Friday, August 22, 2008

Notes from "In the beginning" panel at Armadillocon

One of the panels I went to was about world building. It was called "In the beginning", and featured Warren Spector, John Scalzi, Stephen Brust, and Martha Wells.

The panelists were a lot of fun. Scalzi was great to see; Brust was awesome, his personality flows out and fills the room.

How do you start?
- Brust: I start with the food
...loves this book, Principles of Field Crop Production...if you have steak, you have cows, what are they fed on? defines a ton about your world.
- Wells...doesn't separate world building from char design...they're intertwined...char couldn't be same in a diff world
--world-is-a-character and world-is-character

Do you PLAN to write a series?
- Brust: don't hold shit back for the sequel
- Scalzi: every book should stand alone
- Wells: I didn't intend to do series
- Brust: (About people holding stuff back) It's a trope I call "Wheel of Irritation"
- Scalzi: Old Man's War wasn't meant to be a series

- Know more than you put into the book
Brust: sequels are fanfic of your own stuff. "Wow, this world is cool."
Wells: write what you'd like to read

Brust: Two kinds of narrator, unreliable and the ones you don't trust.
Paraphrased: Everybody makes mistakes, so all narrators are actually unreliable. This also gives the author an out if he makes a mistake. The narrator's mistakes make the world more real.

Brust: A few details of irrationality that the viewpoint char does not understand, but the AUTHOR does, help add realism.
streets that dead end
one house built sideways
Another panelist adds (I think it was Wells?) Japanese concept of the single flaw that points up the perfection of the rest

Who are your influences?

Brust: Fritz Leiber = big influence on him

Brust: A great way to write SF is to pick a writer you like but about whom you hate one thing...."I like Fritz Leiber but I hate that the Thieves Guild is legal."

Scalzi: I used the Heinlein Juvenile structure because I understood it and I knew that it sold. Wholly ripped off the structure.
Says this is a natural development...the Beatles 1st albums were ... derivative...then over time, got more unique style

Wells...was reading a Victorian murder mystery with magic...hated....inspried her to write The Death of a Necromancer

Scalzi: writing nonfic gives me an excuse to learn things.

Scalzi: You know you've done enough worldbuilding when you have fanfic.

How do you avoid "the dreaded info dump"
Brust: Assume the reader is not stupid. Tell the story, not the world. I'm gonna throw some concepts at him and he'll figure it out. Figuring out what the reader MUST know is hard.

Scalzi: Every time I read Dune I see something new.
(Every time he reads Dune? That's awesome. I've gotta go read Dune for the 8th time now...)

Wells: The char must think like a native of his world, not a modern 20th cent person

Brust: likes to invent his own colloquialisms and expressions. "There's the devil to pay." come up wth a replacement.

"To know a profession, learn what jokes they tell each other." Any creative group creates its own language.

Everyone in the story should speak uniquely.

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