Creator of Worlds: Create your World Building concept. | Chrishaun Keller-Hanna | Skillshare

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Creator of Worlds: Create your World Building concept.

teacher avatar Chrishaun Keller-Hanna

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      World Building vs. Plot


    • 2.

      What about Genre?


    • 3.

      The Universal Rule


    • 4.

      Threats, Help, and Lessons


    • 5.

      Putting it all Together


    • 6.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

No matter what genre you write, if you write short stories or epic novels, setting the rules for your fictional world allows you to:

-- focus
-- plot better and faster
-- create more engaging and relatable stories

... and most importantly - allows you to take chances and explore your creativity without sabotaging your work!

In this 40 minute class, I will walk you through creating your concept for your fictional universe.

-- Thinking through your genre and picking the aspects that you want in your fiction
-- Pick the pieces of your story that best represents your world's theme (a world rule) and how it affects your plot and story.
-- Put those pieces together.


Haven't written anything yet? Don't know where to start?


You will have a solid starting place that sparks imagination and character ideas.


You already have a work in progress, and you have lost your way?

You got this!

You can use these tools to get you back on track.


You've finished a novel?


We can use what you've already written to give your sequels or spin-off stories cohesion.


I'm so excited to share these tools with you and look forward to the stories you create!

Meet Your Teacher

Level: Beginner

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1. World Building vs. Plot: welcome to the first section of this course where we're going to talk a little bit about what a story universe is. And how is that different from the plot? And when you hear you bring it universe, you might be thinking to yourself, Why would I even do that for a short story or a single novel? I'm not gonna write anything else in that. So why would I even bother? That's a great question. And the first answer in that is how we define the universally so I had to find a universe. When it comes to fiction, all the universe is is a simple set of rules that determine the choices your characters make. When we apply these rules to the life, it becomes traditions or culture or individually a world which, because that's what usually makes a universe, isn't it a collection off cultures and the way we do things and why of the way we do things ? All of these external factors affects of characters, actions, reactions and choices when they're trying to reach a goal. Now, contrary to what a lot of people believe, um, greeting universes different in building a plot, and that's because even though a plot can involve some external things, what what a plot is is the map of the path that the character takes to grow to figure out what the problem is to decide if they're going to take on the problem and they usually do. Otherwise, you don't have a story, and then from there, go over several obstacles in order to grow and reach to go. It's pretty much incident report on how it happened in what was done to reach the goal. Now the universe is all the options in outside influences that effects why they will go about saying no in the first place, why they would consider taking on the goal by they eventually do it, the help they get, the skills they develop in order to reach the goal and sometimes even the goal itself. This would be a perfect time to look an example. Let's create a character. Let's call him Tommy T O M M E. Time works. A job comes home to their pets, their furry baby's and Hank's of with friends and pretty much somebody we can all relate to on some level. Now, let's have less Imagine that something has happened to Tommy happens to all of us. We're watching movies or playing a video game, and our star starts to crumble. We get up, we go to the kitchen and we're looking forward to a having a sandwich. And there's no fixing tour sandwich now. This is a difference between the plot and a universe, and I'm going to set up plot for you as a traditional inside in times inciting incident for you, the heat call hero's journey away. So if replied ing, here's how the plot Putin's go tummy grumbles. And now we're playing the video game tummy grumbles, and we ignore it for a minute because we want to finish this boss right? We're so distracted by our stomach grumbling that when we're playing this boss or watching this movie, that we just get totally distracted and we miss something. Let's say for the sake of argument, we're going along with the video game. We're playing the game, stomach grumbles. We miss a quick time event and we lose against Boss. That point is what use is called failure to heed the call, And so now that we've messed up with the Boston are still makes women like. Okay, we'll go and make a sandwich answering the car So we go into the kitchen. We rushed towards the goal. Open to the fridge. Want blam! No families. Fixings. All right, plot 0.1. So now Tom, he has to leave for the store that's pursuing to go heads of a destroyer. When he gets there, they get the bread in the mayo and cheese and fixings and then they go to check out. That's pushed for the wind. They go to pay and realize they don't have the wallet. Big field. So Tom had set up on this society. Go to the car, look for the wallet and doesn't find it bigger. Feel I'm like, Oh my God, are they going to get fixings for these foot sandwich? And then time? He remembers that they have a $10 bill in their glove box. A big win. Tommy goes back to store advice to Britain fixing fixings. Bigger win chemicals home mixes sandwich. It's a sandwich. And, um, victim beats the big boss ecology. But if we look at this through the eyes of a universe, you have to consider a question considering the rules, your universe, what options will be open for the character reached Arco? And the reason why that's important is that do you can make a lot of assumptions about who Tommy is and where they live? Based on the story I told you, Um, they have video games, so, at the very least, that after very leaves there in the eighties, or are there because they could be in the modern world. But there are. There were also video games, and 80 I'm actually is latest. The seventies. So anytime between nine late seventies onward, this story can be placed, so that eliminates a lot of other areas. A lot of the time frames, um, food is plentiful and available to Tommy. That would never went down the actual location where Tommy is. Because there are some places where food is not plentiful or it may be it's it's available . But, um, Tommy isn't in a class where he would have it readily available. That also tells you a little bit about his classes that he is that he has the money to just get up and go and food. But in fact, the time he is free to move around in their world. We didn't mention anything about having to go to checkpoints or have being to evade anything in order to go to store. It seems a very frictionless for them to go there, and money is plentiful enough for a time, you know, have extra our lease. Be able to find a $10 bill in the glove box, and these were assumptions based on the story that we have. But they're also features of the universe. Because if this was the 19 forties of during in somewhere Montana in the Dulce Bowl, then food would not be plentiful. Money wouldn't be plentiful at least enough home to just have it lying around from from these from this information from this information sorry home, the reader can connect the dots to make assumptions. And because they can make assumptions, they have certain expectations right for this story and expectations, that section is what traditionally, if there are certain ones and they are all used at the same time all the time or most of the time enough did you get to expect it. Those are called genres, and genre is a big part in some ways is even short code or a shortcut to building your universe, and we'll talk about that in the next video. 2. What about Genre?: welcome back in this section, we're going to answer the question. What about genre? You may have noticed that it took me several classes to start talking about this topic, and the reason why that is, is when it comes to building a universe and the concept and the plot. Those are the skeletons. Where's the genre is to meet it. Actually, she puts the shape on the bones of your structure. That is your story when you consider how we defined a universe which are the outside influences and opposed to the plot, which is the inside flu, Ince's and the path the character takes to achieve their go. Where does genre fit in? And I'm so glad you asked, because that's the saves and screen is about expectations. Before we get into that, I want to define what a job is for the purposes of this class. And it's simply an agreed upon set of expectations, assumptions and challenges for your character, as we spoke about in the last section, the story about Tommy going to the store, we all assume that it was probably a modern times because of what they were doing, where they're going and how much money they had. Things like that. Those assumptions have everything to do with genre because once again, if we change that to something else, we would have give totally different conventions or give details that makes other assumptions. Now these conventions are called tropes, and what they are simply should hand. So the audience knows what to expect generally in terms of the challenges that the character is going to face on a larger skill if they're even going to like the story. If you go to Amazon or some other or toe a bookstore, you go and you look around and you usually drawn to one of several genres because you already know whether or not you're going to enjoy it. That's because you're familiar, and you actually like the assumptions, and the challenge is given to those characters from with their, and that's pretty much what this is. But you knew that right genre is the most recognizable aspects of world building, mainly because once again, is on the outside. It's what builds up the story from the foundation of the universe and the plot. So let's start with the example I changed. I have the same side here, and I changed the font on each one of them to give you an idea and let you think about what kind of assumptions you could make from the story. We don't have to do a lot of deep diving here, but at the clients because of this font, you could probably assume that it's something along. The lines of science fiction are, at the very least, computer related, because this is a farm that is associated with older computers. So it could be a cyberpunk novel or someone is hacking in. Or it could be an older side five when they didn't have the technology to smooth out fonts like they do now. There's old, but there's a lot of different things coming to your mind just by looking at the farm itself. But now ask yourself, What kind of assumptions do you have about Tommy based just on this fart? Most likely, they're affected by machines, or they know how they use a computer, or at least the kitchen processes associated with one. It's probably in the future, and you can tell all of this just by the certain ship will have thought, Let's go on to the next example. Oh, this is one of my favorites by looking at this curly curse of fought will come to your mind here. Have you already changed Tommy's gender in your mind? Perhaps this is a romance, and Tommy Needs needs to go to the store but bunks into that hunky guy that she's been checking out for the last three weeks, but too shy to talk to or the guy she's trying to avoid. It lends itself to elemental romance and may maybe even an element of historical romance. You know, the kind of books with the cover, the guy who loses his shirt and woman has too long, just in finding over something like a railing of a staircase. So over a rock in a pasture. You know the types I'm talking about. Let's try one more. This one looks absolutely a team. To me. There's probably gonna be guns and never rained. There's a lot of gunfire. There's a terrorist or some kind of Navy seal operation going on either in the foreground and background. Why? Because we have distance. A look. There's a lot of assumptions that goes on here. What he chew thing. I know this is a short section, but I promise you, once we have defined, all of these will get into the meat of it. But to recap for now, the universe is the rules outside influences. The options that your character has the plot is the character, the path that the character takes. I know this is a short section, but I promise you it will pay off as we start building the concept. But for now, let's recap the universe are the outside rules and influences that define what options your character has in their life and in achieving their goal. The plot is the path to tear character takes to grow internally and externally to achieve ago. And a genre is the agreed upon based of conventions, assumptions and challenges that they have to negotiate. Now that we've gone through our definitions, let's start building a concept 3. The Universal Rule: things are about to get complicated. Welcome back to the next portion of our course here, the universal rule. Ah, the universal rule is the seed of chaos. What this does is just sets the overall setting. Not we know the characters goal and generally, what conventions were going to apply our genre. This is a rule that sets the tone for the entire setting and will make reaching the goal harder for the main character. As we know, No matter what story that you're going to trying to tell, the main character must have complications. There must be obstacles in their way that they have to go up against and fail. So when we can ratchet up the drama and the make, readers want to know what happens next. Remember, they're going into this story with the general idea off. What to expect, based on the trope in the genre, is that you've chosen. Now it's time to hit him upside the head with something that will make them actually empathize and fear for the character. I want to know how he's going to get out of it, and some of the most intriguing challenges you as a writer and as a reader, maybe related to the culture or to the universe. So let's take a look at our side by example. Tom, he still needs to go to the store. But what if the city was run by computers and they imposed a curfew and a food ration? That will certainly cause obstacles in terms off what time Tommy can be roaming about or go to the store and what foods and how much that they can get. That's certainly an obstacle. And what makes it even worse is that if they decide that they're going to do it anyway, depending on what it is, they could end up dead. Now you can see this applies to everyone who lives in the same areas, Tommy. But it also causes some complications because his gold is to leave the house and to get food. Of course, this is general example, but you can see by just placing a few obstacles in the way you start to wonder. Well, why can't he go at this time? Or is that food really that important or what circumstances can come up? That makes it so time he actually goes outside, Considering what the penalties are, let's consider it and our romance example. I've changed the setting, so it's a small town there. Ah, lot of my favorite romance novels do take place, so Tommy still needs to go to the store. But the folks in the small town are trying to hook them up every time they go out. While this isn't a life or death, it does add drama. If Tommy doesn't want to be accosted by little ladies trying to play matchmaker every time they're trying to get, ah to leader of Mountain Dew in a loaf of bread. I also want to point out that the settings and the obstacles that you put in your characters way don't always have to mean explicit life or death. It could just be a threat to the way they want to live their life. In this example. Tommy doesn't want a date, and the fact that people are very interested in hooking them up is causing a challenge. How are they going to get around getting hooked up when all they want to do is just go back home, make a sandwich and beat that boss on their video game council and now for action example. This gives us an opportunity to really ratchet it up. Tommy needs to go to the store. He needs to get food, but he's deplored in a war zone where ambushes and mind feels are common. And these obstacles once again applies to everyone in Tommy Squad and also probably the villages surrounding it. But it is a specific challenge to Tommy because they're trying to go to the store or least trying to get food. One thing that you can ask, Well, if he's on a base, wouldn't he just go to the commissary and get something to eat? That's true. But what if he needed to get surprised from the local village? Because just because Tommy needs to go to the store, we can adjust that to time. He needs to get supplies as well. Remember, at this stage, we're simply trying to think through the narrative and think through the goal and have some adjustments. So to recap, the universal rule applies toe all the characters in this story. It's specifically engineered and focused on how affects your main characters options and makes the goal less straightforward, less easy. I also want to mention that this not only applies to characters of one story, but this universe rule can apply to ah universe. If you're writing a series of novels or ah, collection of short stories, and in it in of itself can be, ah, bit of short code or trope that your readers come to expect when they open up one of your stories in this universe, the same rules will apply to all your characters. But trying to find that one thing that makes their goal less straight forward a little bit harder, maybe a lot big harder is what will set it apart. I hope these aspects of building a concept for your world has demystified it a bit, and now we're going to go to the meat of the concept. 4. Threats, Help, and Lessons: and this section we're going to spend on the universal rule and talk about threats, help some lessons what the universe can do for and to you. If this is starting to look a bit more like plotting, you're not going crazy. I love doing the expansions in a universal rule when it comes to the threat, the help and Muser proving because thes air solid building blocks of the hero's journey form of plotting your story, having this threat, having a help and having a way to improve your skills. Not only are the milestone Stature character will have to meet, sometimes fell that and then overcome to achieve their goal. But in the way that we're designing the concept, it should be a direct result of overarching rule. It should reflect them that way. It ties it in close to the universal rule and to the genre. Still, you don't mess up a reader's expectations and kick him out the story, because that's the reason why a lot of readers do not continue one, because it's something that kind of throws them off. I want to take this time to talk about how thes three or enough right now we could easily go plot point by plot point, beat by beat and show how the universe affects the world. And in time you will. And we will have a different class about that about the gold for right now in generating this concept is to have enough information to start plotting. It cuts down the time or to start writing, which will keep us in line. If you like to write by the seat of your pants and remember, do these her first days. So we're not looking for perfection here. We're looking for, ah, complete concept that you can wrap your brain around now that we've gotten that out of the way. Let's talk about them specifically, The great threat is the big obstacle provided by the setting. It clarifies the stakes. It lets the reader, and you know exactly what it is that your character is up against and what they have to lose if they don't reach their goal. If they do not overcome these obstacles, the great help this can take. Many forms either introduce the character to aspects of the world today you weren't familiar with. They most certainly service the guide for the reader to show them the universe and get comfortable with it and shows how their rules affect the character. This is the Oracle from The Matrix. This is Uncle six from Wu Assassins. This is Gandalf unloaded rings, or it could be the book in Supernatural. The Diary. It's anything that the characters can refer to to give more information about what they need to do and maybe a clue about why they failed. This leads us directly to the means to which to improve their skills. Ah, lot of times we see this, a big trope or convention of this is the montage training scene. And while that certainly is a way to improve your skills, it can also just be the fact that the main character accepts that they have to do this. They buckled down and they actually proceed forward. There's many different ways that you can go about doing this and will look at these in the examples, and our scifi example actually changed to fund so we can read this when we're talking about Tommy needing to go to the store. But there is a curfew and a food ration that's keeping them do that. But when I think of a great threat of limitations is the fact that the penalty for being caught can range from fines to death. That is one thing that will give Tommy pause. Don't be surprised if when you wrote your universal rule that you have already inadvertently created one or more of these things already. If it does, it just means that you're thinking ahead. And that's a great thing. Going to go for us is to think the room, the narrative and rapper head around it. So we have, Ah, good idea. This also gives us space for us to be surprised, too. Now the method to improve could be something that symbolized finding out of theirs away toe . The hacker bypassed the overlords. That can be a story in another self, just finding the way, failing several times, having to run from the authorities as they search for them because they're out winning or not supposed to be, or they have something they're not supposed to have. And then a great help could be something as simple as getting access to an illegal past that allows them to get these things or someone who actually knows how the hack unwilling to teach Tommy or someone who opens the doors and just allows them to go through. But they have a story or they have a cost of our own. There's many different ways to think about this now for our small town romance. Now these are not going to be an extreme as something is a SciFi or an action packed action type book, but you'll still see them the great Threat. Once again, it was part of the universal rule. Dating is the last thing on Tommy's remind, and they don't want to lose to freedom of singlehood. The stakes here is not life or death is just the death of their singlehood or the loss of freedom. To some people, that's very important. So having people trying to threaten that can spur Tommy into action. Now a great way to improve. We're bringing the new character here. Um, this is Tommy's grandmother. She's the only one who understands and gives great advice. Is always good to have someone in your corner, since that this is a romance and it's going to be less action in general unless you're going toe a sub genre where action is one of the tropes. It's mainly Tommy's Aim defines the one who understands why the town doesn't understand that they don't want to be with someone. Notice that the aspect of the story, the great help and ways to improve is the same thing. Tommy's grandmother. Because as any person. And if you have a relationship like I do with my grandmother, some of my best lessons and some of the most home, the help that I appreciate the most came from her. It is not against the rules toe have one thing that does multiple things as long as we make that clear. I also like that you can use Thies to expand the world a little bit more going toe. Our action story. Tommy's deployed in a war zone. The great help is, obviously he's a part of an army or part of a squad that is highly trained and hopefully sufficiently armed to take care of themselves. The limitation is the path to the village, which is new here, is prone to ambushes and minefields before we just set the area. But now we or narrowing it down a little bit and indicating that where they're trying to get to is a village off the base. To get there, they're going to have to overcome actual obstacles, as in people jumping up from behind bushes or minefields on the road. The method to improve here on face value may look more like a great help than anything else . But the key here is that the folks in the nearby village to folks who actually on the base , they are giving Tommy information that they didn't have before, and they with that information, Tommy is able to make better decisions, and that is the difference. And that is also the reason why I set it down here at the bottom instead of making it a great help, because initially, his best help is having folks around them. Now let's say that we have changed this up, and he was on his way to the village and his team was wiped out. Then the nearby village or folks from it would not only be a great help, but also the method to improve. It's very flexible, and sometimes you bay find yourself giving more thought to it, but it helps just to plug in the first thing that comes to your mind. And as you work through the worksheet that you can download from this course and start shaping your narrative, I'm sure they will become clearer and clearer to you. I really do enjoy using these three expansions to come up with ideas to add more flavor and color, not onto the plot to the setting into the universal rule. And I also find the Sometimes I have to go back and just refine it just a little bit. Remember, it doesn't have to be perfect, and you can changed around. But on Lee change it as far as it will help you complete the work. Because in the end, that is what we're trying to dio were trying to complete the work and not tumble into a rabbit hole of research and world building and our final lesson of the course. We're gonna put all these aspects together. See you then 5. Putting it all Together: Now we finally family have all the pieces we need. All we have to do it's putting together and the download sections of discourse. You'll find a world concept worksheet along with this sentence, which is the infrastructure we're going to use to build your concept. And as you can see, it's pretty much plug and play named location, universal rule limitation, the character, their help. Way to improve and the goal. During our entire time, we've been discussing these things, and now that you have a better understanding of what they are and what they do, we're gonna pop him in which each one of our examples. If you remember from our last section, the sci fi story, we had Tommy going to the store Universal rule. But the computer computer overlords, the curfew, the ration penalties and finding a way the hack and then getting access through illegal passes when we plug it in. This is what I came up with and our science fiction story. This is how it looks. This is the city I know it's generic, but it gives you a setting, Ah, place where computer overlords have imposed both with curfew and a food ration on the humans. The penalty for being caught can range from fines to death. But Tommy gets access to the illegal access pass and finds out that there is a way to happen. Bypassed the system. But will it be enough to get to the store? Now? You may have noticed that there still typos, and it's really rough where it looks like I just dropped the men, and that's by design. It's going to look rough when you first put it in there, and that's okay. But once you get desist of how this works, you can start making small adjustments toe. Allow it to read smoother. You'll see that in the romance example. Here's the example for romance. It looks a bit more polished in the sci fi one, and I even gave the town and our grandmother a name here. This is Fresh Creek, Small town, with the old timers are always playing matchmaker. Too bad Tommy is instead being single is being free, giving me miles around to listen, give advice and maybe get town me out of a sticky situation or two. Maybe now time you can go to the store in peace, making small adjustments is totally legit, making adjustments. Still, it flows clearer. That it reads better is always an option here. And once you have the basics plugged in, you're going to want to do that. You don't want to concentrate on it so much that you get away from your coal witches. Finishing your work non. Let's take a look at the action here in the action story. We're still in the war zone with his squad and the path to the village and the friendlies who can support the troops and give them until Tommy needs to get food to his team. But this is a war zone. The path to the only village with their mouths is prone to ambushes and literal minds. Are there friendlies in the village? Will it be enough? You may notice that this one is almost unrecognizable from the infrastructure, and I'm doing this to show what a highly refined concept looks like. And this is coming from practicing and creating concepts for not only all the books that I've written. Some States America, Siri's Salazar universe and other projects, but also projects that haven't seen the light of day yet. And when you do your for refining? For these, you can do little tricks like this last line. Are there friendlies in the village? Well, we know they dio, but the reader doesn't. It's parks interest, and it makes them wonder. Will it be enough? We know, and to read it us to in the end that it will be. But you always want to ask that question. Tow. Hook them Now is your term. I am very interested in seeing what you come up with, so make sure you download the concept sheet and fill it in. It doesn't have to be perfect. It absolutely doesn't have to be. And if you're running into a little trouble, make sure you posted in the forums here and we can take a look at it and see what you can change round, maybe bring storm a few ideas. You can always make changes and you can always work through it. And next session I will have some final thoughts about writing a world concept. See the 6. Final Thoughts: writing like any other creative pursuit is highly individual and highly personal. It is also a large and daunting task that can leave you staring at a blank page, wondering where to begin. This class and the ones that will follow are designed to give you a starting point, tools or frame of reference and is also designed to help you. Three. Think through your work and through your creative process to develop your own workflow. I have spent a lot of time and energy building this class and building the other ones as well, and I always will. But understand that at no time, eh, my precious about what I expect you to learn. And I hope you're not precious and knock mapped about following everything that you see here because you feel you need Teoh. Have fun, learned the skills, improve your improve your work, work my work because I'll be doing the same. And I hope that you will in this class and the ones that follow, we'll find tools that fit you and allow you to create worlds that we want to stay in. Thank you for spending the time with me. I'm looking forward to reading your work. I'm Christiane Keller. Hannah. You've been brilliant by