doesn't matter a damn what your Fantasy world looks like, if your characters don't take part in an interesting story. In Fantasy manuscripts I've reviewed, the major flaw, by far, is obsessive concentration on details of the fantasy world, to the great detriment of the fantasy story.
Totally agree. Seen it many times.

I've read stories where the characters seem like tools that the author is using just so he/she can show off their world. "I need to have Bob go to Awesome City because I really want to show the reader that city!" Definitely want to avoid that.

But I've also read stories where characters felt flat because it almost seemed like they were developed without consideration that the world they live in plays a part of who people are. We are who we are because of the world we live in, our culture, geological environment, social structure, economy, religion, nationality, etc. In that way, it's very important to know your setting when developing characters.

But really, like I said, it all depends on the kind of book. My epic fantasy revolves entirely around the world (WoT, Sword of Truth, etc). Without my world there is no story. The characters make decisions based on things happening in the world. Everything from the central conflict to the magic system (which is part of the planet) are because of the world.

I also have a less-epic story that takes place in a single city (ie: Den of Thieves by Hulick), and the story is driven by the characters. Everything revolves around the characters relationships and situations. The outside world really doesn't mean anything, so I didn't spend much time building it beyond the basics. The conflict is localized, and the magic system is a studied system (almost a science) that has nothing to do with the planet/world/etc.

Either way, a good story can be told using both methods. But I will second blacbird on not to obsess over the world unless it REALLY plays a role in your story. It can be a horrible and frequent pitfall, because when a writer spends so much time building a world, it's natural to want somebody to experience it. When sadly, 50% of the worldbuilding we do is never seen/read/written about.

PS: Just want to say, blacbird that I respect your experience and knowledge in the industry. I certainly don't mean to come across as more "credible", because I'm pretty sure I'm not. I just know that if you can write a story around a world, then I've wasted 10 years of my life writing =)

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Old 12-21-2011, 08:30 PM   #21
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Quote:
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Either way, a good story can be told using both methods. But I will second blacbird on not to obsess over the world unless it REALLY plays a role in your story. It can be a horrible and frequent pitfall, because when a writer spends so much time building a world, it's natural to want somebody to experience it. When sadly, 50% of the worldbuilding we do is never seen/read/written about.
Only 50%? Mine is more around 80%, Science Fiction setting. I'm still working on trying to convince the characters to ya know, narrate where they are, but they are apathetic to most things besides themselves, which is ironically part of the world building. --;;

And the Fantasy setting I do have as other world is around 90-95%... (Because the story takes more precedence than any of its components and the only reason the number is higher is because I've tried and failed so many stories in that world so far).

Current work in the siggie below... I'm guestimating that because I only go searching when I need it for the story it will get to around 70%, if I'm lucky.

How did you get it down to 50%?
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Old 12-22-2011, 12:40 PM   #22
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How did you get it down to 50%?
Haha, well, I was making guesstimate. I figure that's a safe low number, 50-90% of worldbuilding is never seen sounds about right. Depends on the kind of book you're writing too. For example, I have one novel where most of my worldbuilding is seen, but I only spent time to build the things that appeared in the story. The setting in that book takes place in a single city and focuses entirely on the characters. What limited worldbuilding I did for that one is because I had to due to writing it in the novel.

Now, I have another other project that revolves so heavily around the world that I've had to create it in extensive detail, along with thousands of years of history (which most will never see), in order to keep things consistent. Since the story is about what is happening in the world, I had to have enough history and worldbuilding to know why it was happening.
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