6. Conflict and Plot
Page 8 of 10 | What Is a Story? | Originality Counts | Gotta Have Structure | Set the Hook | Reel 'Em In | Land 'Em |
| What If I Don't Know? | Other Times, Other Worlds | Events Follow Character | Try This at Home! |
Other Times, Other Worlds
2. From the Ground Up
In this kind of story, world building is especially important, because you want the readers to feel the ground (or the deck) beneath their feet, to feel as if they're really living in this past, or this future, or this other world. Much of the plot will emerge from the particular qualities of the time and place you've created. Fantasy stories set in worlds of magic and wonder fit well here. So do stories like Star Trek, where the story lines must grow out of the background as it exists in a universe that's already well established.
That doesn't mean that character is unimportant in such stories—far from it. (See what I have to say later about Star Wars and Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.) It just means that the starting point may be different.
Hal Clement was the indisputable dean of writing hard SF stories based on world building. Even his characters grew out of the worlds he designed (most famously, Barlennan the Mesklinite).
Sometimes a story starts in the author's mind with a character—or a set of characters. I mentioned earlier that this was how I began my novel, The Infinity Link —with a single character, who had an obsessive desire. It was only as I thought about where that desire might take her that I began to see the outlines of the story itself, and the complex plot that would emerge.
I'm going to focus on this last category, because the lessons here can be applied to almost any kind of story.
Course content copyright © 2005 Jeffrey A. Carver