#Worldbuilding Dojo – Crafting Your Tale

From outline to first draft, the master of Kung Fu and Friendship breaks it all down with his method for writing.


Blocking Out Character Arcs

This is so important we’re going to have it in big bold letters. The person who goes through the most change from the beginning to the end of your story is your main character. No matter how cool your villain or capable your sidekick, they can’t change as much as your main character by the end of the story, or you have the wrong main character.

So, on a separate piece of paper or file, we want to make sure we block out the character arc that our protagonist goes through. It helps to work backwards – where do you want the character to be by the end of the story? Who do you want them to be? What is their place in the world? What have they overcome?

These are important questions we want to ask, because transformation is key to great protagonists. Once you know where you want to be at the end, work backwards to find out where they started. Be careful of tropes and cliché here, as we can only have so many humble farmboys.

Next is the tricky part. Your character arc should ebb and flow with the beats of your story. You never want to feel like the development is tacked on through long exposition and paragraphs of dialogue. Remember – show, don’t tell. We should see your character transform organically, not because the character gets up in front of their class and begins a speech with, “I learned something today.”

This character arc tracking applies to side characters, too, as long as we’re not making them more transformational than our main character. Track their course through the story in a similar fashion. You can get as detailed or as vague as you want in here. This is just a tool to write your stories, no one ever needs to see these nuts and bolts, so feel free to write in shorthand. Whatever works for you and makes your story churn out is all that matters.

So, we have a frame to shape our characters and a video for plotting. Now have fun, and get crafting.

#Worldbuilding Dojo – Relationships (In Dialogue)



Tech Talks

See what I did there again? Yeah, you saw it. So clever.

Let’s get into context clues buried within technobabble so we can talk future stuff and not lose our audience. First, let’s take this snippet of dialogue from Star Trek, they love this stuff. Let’s see how they did it:

DATA: “It appears to be a highly focused aperture in the space-time continuum. Its energy signature matches that of the temporal fragments we observed earlier. However, it is approximately one point two million times as intense. I believe this may be the origin of the temporal fragmentation.”

So, big hole in space-time, got that. It’s the same hole we already saw, but it’s a million times stronger. It’s not that complicated at all, doesn’t impede our understanding, and still sounds like it takes several degrees to understand the science behind it.

Like I said in the video as it pertained to ancient speech, I suggest arriving at the feeling first and the words, in plain English. Then, alter the dialogue to match how it needs to sound, sprinkle in keywords surrounded by context clues, and you’ve got it. Easy, peasy, cadmium-hued citrus product squeezie.

The biggest DON’T with technobabble is to try and make you, the author, sound clever. We get it, you did your research. Hell, you got your 12 degrees to actually explain to me what Data was talking about up there. If it doesn’t serve the story, if it doesn’t sound natural, or if it’s a wall of text, it goes. Worse yet, if it’s in your dialogue and directed at a character that can’t understand it, cut it. Even worse still, if you have to explain it again three sentences later, you’re giving me a ‘In English, Doc!’, and we can’t have that.

Science doesn’t even have to be real to sound real. That’s right, your science doesn’t have to be science at all. Give me a technological explanation for magic in your world. Make vampirism a virus. As long as the explanation sounds good, and you can walk me through it like a layman, that works. Just…please don’t give me midichlorians. That is all I ask.

Now you know when to keep and when to cut. Now have fun, and get crafting.

#Worldbuilding Dojo – Let’s Time Travel

Plotting Time Travel

The key to plotting satisfying time travel stories is to make sure you keep them grounded in satisfying story arcs. For all its complication, Interstellar is a story of one father’s love for his daughter. Groundhog Day is about making the most of a day, and finding what’s important. Back to the Future follows science-based MacGuffin action-adventure plotline, and so on.

Once you have a framework in place for the story you want to tell, search for logical paradoxes. Remember, motivation is a key factor in whether you cause a paradox in even the most grounded of stories. You can also embrace the ‘many worlds’ theory and accept that the new timeline takes place in another universe. Either way, once the coast is clear, you want to explain your system, but always show, don’t tell. Like we mentioned about Back to the Future, burying the explanation in the dialogue is a great way to keep things moving along without losing your audience, but don’t spoon-feed walls of text, either. Less is always more, and KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) are your buddies here.

Armed with that knowledge, do yourself a huge favor and chart out a timeline. This will help you to stay on track and spot paradoxes as they crop up. The more complex the timeline, the more you need to hand-hold your audience and walk them through it (re-watch Back to the Future 2 with this in mind and you’ll see it in the dialogue.)

Now, have fun and get crafting.


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