Sunday, April 9, 2017

I'm your tour guide baby, I'll tell ya anything you want to know...

This has nothing to do with the post. I am trying my hand at pixel art for an adventure I am writing. Art By: Me

Author's Note...
This is a technique or a tool I came up with, though I am sure I'm not the first, to help folks who too often get bogged down writing details about an area. I love, to my detriment, adding detail to my worlds down to the color of the mailboxes and the reason for it; sadly, I really have gone this far off the deep end before. What I present here, hopefully, is a tool that is in some way intuitive to use; it won't work for everyone. So, if this thing is totally useless to you, you're a better writer than I.

A writer of worlds is a tour guide...
Over the last two weeks I spent a considerable amount of time crammed into a bus while a woman told me things about the areas we were driving through. In other words, I spent two weeks on a coach tour; it was Scotland, and it was a great experience.

Most of the time the guide didn't have very long to give us information about a particular spot before reaching another one. She had to condense down the most entertaining/interesting facts about a site into a few sentences, perhaps a whole paragraph if she had time. While this method didn't give me the whole story about an area, it did give me a working knowledge of its history and points of interest.

More pixel art for that adventure I am writing. Art By: Me

Each day we would also have a number of sites (no more than 3) we'd stop at and wander around with another tour guide to get more in depth information about the place. From the tours I got enough information about a place that I could speak about it with some authority in conversation.

Laying in an uncomfortable hotel bed one cool Scottish evening, I realized that this format was perfect for world building, especially for those (me) who tend to add far too many details about a particular world.

How to use this...
Think of yourself as a tour guide, and your readers/players as the people needing guidance through your world. As a tour guide you only have so much time between sites to tell folks about interesting facts, and your riders have only so much patience before they will want to get off the bus to do their own thing.

What to tell 'em...
The Basics
When the guide on the bus would talk about an area or city, she'd generally give us information in the following format: basic ancient past, basic distant past, basic recent past, basic present. Let's take Edinburgh (awesome city) as an example:

Basic Ancient Past: Edinburgh's name comes from Din Eidyn or Etin, the name given to a hill fort built in the area sometime before the 7th century AD.
Basic Distant Past: The Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh was the seat of the monarch of Scotland until James the first took the throne of England, uniting the two countries under a single monarch.
Basic Recent Past: While Edinburgh boasted a number of industries, it was primarily known for its financial, commercial, and educational contributions that continue into the 21st century.
Basic Present: After British legislation in 1998, Scotland was given a greater degree of independence from England which allowed for the establishment of the Scottish parliament in the city of Edinburgh.

A person can draw a rough outline of the history of Edinburgh from the set of facts given: people have been living in the area since before the 7th century, it used to be capital of Scotland until James the first, it is more of a financial and cultural power rather than an industrial one, and it once again serves as a capital for Scotland. 

A pic I drew for a cool dude for an adventure he is writing. Art By: Me
When designing an area of your world try to keep to this format, you can always come back and fill in more later, but now you have a solid foundation to build from without becoming bogged down in details.

Points of Interest
Give the major areas/cities of your world a few points of interest, at least two but no more than six for a major area, that you can write a sentence or two about. These will give the area a bit of depth without overloading your reader/player. Points of interest can be anything from a small cafe where a famous author wrote their first book or a hill that a folk hero/villain was beheaded on.

Major Sites
Everywhere that is interesting has at least one site where cool stuff has, will, or is happening that a reader/player will want to visit or know more about. Try to keep the list of major sites in an area pretty short, again you don't want to overload folks with information. Its at these sites that you can devote some time into writing details about, these details can then be used to build a real history of a place off of the four bits of information you came up with earlier.

When you write about these places, try to imagine yourself walking through them yourself with a tour guide talking in your ear. While you can add finer detail here than in the previous places, keep in mind you want to give the reader/player information that will allow them to understand the place well enough to tell other people everything you told them without being boring in the process. It is entertaining to tell folks about a mad scientist and her ghoulish experiments at the local medical university, it's boring to tell folks that the 11th Duke of Cornwall did a number of experiments to determine the effects of North American wheat on European voles.

The black and white version of the previous pic. Art By: Me

It's over, you can go home now...
This method isn't for everyone, and may not work for anyone but myself. What I've tried to do is give a tool to you folks, like myself, who tend to get wrapped up in the details of an area you might be working on. Often I have spent way too much time writing about things players/readers really don't care about, when I could have been adding more to overall world. If this tool isn't useful to you, then more than likely you aren't the same kind of crazy as I am.

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