full transcript

From the Ted Talk by Kate Messner: How to build a fictional world

Unscramble the Blue Letters

In J.R.R.'s world, Gandalf is one of five wzdrias sent by the Valar to guide the inhabitants of Middle erath in their struggles against the dark force of Sauron. Gandalf's body was mortal, subject to the physical rules of Middle Earth, but his spirit was immortal, as seen when he died as gndalaf the Grey and resurrected as Gandalf the White. According to the Wachowski's script, an awakened human only has to link up and hack the neon binary code of the Matrix to learn how to fly a helicopter in a matter of seconds. Or if you are the One, or one of the Ones, you don't even need a hepcioetlr, you just need a cool pair of shades. cehshire cats can juggle their own heads. iPads are rudimentary. No qticdiudh match ends until the Golden Snitch is chagut. And the answer to the ultimate qsioteun of life, the universe, and everything is most certainly 42. Just like real life, fictional worlds operate consistently within a spectrum of physical and saecitol rules. That's what makes these iircantte worlds believable, comprehensible, and worth exploring. In real life, the Law of Gravity holds seven book sets of "Harry Potter" to millions of bhvoskoeles around the world. We know this to be true, but we also know that ever since J.K. typed the words wizard, wand, and "Wingardium Leviosa," that Law of Gravity has ceased to exist on the trillions of peags resting between those bookends. Authors of science fiction and fantasy literally build worlds. They make ruels, maps, lineages, lganeagus, cultures, universes, alternate unrseevis within universes, and from those worlds sprout story, after story, after story. When it's done well, readers can understand fictional worlds and their rules just as well as the crrtehaacs that live in them do and sometimes, just as well or even better than the reader understands the world outside of the book. But how? How can human-made squiggles on a page reflect lghtis into our eyes that send signals to our brains that we lligloacy and emotionally decode as complex narratives that move us to fhigt, cry, sing, and think, that are strong enough not only to hold up a world that is cloepmlety inetevnd by the author, but also to change the reader's perspective on the real world that resumes only when the fanil squiggle is reached? I'm not sure anyone knows the answer to that question, yet fantastical, fictional worlds are created everyday in our minds, on computers, even on nkanpis at the restaurant down the steret. The truth is your imagination and a willingness to, figuratively, live in your own world are all you need to get srettad writing a novel. I didn't dream up Hogwarts or the Star Wars' Cantina, but I have written some science thrillers for kids and young adults. Here are some questions and methods I've used to help build the worlds in which those books take pclae. I start with a basic place and time. Whether that's a fantasy world or a fttuiisruc sttnieg in the real world, it's important to know where you are and whether you're working in the past, present, or future. I like to create a timeline showing how the world came to be. What past events have seaphd the way it is now? Then I brainstorm answers to questions that draw out the details of my fictional world. What rules are in place here? This covers everything from laws of gravity, or not, to the rules of society and the punishments for individuals who break them. What kind of government does this wrold have? Who has power, and who doesn't? What do people believe in here? And what does this society value most? Then it's time to think about day-to-day life. What's the weather like in this world? Where do the inhabitants live and work and go to school? What do they eat and how do they play? How do they treat their young and their old? What relationships do they have with the animals and plants of the world? And what do those animals and plants look like? What kind of tlenhgcooy exists? tpnsroirtataon? Communication? Access to information? There's so much to think about! So, spend some time liivng in those tsaks and the awresns to those qetuisnos, and you're well on your way to building your own fctaiionl world. Once you know your world as well as you hope your reader will, set your characters free in it and see what happens. And ask yourself, "How does this world you created shape the individuals who live in it? And what kind of conflict is likely to emerge?" aesnwr those questions, and you have your story. Good luck, future world-builder!

Open Cloze

In J.R.R.'s world, Gandalf is one of five _______ sent by the Valar to guide the inhabitants of Middle _____ in their struggles against the dark force of Sauron. Gandalf's body was mortal, subject to the physical rules of Middle Earth, but his spirit was immortal, as seen when he died as _______ the Grey and resurrected as Gandalf the White. According to the Wachowski's script, an awakened human only has to link up and hack the neon binary code of the Matrix to learn how to fly a helicopter in a matter of seconds. Or if you are the One, or one of the Ones, you don't even need a __________, you just need a cool pair of shades. ________ cats can juggle their own heads. iPads are rudimentary. No _________ match ends until the Golden Snitch is ______. And the answer to the ultimate ________ of life, the universe, and everything is most certainly 42. Just like real life, fictional worlds operate consistently within a spectrum of physical and ________ rules. That's what makes these _________ worlds believable, comprehensible, and worth exploring. In real life, the Law of Gravity holds seven book sets of "Harry Potter" to millions of ___________ around the world. We know this to be true, but we also know that ever since J.K. typed the words wizard, wand, and "Wingardium Leviosa," that Law of Gravity has ceased to exist on the trillions of _____ resting between those bookends. Authors of science fiction and fantasy literally build worlds. They make _____, maps, lineages, _________, cultures, universes, alternate _________ within universes, and from those worlds sprout story, after story, after story. When it's done well, readers can understand fictional worlds and their rules just as well as the __________ that live in them do and sometimes, just as well or even better than the reader understands the world outside of the book. But how? How can human-made squiggles on a page reflect ______ into our eyes that send signals to our brains that we _________ and emotionally decode as complex narratives that move us to _____, cry, sing, and think, that are strong enough not only to hold up a world that is __________ ________ by the author, but also to change the reader's perspective on the real world that resumes only when the _____ squiggle is reached? I'm not sure anyone knows the answer to that question, yet fantastical, fictional worlds are created everyday in our minds, on computers, even on _______ at the restaurant down the ______. The truth is your imagination and a willingness to, figuratively, live in your own world are all you need to get _______ writing a novel. I didn't dream up Hogwarts or the Star Wars' Cantina, but I have written some science thrillers for kids and young adults. Here are some questions and methods I've used to help build the worlds in which those books take _____. I start with a basic place and time. Whether that's a fantasy world or a __________ _______ in the real world, it's important to know where you are and whether you're working in the past, present, or future. I like to create a timeline showing how the world came to be. What past events have ______ the way it is now? Then I brainstorm answers to questions that draw out the details of my fictional world. What rules are in place here? This covers everything from laws of gravity, or not, to the rules of society and the punishments for individuals who break them. What kind of government does this _____ have? Who has power, and who doesn't? What do people believe in here? And what does this society value most? Then it's time to think about day-to-day life. What's the weather like in this world? Where do the inhabitants live and work and go to school? What do they eat and how do they play? How do they treat their young and their old? What relationships do they have with the animals and plants of the world? And what do those animals and plants look like? What kind of __________ exists? ______________? Communication? Access to information? There's so much to think about! So, spend some time ______ in those _____ and the _______ to those _________, and you're well on your way to building your own _________ world. Once you know your world as well as you hope your reader will, set your characters free in it and see what happens. And ask yourself, "How does this world you created shape the individuals who live in it? And what kind of conflict is likely to emerge?" ______ those questions, and you have your story. Good luck, future world-builder!

Solution

  1. fictional
  2. napkins
  3. setting
  4. question
  5. questions
  6. street
  7. caught
  8. gandalf
  9. wizards
  10. helicopter
  11. tasks
  12. invented
  13. logically
  14. rules
  15. started
  16. cheshire
  17. answer
  18. lights
  19. characters
  20. languages
  21. intricate
  22. answers
  23. societal
  24. quidditch
  25. living
  26. bookshelves
  27. universes
  28. final
  29. technology
  30. futuristic
  31. place
  32. completely
  33. shaped
  34. world
  35. earth
  36. transportation
  37. pages
  38. fight

Original Text

In J.R.R.'s world, Gandalf is one of five wizards sent by the Valar to guide the inhabitants of Middle Earth in their struggles against the dark force of Sauron. Gandalf's body was mortal, subject to the physical rules of Middle Earth, but his spirit was immortal, as seen when he died as Gandalf the Grey and resurrected as Gandalf the White. According to the Wachowski's script, an awakened human only has to link up and hack the neon binary code of the Matrix to learn how to fly a helicopter in a matter of seconds. Or if you are the One, or one of the Ones, you don't even need a helicopter, you just need a cool pair of shades. Cheshire cats can juggle their own heads. iPads are rudimentary. No Quidditch match ends until the Golden Snitch is caught. And the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything is most certainly 42. Just like real life, fictional worlds operate consistently within a spectrum of physical and societal rules. That's what makes these intricate worlds believable, comprehensible, and worth exploring. In real life, the Law of Gravity holds seven book sets of "Harry Potter" to millions of bookshelves around the world. We know this to be true, but we also know that ever since J.K. typed the words wizard, wand, and "Wingardium Leviosa," that Law of Gravity has ceased to exist on the trillions of pages resting between those bookends. Authors of science fiction and fantasy literally build worlds. They make rules, maps, lineages, languages, cultures, universes, alternate universes within universes, and from those worlds sprout story, after story, after story. When it's done well, readers can understand fictional worlds and their rules just as well as the characters that live in them do and sometimes, just as well or even better than the reader understands the world outside of the book. But how? How can human-made squiggles on a page reflect lights into our eyes that send signals to our brains that we logically and emotionally decode as complex narratives that move us to fight, cry, sing, and think, that are strong enough not only to hold up a world that is completely invented by the author, but also to change the reader's perspective on the real world that resumes only when the final squiggle is reached? I'm not sure anyone knows the answer to that question, yet fantastical, fictional worlds are created everyday in our minds, on computers, even on napkins at the restaurant down the street. The truth is your imagination and a willingness to, figuratively, live in your own world are all you need to get started writing a novel. I didn't dream up Hogwarts or the Star Wars' Cantina, but I have written some science thrillers for kids and young adults. Here are some questions and methods I've used to help build the worlds in which those books take place. I start with a basic place and time. Whether that's a fantasy world or a futuristic setting in the real world, it's important to know where you are and whether you're working in the past, present, or future. I like to create a timeline showing how the world came to be. What past events have shaped the way it is now? Then I brainstorm answers to questions that draw out the details of my fictional world. What rules are in place here? This covers everything from laws of gravity, or not, to the rules of society and the punishments for individuals who break them. What kind of government does this world have? Who has power, and who doesn't? What do people believe in here? And what does this society value most? Then it's time to think about day-to-day life. What's the weather like in this world? Where do the inhabitants live and work and go to school? What do they eat and how do they play? How do they treat their young and their old? What relationships do they have with the animals and plants of the world? And what do those animals and plants look like? What kind of technology exists? Transportation? Communication? Access to information? There's so much to think about! So, spend some time living in those tasks and the answers to those questions, and you're well on your way to building your own fictional world. Once you know your world as well as you hope your reader will, set your characters free in it and see what happens. And ask yourself, "How does this world you created shape the individuals who live in it? And what kind of conflict is likely to emerge?" Answer those questions, and you have your story. Good luck, future world-builder!

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
fictional worlds 3
fictional world 2

Important Words

  1. access
  2. adults
  3. alternate
  4. animals
  5. answer
  6. answers
  7. author
  8. authors
  9. awakened
  10. basic
  11. believable
  12. binary
  13. body
  14. book
  15. bookends
  16. books
  17. bookshelves
  18. brains
  19. brainstorm
  20. break
  21. build
  22. building
  23. cantina
  24. cats
  25. caught
  26. ceased
  27. change
  28. characters
  29. cheshire
  30. code
  31. communication
  32. completely
  33. complex
  34. comprehensible
  35. computers
  36. conflict
  37. consistently
  38. cool
  39. covers
  40. create
  41. created
  42. cry
  43. cultures
  44. dark
  45. decode
  46. details
  47. died
  48. draw
  49. dream
  50. earth
  51. eat
  52. emerge
  53. emotionally
  54. ends
  55. events
  56. everyday
  57. exist
  58. exists
  59. exploring
  60. eyes
  61. fantastical
  62. fantasy
  63. fiction
  64. fictional
  65. fight
  66. figuratively
  67. final
  68. fly
  69. force
  70. free
  71. future
  72. futuristic
  73. gandalf
  74. golden
  75. good
  76. government
  77. gravity
  78. grey
  79. guide
  80. hack
  81. heads
  82. helicopter
  83. hogwarts
  84. hold
  85. holds
  86. hope
  87. human
  88. imagination
  89. immortal
  90. important
  91. individuals
  92. information
  93. inhabitants
  94. intricate
  95. invented
  96. ipads
  97. juggle
  98. kids
  99. kind
  100. languages
  101. law
  102. laws
  103. learn
  104. leviosa
  105. life
  106. lights
  107. lineages
  108. link
  109. literally
  110. live
  111. living
  112. logically
  113. luck
  114. maps
  115. match
  116. matrix
  117. matter
  118. methods
  119. middle
  120. millions
  121. minds
  122. mortal
  123. move
  124. napkins
  125. narratives
  126. neon
  127. operate
  128. page
  129. pages
  130. pair
  131. people
  132. perspective
  133. physical
  134. place
  135. plants
  136. play
  137. power
  138. present
  139. punishments
  140. question
  141. questions
  142. quidditch
  143. reached
  144. reader
  145. readers
  146. real
  147. reflect
  148. relationships
  149. restaurant
  150. resting
  151. resumes
  152. resurrected
  153. rudimentary
  154. rules
  155. sauron
  156. school
  157. science
  158. script
  159. seconds
  160. send
  161. set
  162. sets
  163. setting
  164. shades
  165. shape
  166. shaped
  167. showing
  168. signals
  169. sing
  170. snitch
  171. societal
  172. society
  173. spectrum
  174. spend
  175. spirit
  176. sprout
  177. squiggle
  178. squiggles
  179. star
  180. start
  181. started
  182. story
  183. street
  184. strong
  185. struggles
  186. subject
  187. tasks
  188. technology
  189. thrillers
  190. time
  191. timeline
  192. transportation
  193. treat
  194. trillions
  195. true
  196. truth
  197. typed
  198. ultimate
  199. understand
  200. understands
  201. universe
  202. universes
  203. valar
  204. wand
  205. weather
  206. white
  207. willingness
  208. wizard
  209. wizards
  210. words
  211. work
  212. working
  213. world
  214. worlds
  215. worth
  216. writing
  217. written
  218. young