I’ll be hosting tonight’s Writing Salon at the Hospital Club on the subject of Creating Worlds. Here’s the blurb that went to salon regulars.
Henry James called it his “theory of illumination.” He imagined his main character occupying the centre of a circle. Inside the circle, surrounding the main character, are other characters that he or she interacts with. James felt that every single interchange between the characters should “illuminate” different aspects of the main character, just as lamps illuminate different aspects of a dark room.
That’s fine, in theory. Except that characters don’t live in circles. They inhabit worlds and on Monday I’d like us to build a world for our character. We don’t know who the character is yet, but together we are going to create one.
For me STORY is the intersection of LIFE (your character) and TIMES (the world they inhabit) and so over the weekend I’d like you to do two things.
- Scan your shelves for books / short stories / films etc for good examples of worlds radically different to our own. This could be a fantasy story, something from Science Fiction, or perhaps an historical novel. The genre doesn’t matter. What matters is that the worlds the characters inhabit have been created. They have their own rules and structures.
- Open up two Wikipedia pages. Into one type “London” and into the other type “Middle Earth”. You’ll see two radically different worlds, but after a while you’ll notice something interesting. The entries are very similar in their structure. You’ll see history, geography, culture, politics, social structures and so on.
On Monday we’ll create our own world. We’ll define the no-go areas of this world, and then we’ll go into them. We’ll define the stakes and then raise them. In short we’ll have everything we need to write the Wikipedia page for our world. Then we’ll create a character and put them into that world. By the end of the salon you’ll have a sense of how you might use this approach to build your own world and we’ll also have a working example. Maybe one of you would like to use the example and turn it into a short story.
If you are stuck for inspiration then go and see the remake of The Jungle Book. The pack of wolves and their “law of the jungle” is exactly what I’m talking about. Oh…and Christopher Walken as King Louie is utterly brilliant.
See you all on Monday 16th May at 1930 in the Chalk Room.