Rae Stoltenkamp gives us an informative look into the methods used by fantasy fiction and SciFi writers to create worlds. More on this during a panel discussion at this year’s Oakwood Literature Festival on 18th May at Springwood Leisure Centre, Springwood Rd, Derby DE21 2RQ. Rae’s panel discussion starts at 12 midday and is free to attend.
Inside Out or Outside In?
Inside Out and Outside In are terms used to describe methods of Fantasy and Sci Fi world building.
Inside Outerscreate their characters first then build a world/s around them.
Outside Innersare all about the world building.
Effective SciFi and Fantasy aims to meld the two seamlessly. A writer such as Tolkien seems as though he is writing from the outside in but he is in fact an Inside Outer. Tolkien focuses his attention on Bilbo in The Hobbit and later Frodo in The Lord of The Rings then creates a world around them. His strong characters allow readers to bridge the different worlds of Middle Earth because the reader can relate to the character’s experiences.
It’s not unusual for writers to map out whole worlds. They will physically draw out detailed maps of the world which then corresponds with characters who people them. Consider the various countries such as Uberwald and Klatch which make up Pratchett’s Discworld. Tolkien went a step further and developed languages for the characters of Middle Earth while George R R Martin ascribes specific traits to characters from particular regions such as the Iron Islanders. Martin is also known to have used historical events such as The War of The Roses to inspire parts of his series.
Fantasy worlds also rely on the rules of magic within each specific world. While a writer’s imagination is allowed to run free, there needs to be a focus when it comes to the way the magic works. This will determine the look and feel of the world.
Writers of Dystopian fiction such as The Hunger Games, regularly map out alternative histories to give their stories the post-apocalyptic edge often required of a dystopia. On the other hand, many SciFi writers use scientific knowledge to build their worlds. It’s no surprise that many reknowned SciFi writers (Asimov, Clarke, Huxley for example) were working in science fields before switching more permanently to writing. These writers frequently consider concepts currently in development and ask themselves the question “What if?” before embarking on a spot of world building.
The way each writer chooses to build his/her world is very personal.In my very first fantasy novel, written when I was approximately 12, it turns out I couldn’t settle for just one process. I remember spending hours drawing and colouring maps of a world for my central character Panthra to inhabit then thinking up something about the character’s personality which needed to be noted down
I am now however a permanent Inside Outer. It’s no real mystery this would be the case when you reflect on my earliest fantasy influences – The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Dragonbone Chair. It’s fairly easy to see my Inside Out leanings in both my fantasy and SciFi series.
In my Rainbow QuestSciFi series, the setting is London, albeit a future one where the city is encased in an environmentally controlled dome. Whether I am writing Fantasy or SciFi, characters are central to the story and my futuristic worlds wrap around them. I do this by employing several simple devices:
- In the first book I tell the reader the city is encased in a dome (based on a real environmental scenario going back as far as the 50’s)
- Computers which interact with humans feature (not unlike Alexaand Siribut displaying more human characteristics)
- I mention the use of air cruisers, space ships and space ports at every opportunity
- Planets like Mars are mentioned as holiday destinations
In the second book the world had already been established so I focused on more homely products such as entertainment gadgets. In one chapter I describe a televisual wall of glass in the Sucher family unit.
To stay abreast of futuristic ideas I:
- Watch a great deal of science fiction – research is a great excuse
- Watch the BBC tech programme
- Read online articles on new inventions
- And follow science features on space travel
Rae Stoltenkamp writes fantasy fiction, magic realism and SciFi.