Putting Your STAMP ON Your World
One great joy of writing genre fiction is creating your own world. You get to set the rules, play the “What if?” game, and create something entertaining and new. It’s a rush when you succeed well enough that readers want to believe in and share in your world. But to get to that point takes some work, and it doesn’t come easy to every writer. A convincing world has as many aspects as the world we live in. While you don’t need to immerse your reader in every aspect, you need enough of each to create a complete and realistic setting for your characters to live in during the story – and, with luck, for your readers to continue to want to play in after they’ve closed the book.
For that reason, you need to put your STAMP ON your world. STAMP ON is a mnemonic for the seven aspects of worldbuilding. These are by no means complete but provide a good jumping point.
is for Social: This is how people interact with each other. This covers society’s expectations, economics and religion – basically, anything that involves people coming together in groups.
is for technological: This is science, invention and magic if you have that in your world. Don’t limit yourself to the machines in the world. Consider the natural laws of your world, such as the laws of physics or magic. Magic needs laws, too, in order to keep it a believable system. Keep in mind that certain technology needs specific resources. We could not have nuclear reactors without radioactive metals, for example.
is for animal Kingdom: This seems like a no-brainer, but don’t forget the little things – and I mean that literally. Do your adventurers have to deal with mosquitoes? How do the differences in your world affect the creatures in it? Mercedes Lackey does an amazing job of showing the effects of out-of-control magic in her Valdemar series, for example.
is for military: Don’t only look at government-sponsored military, but mercenaries, para-military groups, terrorist groups… Basically any group that is organized and uses weaponry and violence to achieve its goals.
is for political. This seems self-explanatory, but keep in mind that politics is more than government. It’s how your party leader will keep order in the group; the power-struggles in the magical university – or between the magical university and the mundane government. Politics is the study of the acquisition of power over groups of people. How do people get power in your world?
is for origin Story: This is often ascribed to characters, but worlds have origins, too. You don’t need to go as far back as the Big Bang, but if the “world” is a spaceship or an underground kingdom, knowing how it came to be can give you ideas for how the world affects the plot and the character.
is for natural: This includes the landscape, the flowers, the crops and the weather.
If you are a plotter or like to keep careful notes, this mnemonic can give you an organizational guideline for your research, with a section for each letter, with subfiles for different aspects under that letter. Collect pictures, jot ideas or record bits of articles and save links to resources to create a story bible that you can refer back to when writing your book or a new story in an established world.
Next month, we’ll talk about ways to develop these ideas. In the meantime, I hope you’ll be able to join me for Worldbuilding 101. Let’s get our STAMP ON.
More About Karina Fabian
Karina Fabian is a mild-mannered writer for Top Ten Reviews and mother of four. But in her other lives, she’s a snarky dragon detective, a nun doing dangerous rescue missions beyond Mars, a psychic driven insane by his abilities, a zombie exterminator… Her rich fantasy life has compelled her to become a writer, and she has written 9 science fiction, fantasy or horror novels and has stories in dozens of anthologies and magazines. She’s won multiple awards for her fiction, but the best reward is when an editor of fan asks her to write some more.
Because her imagination suffers from “squirrel!” syndrome even worse than the dogs in UP, she alternates her writing efforts among multiple universes. She recently submitted the last novel in the Mind Over Trilogy and wrote a novella to marry off two of the main characters. Her serial novella coming out in Liberty Island in November features zombie Exterminators Neeta Lyffe and Ted Hacker as they take on skiing zombies on the slopes of Utah. Neeta Lyffe’s first book, Neeta Lyffe: Zombie Exterminator, is now out in audiobook as well. She has two science fiction novels with publishers for consideration and is working on the next DragonEye, and maybe… SQUIRREL!
Karina also writes about the lives of the saints for a Catholic service called SaintConnection, plus homilies for FAITH Catholic. And, of course, her new full-time job is writing reviews of small-medium business services like eCommerce and social media monitoring software. In addition to writing, Karina has taught online classes on aspects of writing and marketing from worldbuilding to time management and even housekeeping for writers.
You can learn more at http://fabianspace.com
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