GETTING A VISION
By Steven Savage
Archives available at The Way With Worlds Home Page
OK, the last few columns have been pretty serious (well, in theme, if not execution). I've covered a lot of the basics in a few general overviews and principles, looked at fleshing out worlds and the nature of power, and in general, been technical.
So, lets sit back for a column and discuss the fuzzy stuff, the intuitive, the non-linear part. It's a column without a bunch of itemization and categorization, so lets hang loose and discuss one of the hardest-to-define, but important things you need in building a continuity and working with one.
Having a vision of your setting.
WHAT THE HECK AM I
OK, it sounds pretty warm and fuzzy, so I'll do a little explaining.
We can talk all we want of plans and outlines, make maps and diagrams and character profiles. That's all good, thats all important, thats necessary. If you're building a setting or even expanding on an existing one, there's going to be a lot of details.
Then there's just having a vision, a feel for your world. You're going to need that - writing is not a simple linear from-a-reference process, its a messy, semi-spontaneous, inexplicable, wild process. If you can't have an intuitive grasp of your world, it's going to be very difficult to write about it. You need to know your world as you may know a person.
Its not something that happens from a plan either. You can't sit down with a ten-step way to get really "in touch" with your creation. If there was one I could think of, I'd be listing it here, believe me. Besides, in my experience, you can't force a "feel" for your world because it has to evolve on its own.
As you design your setting, the feel for it, the vision of it, will evolve. Over time, you'll start recalling things without looking at your notes, or finding connections that just pop into your mind. Eventually, the world will be something you just 'know' - you may forget things or look up details, but in general it will be real enough to you that you can write spontaneously.
It's my recommendation that you do not start writing in your setting until you have at least some vision of it. Obviously you wont have every detail, since writing is the only way to discover easily where you're missing information and concepts. However, I find its best to have at least enough details that you can start writing without having to refer to notes or sit down and come up with new concepts every few minutes.
Now as for not losing your vision and enhancing it, there are some things I've found do help and can be expressed in an organized manner:
We can't write what we can't relate to, or at least can't write it well. Get to know your setting, play with it, explore it, think about it - and when it comes to life for you, when you can feel it as well as think about it, thats a good sign you're ready to write in it. Keep in touch with your world so you can understand it and write it better, and so you don't lose your vision, your sense of it.
It may sound fuzzy-headed and certainly less linear and systematic than what I've talked about recently, but its just as important.
I get back to being technical and overdetailed as we look at (drumroll please) - record-keeping, storage, and back-up! Its not as simple as it sounds.