Let the Right One Drive
Today I’d like to talk about a fun world-building exercise that I’ve used to some effect myself, and you might find useful in stoking your own fires of creation.
I’m a big believer in using random seeds to spark creativity. Draw a card! Roll on a chart! Use the Internet to come up with all kinds of random elements, then use your imagination to figure out how to bring those elements together into a cohesive whole!
Here, let’s try an example:
Movie #1: The Transporter. Okay, it’s an action movie about a courier who uses a fast car, martial arts, and guns to get the package where it needs to go, no questions asked. That’s a pretty cool premise.
Movie #2: Let the Right One In. Hmmm. A moody coming-of-age drama involving an adolescent boy and the vampire girl next door he falls in love with. Sort of. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen it, but as I recall, one of the sub-themes of the movie is how vampires pull people into their orbit and turn them into their minions.
I can work with this. Just… give me a minute.
(Montage of me staring into space, scribbling on paper, throwing the paper away, making notes on a whiteboard, setting the whiteboard on fire, then banging my head against a wall until blood appears. I suddenly turn to the camera and grin, blood running down my face.)
I’ve got it!
In a world much like our own, vampires wage a brutal war against each other from the shadows. These undead creatures need to stay mobile and well-protected, even as they sleep during the day. To this end, they recruit crews of specialists to drive them where they need to go, carry out their will, and protect them with lethal force.
That’s a good start. Not bad for a single montage of brainstorming, though it’s still missing something to tie it all together as a cohesive whole.
A certain amount of world-building is scaffolding; it’s creating all the parts that need to exist in order to support a central idea. In this case, my idea is “action heroes drive vampires around.” I need to create a world that makes this element not only essential, but inevitable. (“In a world like that, of course you’ll have specialized vampire transport teams!”)
Let’s build a little scaffolding:
- Vampires sleep not only during the day, but for weeks at a time. Maybe they only arise during the full moon.
- Sleeping vampires are very telepathic, and capable of giving instructions to their minions, but aren’t always entirely lucid. Some humans are better than others at communicating with the sleepers. Some can’t do it at all.
- Vampires can sense each other’s presence. (Yes, just like in Highlander, but moreso.) The longer they remain in a place, the stronger the “signal” they give off is. This is part of why they need to stay on the move. While it’s possible to just hole up in a secure location (fine, you can call it a “lair”) for an extended period of time, doing so means that everyone will eventually know where you are. Sooner or later, you’re going to be in a siege position. While some very rich and powerful vampires might be okay with this, the rank and file find it more efficient to just keep moving.
I like where this is going. I think it could be a fun storyworld with a grindhouse, over-the-top tone to it. I’m not sure it’s worth developing, but this has been a good way to exercise the old world-building muscles.
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