Tuesday, April 2, 2013

World Building A to Z: Change, Customs, and Calendar

This month, I will be sharing details I've noticed in world building and establishment of setting. 

Change:  Author and former literary agent Nathan Bransford wrote a post on his blog titled What Makes a Great Setting. His message got me examining the change underway in stories I read with uncommon settings. It would only make sense that I use one of Nathan's MG books as an example of change underway. In JACOB WONDERBAR FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNIVERSE, cleverly published during the election year of 2012, the change going underway in the universe is the shift from a monarchy rule to a democracy where Astrals elect their first president. Astrals distrust Earthers. If part-Earther Jacob wins the election, he'll make sure his home planet is kept safe. But if his Astral rival Mick wins, then Earth could be a target for military destruction. So there are big stakes that come with the change underway in the story.

Customs and Calendar: The customs of a world that occur on a specific calendar date are often plot devices to move a story along. In J.K. Rowling's HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE, the children at Hogwarts learn which houses they belong to through the sorting hat ritual. In THE HUNGER GAMES, the reaping's call for Prim to serve as a tribute prompts Katniss to volunteer herself. In Veronica Roth's DIVERGENT, Beatrice chooses the faction she wants to belong to, or the way of life seeming most desirable to her, in the Choosing Ceremony marking her sixteenth birthday. 


Going off on a tangent now...Today is also Insecure Writers Support Group Day, a monthly event hosted by Alex Cavanaugh....So here's my mini-IWSG post for today...Speaking of DIVERGENT, have any of you read the book? If you have, had you been in Beatrice's shoes during the Choosing Ceremony, would you have left the security of Abnegation for the harsh conditions of living as Dauntless?  

There have been times in my younger life when I really wanted to trade off the sensitive and empathetic side of myself characteristic of Abnegation and instead, be tough and aloof as Dauntless. I used to feel that kind people were magnets for leeches, and let's just say I've known a few leeches. But I was what I was, and I am what I am. Getting older, I've learned to appreciate characteristics about myself I had resented before. And I've also learned to stay away from leeches.
  
Have you ever known a "leech?"

What are examples of change underway, or calendar dates and customs from books, TV, or movies that you can think of?

25 comments:

Honoré said...

Most interesting and stimulating post! 1956 is my year ;-))

Damyanti said...

I was a leech magnet, but no longer.

Damyanti @Daily(w)rite
Co-host, A to Z Challenge 2013

Twitter: @AprilA2Z
#atozchallenge

Nick Wilford said...

Great advice that all these elements should be used as integral to the plot. Plot is key.

I've got Divergent in paperback but not read it yet.

Elise Fallson said...

I haven't read Divergent, but it's high on my list to read. Sometimes I feel like a leech magnet and wish I had a more I-don't-give-a-flip attitude, but it's not in me, at least, not yet.
(:

A-Z participant blogging from Elise Fallson

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great tips on world building. And yes, I read Divergent and loved it. I sometimes wish I were different than I am too.

Elsie Amata said...

Hi Cynthia!

You always ask the best questions at the end of your posts. Before I answer though, Jacob Wonderbar sounds like a great read!

I've had my share of leeches and while I was resentful a period of time, I'm not anymore. It was my own doing and that's okay. I'm in a better place now.

To answer your question - the first show that came to mind: Revolution. Not sure why though. Just seemed right.

From IWSG

Elsie

John Wiswell said...

I've heard Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn does amazing things in change, using its long series to show a culture's progress from a medieval-like eta to the technologically modern era. That's a case of change that honestly sounds like one of the best uses of a series I've heard.

M said...

Love the title of your blog...and love the 3 C's. As for leeches...once backpacking in Escalante I swam in a waterfall pnd that had leeches...gahk!
Happy A-Z April!

Julie Luek said...

Great post. I tend to have that super sensitive side too. I finally have it tempered a bit so I'm not so easily hurt and move on more quickly, but I don't ever want to be callous either. Balance.

S.P. Bowers said...

I've read divergent and loved it right up to the end which was a huge disappointment. I tried to figure what I would choose and I couldn't. I don't think I could narrow myself that much, but I definitely wouldn't have chosen dauntless.

Nicole said...

Good examples of those aspects of worldbuilding. Divergent's on my TBR list.

The Wicked Writer said...

I haven't read the book, but I know what your talking about when you wished you weren't so kind, there was a time where I wished that as well, but I choose to embrace that and try and avoid the leeches instead focusing on the few genuine people I could find, these people have remained my rocks for years, the kind of people that I can meet, who go off and live their lives and when they show up again we resume where we left off. I hope you find those people too and fantastic post.

Michael Offutt, S.F.A. said...

There are always people who will take advantage of your good nature. Those are the kind who always have their hand out (and I'm getting to where I can spot them a mile away).

But there are legitimate reasons to help others that are not in this position. I hope I will always be in a situation where I can do so, because I believe in second chances for everyone.

Guilie said...

Interesting post, Cynthia. Indeed, calendar events as plot devices work really well. I read little fantasy or sci-fi, and I'm thinking it's easier to use those devices there because of the freedom of world-building--you can make up events as you need them :) But I'm pretty sure it's used as well in mainstream fiction--although, of course, I can't think of any good examples right now.

As to leeches... Yes, they abound. But I've learned that to change oneself in order to "avoid" being leeched (is that even a verb?) is to give said leech the ultimate win. Taking advantage is one of humanity's worst--and perhaps most entrenched--traits, and nothing we do, individually or collectively, will put an end to it or make us immune to it. I believe it's our actions, and not how they're received or appreciated (or not) that count in whatever "count" each of us is keeping :)

Daisy Carter said...

I use a calendar/event as a device in my current manuscript - graduation day! I love stories, whether contemporary or fantasy/sci fi, that use a major life moment for "all" people as a turning point for a character.

Lynda R Young said...

Change is what drives stories forward. It can be as simple as a change of season, or more complex like a change of heart.

Karen Tamara said...

I have known too many leeches in my time but, as I've gotten older, I've learned how to spot them and stay away from them a bit more. Luckily!

I'm not sure if this is exactly what you mean but I've used the device of having a specific amount of time to accomplish something in two of my novels. In one, a boy from a parallel world travels to Earth to rescue the girl he loves, but he only has one month before the portal back to his world closes forever. That gave the book a lot of tension it would've otherwise lacked.

And, in my latest WIP, the MC is given a mission and told he has until the summer solstice to complete it, which is two weeks. Again, it gives the book a sense of urgency and structure that would be lacking if he had endless amounts of time to complete the mission.

So, I definitely think using certain dates as pivotal points in the story is a good plotting device. :)

Elaine Smith said...

I've been lucky, my leech-count is low.
I've only read Nathan's first Jacob Wonderbar book. I really enjoyed it.

Pat Hatt said...

Leech here and there, but mostly i avoid them at my lair. Sounds like some fun reads too, followed back as well at your zoo.

Chris said...

I've known more leeches than I care to think about. Divergent is now on my 'To Read' list. Thanks

Kimberly Gabriel said...

So many good points to comment on - Love Nathan Bransford and Divergent. While I would have wanted to be Dauntless, I think I might have stayed. Age often changes our perspective doesn't it?

Julia King said...

Jacob Wonderbar is going on my to read list for sure. It sounds really good. Thanks for sharing about it. I always like hearing about new books to read. I loved all of the other books you mentioned. My second book includes the customs and calendar theme. It has been fun to craft it. :)

Sania Heba said...

Crafting an entire world is one of the hardest yet the most joyful tasks of writing. Great post!
Happy A-Zing! :)

Cynthia said...

Thanks for commenting and sharing your thoughts, everyone!

Wendy LaPlaca said...

I LOVED Divergent. I think I would have fled Abnegation and followed Tris to Dauntless :)

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