Putting the “Story” in “Storyworld” – Part 2
Welcome to the second part of my series on how stories and storyworlds relate to each other. As I previously noted, storyworlds only exist to serve as the backgrounds to the stories set within them. It doesn’t matter how cool your world of dinosaur-riding psychic elves may be if we never get to experience the stories of those awesome elves.
Today I’d like to discuss how creating stories can help you develop your storyworld.
That might seem a little backward. If the storyworld is there to support the story, why is the story supporting the storyworld?
Because stories are all about specifics.
As I’ve mentioned before, storyworld characters should be archetypes, not individuals. But when creating a story, it needs to be about individual characters.
For example, your storyworld might call for a priestly caste of psychic dino-elves who commune with the sun goddess, but your story revolves around a young sun-priest name Dovos who never learned to control his telepathy, so the tribe makes him wear a psi-dampening headband.
Again, storyworld conflicts are broad things, wide enough to encompass lots of different stories. But the conflict in your story is narrow, personal, and specific.
Picking up the story of poor Dovos, maybe the conflict of the storyworld is a cold war between two major elf tribes. In the story, this conflict is specifically between Dovos and a high-ranking elf lord who he discovers is a spy for the other tribe.
And then there are the details of the storyworld that are too tiny to be seen from the storyworld’s thousand-foot view. When you’re dealing with the big picture of the storyworld, you don’t necessarily zoom down to what type of tea that people drink, or what their favorite sports are. While these are the types of details that can truly make the world feel real, they’re also irrelevant until you need them—that is, in a story.
Maybe we need a scene with Dovos following the spy and watching him meet a contact in a public space. A park or sidewalk cafe seems right, but what do those look like in this world? Hmmm… (sounds of smells of a brief, intense brainstorm) Ah! A public grazing space for small domestic dinosaurs! It’s one part dog park, one part pasture, with people spread out across maybe an acre of grass, each following their dinos around.
One final note: Once you develop all these specifics for the story, make sure you roll them into whatever documentation you have for the storyworld. You never know when you’ll need to reference them again in some other, future story. Future-you will thank you!