Tuesday, April 16, 2013

World Building A to Z: Oddities and Origins

This month, I'm writing about stuff I've seen in world building and setting from different stories.

Oddities: The things that members of a world regard as oddities tell what is considered normal, and what isn't. How members of a world regard something or someone that is considered unusual also tells you something about the world.

Back in junior high, I saw part of the movie, The Gods Must Be Crazy, in a class. I still remember when the glass bottle fell out of from a flying plane, and how tribespeople cherished this bottle and the uses they created for it. Then the people began to feel jealous and upset when they didn't have use of the bottle. The oddity that was, at first, treated as a gift from the gods became a nuisance because the tribespeople began fighting over it. A tribesman throws the bottle into the sky to return it to the gods, but without success. 

In Downton Abbey, the upcoming visit of Cora's American mother, Martha, prompts Violet to think aloud, "When I'm with her, I'm reminded of the virtues of the English."  In the world of old school English aristocrats, a wealthy American woman is considered the oddity. And you see how Martha is regarded as such when she arrives at Downton Abbey. 

Origins: Natalie Whipple writes a blog post titled Building A Place where she mentions the idea of sharing the settlers' origins to describe a place. Natalie writes: 

"It can be interesting to figure out/learn why people settled an area in the first place. Did that desert town spring up because of trade? Or because the people who founded it were persecuted and had to find a place people wouldn't bother them? These reasons can greatly influence the culture of a place and give a sense of believability if it all works together."

In THE LOVELY BONES, Susie herself dies when she is brutally murdered by a neighbor. In her heaven, she meets two other characters- there's Franny, the counselor, once a social worker working in a church that helped women. A man looking for his wife shot her. There's Flora, a little girl who was killed by the man who killed Susie. Susie also meet other females, females who died from male-inflicted violence, whose personal heavens intersect. So the theme of grief and healing was part of the culture of these females' personal heavens.

In Agatha Christie's AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, the characters are invited to an island. Shortly after they arrive, the inhabitants learn that the common thread tying them all together is that each of them have been directly or indirectly linked to a murder that they'd gotten away with. One by one, the inhabitants are mysteriously killed, and the surviving characters' paranoia and fear come to the surface on this vacation from hell. 

Can you think of other examples of oddities and origins in stories?

What do you consider an oddity in your own world?

Photo credit: PBS


Empty Nest Insider said...

I love Downton Abbey, and the oddities and eccentricities are what make it so worthwhile. I wish there had been more scenes with Maggie Smith and Shirley MacLaine.


Nick Wilford said...

It's a great chance to look at everyday things in a different light and see how they impact on a certain culture. I'm sure there are lots of other examples, but I can't think of any right now!

Banker Chick said...

I am enjoying your themed blog on world building as I am working on a mythical story. This is thought provoking. I am catching up today.
Katie atBankerchick Scratchings

Ella said...

I love this post! I do think it gives a new focus to attract our attention. Right now, I am working a BBC show Misfits-their violations unite them to become strong and fight the world's wrong. A storm arrives and changes everyone on the planet, with odd powers.

I am watching Downton Abby-ooh, I haven't seen this episode yet...can't wait :D

Thank you I enjoyed this post :D

Dani and Jax said...

Haven't seen Downton Abby (so many great shows right now) but it looks good. The Lovely Bones was a great read. Really enjoyed it!
Cover Girls

John Wiswell said...

The Gods Must Be Crazy got such joy out of a coke bottle. Few product placements so great.

In my world? A car that won't explode on you when you drive it. All the surviving ones were so precarious.

John at The Bathroom Monologues

Francene Stanley said...

I consider it an oddity that time stretches so that we alway have enough time to do what must be achieved.
A - Z Challenge

Mina Burrows said...

Get that spammer above, Cynthia! I hate spammers too. *sigh*

Anyway, I love delving into origins when I read or write. The Hunger Games come to mind with this post. :)

Pat Hatt said...

The Gods must be crazy is a good one for oddities, even if it was a huge product ad haha

Melanie Schulz said...

That's a very good question, because things that I do or believe in don't feel odd to me, but I bet they do for other people. Just like you can't ask a delusional person if they're delusional. LOL.

Julie Luek said...

Great application and examples for "oddities"!

Karen Jones Gowen said...

What an intriguing blog post! The whole idea of world-building in all fiction, not just sci fi/fantasy is definitely worth thinking about. It gets the imagination in gear! Visiting from the Challenge. Love your blog, I'll be back.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The oddity in my second book was a woman who could teleport. Up until then, only men could do it.

Anonymous said...

I also remember seeing The Gods Must Be Crazy in school.

I'd really like to read that Christie book.

Cynthia said...

Thanks for sharing your comments!

Julie, I too would like to see more scenes between Maggie Smith and Shirley MacLaine.

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