Page one, paragraph one is the first sense of existence for your new world and the characters within, right? Of course not! Your story picks up somewhere along the line, probably near the beginning, of a series of key events that change your world in some way…but it's by no means ‘the beginning.’ But how do you leverage the past while trying to write the new future? How do you come up with backgrounds when you spend all your time writing about the conflicts, struggles, and resolutions of the present? And more importantly, how much do your readers really care about what happened before page one, paragraph one? Let’s delve into a new section in our world building series, History. Learn how to come up with a compelling back story and how to make it interesting for your audience and crucial for your cast of characters.
A trip down memory lane
Think back to your second hour…sophomore year of High School. Your history teacher went on and on talking about dead dudes while the only thing keeping you awake was the uncontrollable fear that everything he was saying would somehow end up on a pop quiz later that week. No one enjoys a healthy dose of historical spoon-feeding, so it's important to know when and where to drop in those crucial little nuggets.
In this section of our world building series, we’ll discuss three core components of your world’s history…origins, ancient civilizations, and of course, lore.
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The cradle of civilization as we know it on earth is between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in present day Iraq…Mesopotamia. The Persians, the Babylonians, and the ancient Sumerians all called this area home, and some of the bloodiest wars in recorded history are still fought today in this fertile region of our world.
Consider also the Greek, the Roman, and the Egyptian Empires. Where would civilization as we know it be without their lasting cultural impact? Even though these empires waned in glory long ago, we still see their legacy on a daily basis. Universities and Archaeologists around the world continue their quests of research and discovery, hoping to unlock more secrets of the past.
Incorporate these ideas liberally into your story, as references to ancient civilizations can provide a significant spark to your world and pique the interests of your readers.
Back to the Future...
The key to history is to remember that it laid the foundation for everything happening in your current story. Let these tales, typically exaggerated and exploited, lay the groundwork for the situations your characters find themselves in today.
But more importantly, remember that no one wants to pick up a book, only to be spoon-fed lengthy chapters of the history of your world. Work it in, weave it through, and enhance the reader’s experience by giving them a glimpse into a world before the one they now know.
Continue Reading: World Building 101: Origins
Hello, my name is Scott...I'm a husband, father of 3, and work full-time in IT. If that's not enough on my plate, I'm also tackling the biggest 'creative' project of my lifetime, bringing the world of Mists of Kel Doran to life. I hope you like what I'm trying to pull off and I truly appreciate all of those who have supported this dream of mine. Here's to following your heart and having the courage to put your ideas out there for the world to enjoy :)
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