In my mis-spent early twenties, a friend and I created a fantasy world map for our RPG sessions. Yes, I played Dungeons and Dragons – and later a game we invented ourselves to get around the sillier D&D ideas. The world was designed around what we might call the ‘rule of funny’, with place names made up mostly of … More Three rules for naming your fantasy world
Last week’s Olympics left me thinking. We’re a bunch of wimps. I mean, not just those of us who sit at home watching ultra-fit twenty-something athletes shatter world records. All of us. Including the athletes. Humanity has been getting punier for millenia. Footprints discovered in dried Australian mud and dated around 26,000 years ago make … More Worldbuilding: Olympics ptooey, we’re all a bunch of wimps
News broke this week that two sequels for Avatar will be filmed in New Zealand. Unsurprising. James Cameron’s moved here – he’s bought a farm in the Wairarapa. I don’t know I’ll bother with the new Avatar films, though. I slept through the first movie. Twice. The main problem was the excruciating Vietnam war-meets-Pocahontas-meets-Dancing-With-Wolves plotline. But I wasn’t inspired … More Worldbuilding: are you going to watch the Avatar sequels?
Peter Jackson held the wrap-up party for The Hobbit the other week. Principal shooting’s finished for both movies, and the first will be released at the end of this year. I have to say that despite the buzz in Wellington about stars in our midst, I never saw any. Except Billy Connolly, who turned up … More Worldbuilding: what now for ‘The Hobbit’?
My book Convicts – New Zealand’s Hidden Criminal Past is being published tomorrow by Penguin, and today I thought I’d share one of the stories. It had to be assembled from dissonant pieces of documentary evidence – an example of how non-fiction is also world-building. This story is a good one. Betrayal, deceit, murder, treachery. And more. The … More Worldbuilding: Britain’s cannibal captain
Does anybody remember UFO? Gerry Anderson’s first live-action sci-fi series, made around 1970 and set in a modish ‘1980’. A romp of a tale with mysterious green-skinned aliens, a talking satellite named SID, spandex-clad moon women with purple wigs and a heroic alien-fighting commander named Ed Straker. When I was 8, I used to get Commander Straker haircuts. … More Worldbuilding: what UFO – yeah, THAT UFO – teaches writers
Ever been stuck sorting out characters for your story? Especially secondary characters that you can’t put too much time into but which still need that realistic edge. Today I thought I’d share an ideas trick that might work for you. A card game. That’s right. A card game. Alice in Wonderland style, slightly. Here’s how. Make a … More Worldbuilding: card characters for novelists
It always strikes me as odd, in this age of you-must-plan writing, that the greatest novel of the twentieth century wasn’t planned at all Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings grew, as he explains in the preface, with the telling. At times – as when he had got his heroes to the gates of Moria, … More Top tips from Tolkien – iteration vs planning
Writing from experience is usually the first lesson that writers have hammered at them. Write what you know. It’s certainly the most important part of building a credible world for your story. But what does that really mean? Does it mean that we should write about our own lives? Of course not. Take J R … More Worldbuilding: Tolkien wrote from experience too
Most authors dream of following on from J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings – writing a novel that becomes not just wildly popular, but an iconic pillar of western literature. Why was The Lord Of The Rings so iconic ? Tolkien himself had no such ambitions. He had to be prodded to finish … More Worldbuilding: how writers can be iconic like Tolkien