Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing Basics | Cody Campbell | Skillshare

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Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing Basics

teacher avatar Cody Campbell, Writing, Reviews and Revelries

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.



    • 2.

      Class Project


    • 3.

      Narrative Voice


    • 4.

      What Does Your Narrator Sound Like?


    • 5.

      Motivation and Conflict


    • 6.

      Character and Plot Arcs


    • 7.

      Outlining Pt. 1


    • 8.

      Outlining Pt. 2


    • 9.



    • 10.

      Magic Systems


    • 11.



    • 12.



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About This Class

Do you want to write a Science Fiction or Fantasy story, but don't know where to begin? Do you have an idea for a massive space opera or a subtle vision of a dystopian future? How about a sword and sorcery epic or a gritty tale of modern magic? This is the class for you!

Cody D. Campbell has been writing in these genres for over fifteen years. He has a degree in English from Oregon State University and teaches creative writing at Linn-Benton Community College where he developed this curriculum.

In this class you will learn about:

  • Narrative voice
  • Character development
  • Plot
  • Outlining
  • Setting
  • Magic Systems
  • Theme

You will receive the skills and information you need to finally put pen to paper with confidence. You'll be conjuring worlds of forbidden magic and technological adventure in no time.

Even if you've never written a scrap of fiction in your life, this class will give you the tools to become the author you were always meant to be!

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Cody Campbell

Writing, Reviews and Revelries


Cody D. Campbell has been writing Science Fiction and Fantasy for over fifteen years. He has a degree in English from Oregon State  University and teaches creative writing at Linn-Benton  Community College where he developed this curriculum.

He runs a media review blog at and a YouTube channel called Reading Into It.

See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: all right, this is science fiction and fantasy writing. If you're here, it's because you have an idea for a science fiction or fantasy story. You want to get it on paper and you're here to learn how. My name's Cody D. Campbell. I am a science fiction and fantasy writer. I also teach science fiction and fantasy at Linn Benton Community College, and I run a media review block at Cody D Campbell dot com. Over the course of this Siri's, we're gonna be covering a lot of different aspects of writing. We're going to be covering things like Narrative Voice, which is pretty self explanatory, is the voice of the narrator. But we're gonna be talking about unique voices, particularly how those pertain to science fiction and fantasy. Things like that. We're gonna be talking about character development. I'm gonna be talking about how how good character arc looks and you get a really clean, satisfying character. We're gonna be talking about plots like similarly what a plot looks like. But we're also me covering outlining. I'm gonna give you a couple of techniques that you can use to develop an outline to get a really good story. line. And then we're gonna be talking about setting, which is a big one for science fiction and fantasy. We're gonna be talking about how the setting Inter plays with other things, like character and stuff like that. And we're gonna be talking about theme, which is, you know, the thing. All those college professors discuss. What's the hidden meaning and all that sort of thing? This class isn't going to get into the particulars of line level writing. I'm not going to tell you how to write a sentence. I'm gonna give you some tools to help structure your work so you'll have a road map of how to construct a science fiction or fantasy story. Now these skills will be useful for other genres as well. If you want to write science fiction fantasy now and later, you want to branch into romance or a literary fiction or mysteries or anything else, literally anything else, these tools will still be useful for you. I'm just going to be looking at it from a science fiction and fantasy perspective in particular because that's my expertise. And that's what I'm most interested in. And hopefully if you clicked on this that's what you're interested in, too. So let's get ready to dive in. I hope you're excited. I'm excited. Science fiction and fantasy are both really fun and interesting genres, and there's a lot to explore, so stick around. 2. Class Project: for this class, your assignment is going to be to write a 1000 word short story. It could be science fiction. It could be fantasy, whatever you like. It just has to have a beginning, a middle and an end. What do I mean by that? I mean, you're going to introduce a character, and it's that character is going to go through their entire journey in this story. We're not going to be doing 1000 pages from your novel that you're working on. We're not gonna be doing a sample from a longer story. There's a little bit of wiggle room here. Obviously, it's not. Doesn't have to be exactly 1000 words, but try to keep it between 8 50 11 50 right in that sweet spot range because we're really going for here is a piece of flash fiction. Flash fiction is becoming really, really popular because it's so short and digestible, and I want to help you create something like that. No writing something that short could be really challenging, especially for genres like science fiction and fantasy, because there's so much world building involved in the creation of those stories, and that obviously takes up a lot of space. What we're gonna be focusing more on for this? It's just the character's journey, you know, getting from a to B to C and what they learned along the way. Um, you're gonna have a very small amount of space to do that. But this exercise is really, really good, because what it's gonna do is it's going to teach you a lot about pacing. You're going to learn how to compresses story into a really small area. So later on, if you want to expand that story, it's gonna be that much easier, and we're gonna get into a lot of that in the outlining section. So as we go through each lecture, I want you to keep this assignment in mind, particularly during the outlining section. I'm gonna teach you how to break a story down into its individual segments, and then you're gonna learn how to pace those out based on word count. Once you're finished with your story, you're going to want to revise it at least twice. That's too detailed revisions where you go through it line by line. First of all, checking for inconsistencies but also checking for, you know, spelling grammar, but also just run on sentences, pacing If you have one section of a story that super drawn out and long winded in another section where you just kind of go through what happens really quickly, consider shortening the long one and lengthening the short one. Once you've finished your story, you're gonna take it. You're going to turn it into the my story section down below, and then you're gonna offer two critiques to two other students. Now, when you're doing your critiques, you're gonna want to practice what is called constructive criticism. Now, we've all heard that term before, but I'm gonna get into a little bit of what constructive criticism means when you're looking at a story you're going to consider two things. One, you're gonna point out the things that they're doing right. Don't just focus on the negative here because people will second guess things that they've done really well in addition to the things that they've done wrong. So you're going to say this is good. Keep it the way it is. Don't touch it. I love it. That's gonna be really important. The other thing that you're gonna want to Dio is when giving negative feedback. You're still going to want to frame it. In a sense of what can this story be doing? Better? I don't want to hear anybody saying like I didn't like this part or that character was stupid. That's not helpful for anybody. That's just beating someone down. When you give constructive feedback, it should be like this character. Doesn't Seamus fleshed out as I would like? I want more back story from them. I want to understand their motivations. Why is it that they hate the main character so much like you don't get into that as much as I would like. I feel like if you added all of this, the story would become better. I would empathize with that character more, or I would understand where they're coming from more. That's constructive criticism where you're talking about something and offering solutions. Now you don't write it for them, but you're still being helpful. You're still being constructive. Hence the term. Once the class is finished, you should have some constructive criticism on your story as well, and that's gonna help you a lot. Good criticism is the foundation of good storytelling. If you really want to get a story published, which don't need to. If you're here just for you, that's great, too. But if you really want to get a story published, having good criticism is invaluable. So appreciate each other and appreciate any feedback that you get all the formatting instructions air listed here. You can also find them in the Assignment Instruction Guide, Happy writing. 3. Narrative Voice: for this section, we're gonna be talking about narrative voice as a disgusted in my introduction. Video narrative voice is essentially the voice of the narrator, the person telling the story, the voice that you are in fact reading on the page. Everything in those descriptive paragraphs where nobody is actually talking is the narrator describing the story to you, the reader. So when we get into narrative voice, you kind of have to make a decision. When you're writing a story, is your narrator going to be invisible? Which is probably the most common practice. You want the narrator to just be a sort of a disembodied voice. It's not a person. It's just a voice telling a story, and one of narrator is invisible like that. It kind of makes it so that you're taking the narrator's thoughts and opinions out of the equation, and you, as the Raider, are reading a objective telling of a story. The other decision that you can make is toe. Have your narrator be a character, not necessarily a character in the story, but a character like a person with thoughts and feelings and opinions. A narrator who is in the story who is a character is going to have a very pigeonholed point of view. That's not necessarily a bad thing, But you have to keep that in mind. They're only going to be aware of their own thoughts and feelings and opinions. So that is going to be the lens through which the viewer reads this story. Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby is a great example of that. Everything that he sees, everything that is described in that story is from his point of view and colored by his opinions and motives and politics. If you want that to be a character who is not in the story, that's another option you can have of a voice that isn't actually a character. But the does have a lot of personality. I'm struggling to think of a popular literary example. It's a lot more common and television. For example, Arrested Development. Another example of the narrative voice character that isn't actually in this story is the same Elliott character from The Big Lebowski. Ah, he's sort of in the movie. He's in the last 30 seconds or so of the film when he meets the dude at the bar, but For the most part, he is a character. He has inflection and thoughts and feelings and motivations and all those things that we were just talking about. But he isn't really a character in the movie and that he doesn't really have any agency. He doesn't make any decisions or anything like that. So while you have all the benefits of a voice that has, you know flavor to it, sort of you also, I don't have the detriment of that character's perspective. Being is limited. They're sort of allowed to be Amish int, even though they're not actually in the story. So that's an interesting road to take. Choice is ultimately up to you. Most of the time I use an invisible narrator. So that's not to say that these other more character narrators aren't valid. It's just for me personally. The focus on the narration isn't usually something that I consider, but it is something that you should consider from time to time because it's not something that's done a lot anymore, and it's a really easy way to make your work stand out. If you do want your narrator to be a character, you need to consider What does that character? No, it could be that your narrator is your protagonist. So your narrator knows exactly what the protagonist notes the Hunger Games. Really good example of this. Katniss is the narrator. Everything is described from her point of view. So the audience on Lee knows what Katniss knows again. That's not a strength or weakness. It's a artistic choice. It offers a specific point of view. The other option is to go with a more Amish in narrator a narrator that knows everything about everyone. But the most popular and most common is Third Person Limited, a narrator that knows everything that the protagonist knows that includes there thoughts, feelings, motivations, opinions. Everything that the narrator notes, comes from the protagonist. So even though the narrator isn't the protagonist, even though it's being described in the third person, it's Harry Potter went to Hogwarts. The narrator knows when Harry is angry. When Harry is sad, when Harry is conflicted, but it doesn't know that about any of the other characters, and that's a distinction that is deliberately made to make you identify with the protagonist. And even though it won't really help you stand out going with the more common one also has the advantage of being more comfortable to the reader because they're so familiar with it again. I'm not going to try and shoehorn you into one method or another. I just want you to know the pros and cons and all of your different options when you're going forward. 4. What Does Your Narrator Sound Like?: in this section, we're gonna be talking about what your narrator sounds like. What kind of voice do they have now? Again, this is more for the character narrators than it is for the invisible narrators. Because for the invisible narrators, their voice is just going to be purely descriptive. It's actually more your voice in that situation. It's based off your vocabulary the way you write. Uh, do you write in short sentences to write in long sentences? Do you use a lot of fancy big words, or do you try and keep it more colloquial? That's really the only consideration when you're using an invisible narrator. It's more based off of your writing style or the writing style that you're trying to emulate. When it comes to character narration, however, you're creating a vocal styling. You're creating a voice that is telling the story, and there's a lot to consider when you're doing that. First of all, you need to consider time, period setting, you know, is this a cowboy on a ranch, or is this politician in Washington who's telling the story? What did they sound like? What kinds of words do they use? You need to ask yourself all of these questions. In fact, choosing a character as a narrator essentially means that you need to flesh out a whole character as much as you would a protagonist so that you know the ins and outs of how they talk. That could mean slaying. That can mean inflection that can mean language. Even. There's a lot of great stories with bilingual moderators who speak multiple languages, and the reader doesn't have to understand both. Let's get into the science fiction and fantasy of it all, because when you get into genres like science fiction and fantasy, you open up a lot. Doorways that aren't typically available so you could have a robot. Narrator an artificial intelligence narrator And it could be from the perspective of something trying to understand humans. And that could be a really interesting story. Just in the utilization of the narrator on the fantasy side of things in a mortal narrator is a really interesting choice. And Rice, in interview with the Vampire, did a great job telling a story from a very sort of the leak world weary point of view because the protagonist had lived for so long. You're welcome to delve into something like that in science fiction and fantasy, you can get really creative with the choice of who is telling the story and setting the tone for what the story sounds like. Based on that again, back to the world of science fiction. When you're telling stories set in the future, you really need to think about what future speech is going to sound like. This could be a road warrior, Ah, post apocalyptic kind of story where people don't have access to typical education anymore . So what did they sound like? Would those people talk? I mean, get creative with it. It doesn't have to just be that they don't use big words, and they say, Ain't and gonna, ah, bunch of times you could get really into where they did learn their speech and create some really interesting speech patterns. And the fact that that has shifted in a unexpected way will actually add to your readers perspective of how fleshed out this setting is really popular. Example of that is a Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. He combined cocking English, some Russian slang and a whole bunch of things to create his own unique speech pattern for the characters in that story, and that's a big part of that stories, popularity language as a world building technique. So I want you to really think about what the voice is going to sound like while you're writing your story. Is it going to be invisible or is it going to be a character? Either choice is valid, but really consider what's going to benefit the story the most before you make your decision. 5. Motivation and Conflict: Okay, so now we're gonna be getting into character now. Characters pretty much exclusively revolved around motivation now probably heard the term motivation in movies and TV shows when the actors are always like What's my motivation? Trying to figure out who the character is? And there's a good reason for that, knowing the character's motivation pretty much tells you who the character is. So, for example, Luke Skywalker wants to save Princess Leia. That's his motivation, but really deeper down. Luke Skywalker wants to have a destiny to be important. Teoh be something bigger than his life on the farm, and that informs his character and pretty much every decision that he makes. So when breaking down motivation, there's kind of a formula and it works like this. The main character wants blank but blank, so they have to blank and you can kind of plug anything in there as long as it makes sense and you will have the foundation of who your character is, and I put main character in there because that's the most important one that you're gonna have to focus on. But this formula works for pretty much every character, including secondary and tertiary characters. You have to figure out what it is that drives your characters decisions. That's the want part. But there's an obstacle. There's something standing in their way that they have to overcome. So you get to the so part, so they blank. This is where the characters decision making comes in, and this is probably the most important part. And the most overlooked characters need to make decisions in stories for them to have agency stories about characters that are just being whipped around on the winds of fate aren't interesting stories, or at least the characters in them aren't interesting because they aren't playing an active role in the story. Let's use this formula in action for developing a character. Say your protagonist is a robot and they want to go swimming, but their joints are exposed, so if water gets in, they'll short circuit. So they have to go on a journey to find some robots engineer who is willing to seal up their joints so that they can go swimming without short circuiting and dying. And that kind of tells you a lot just in that formula about who that robot is. Why is the robot interested in going swimming? Is that something that other robots are interested in? Or is this ah unique thing to this one in the world that your devising the facts that it isn't designed to go in the water should say a lot about what the robot wants versus what society wants for the robot? The fact that this is like a journey, an obstacle to find this means it's not easily acceptable. I mean, it wouldn't be an interesting story if the robot was like, I want to go swimming. Oh, but I can't. So I go to the store and I pay, and now I can. That's not a fun story. The story is in the obstacles that they have to overcome the butt section of the formula, so the robot wants to get waterproofed. But that's not something that's typically offered. And he has to find a engineer who's willing to do it for them, which maybe is difficult because in this society, robots wishes aren't really taken into account when it comes to to how they're modified. So you have You can build a story from this formula, and the character kind of comes out of it. What they want informs who they are. So this isn't part of the official class project, but I have a little exercise for everybody. What I want you to do is to fill out this formula three different times. I want you to come up with three different character ideas. Three different motivations, three different conflicts for those motivations and three different choices of how those characters are overcoming those motivations. You can even use the same 1st 2 steps and then right three different parts of the third step three different parts where you're describing what they do to overcome it in three different ways. Pick the one that you think suits the character that you have in your head, the best that could be really helpful in developing the character. This could also be really helpful for your final project. When you come up with a few different ideas, then choosing one from those to build off of is that much easier? And you know that you're picking the best of three, as opposed to the 1st 1 that came to mind. 6. Character and Plot Arcs: a character arc is what a character goes through over the course of this story. So now that we've got our motivation and conflict, I'm gonna show you how to plot that out. So you can get sort of a visual representation of where each of these things are supposed to take place and how much time you should attribute to each conflict and section in the story. So this is a character arc at the beginning. We have the status quo. This is where we show the reader what life was like for this character. This is generally kept pretty short. You just want to establish what the baseline was for this character before the story really started to take place. The next thing is the inciting incident. This is the moment that everything changed. I mentioned Star Wars earlier. This is where Lukes House burns down. Or when he finds R two d two. You can kind of quibble over what exactly is the inciting incident. But it's the thing that changed everything for photo. It was getting the one ring from Gandalf for Harry. It was getting a letter from Hogwarts telling him that he was a wizard. It's the thing that disrupts normal life and turns it into a story. After that, we have the challenges that our characters must overcome. Now there can be several of these, but they should always be building towards the primary goal for Frode. Oh, the primary goal is destroying the one ring, but he has to overcome a lot of smaller goals along the way. He has to escape the ring rates. He has to get the council of L Ron, too. I believe in their plight. He has to get through the mines of Moria. Each of these is a smaller challenge that is standing in the way of his larger challenge, each requiring solutions and decisions on the part of the protagonist in order to move forward. When we get to the top here, this is the climax. This is the biggest challenge of them all. It should be the most difficult. And honestly, the reader should doubt that the character actor is actually able to overcome it, and whether they do or they don't is entirely up to you. It's entirely possible that you write a story where the protagonist fails. It's really common in the second book in Trilogies first book character overcome some small challenge. The second book. They've discovered that there is a much larger threat, and they fail. In the third book, they finally overcome that larger threat. You don't have to follow that pattern, but having your protagonist fail is always an option. Finally, we have the resolution, which is where you define what happens after the climax. What is the new status quo? Once the challenges have been met? What's life like now that the ring is destroyed on Voldemort has been defeated, much like the initial status quo. I don't recommend you spend too much time here. You want to wrap things up neatly and quickly because status quos and resolutions aren't inherently part of the story. There isn't a lot of attention to keep the reader invested here. Now that you've got your character's motivations squared away and you know how to plot a character arc, you should actually physically draw one of these out for each of your primary characters. If I was writing Harry Potter, I would do one of thes for Harry Ron Jenny Dumbbell door. Any character that's going to get a lot of screen time, and that is going to make a lot of decisions that impact the greater narrative of the story . Having this to physically look at will be really helpful for you when it comes to designing your outline, which is what we're going to be getting, too pretty soon here, Doing a plotter won't be helpful for everyone. For a lot of people, character arc in a plot arc are gonna be almost the same thing because your protagonist journey is going to be. The story is journey, but for stories like Game of Thrones, for example, where you have a lot of micro character journeys, each of those characters Journeys is its own plot arc, where this story has a larger plot arc, which encompasses all of those ordered. The Rings is another example. Even though photo is the protagonist, Aragorn and numerous other characters have their own character, arc, which is also encompassed in the larger plot arc. So having those smaller character arts inside of a larger plot arc is going to help you visualize how to parse out each section of this story. It will help you determine the page or word count for each section, and to keep your pacing good from the beginning to the end 7. Outlining Pt. 1: Okay, now we're gonna be talking about outlines. Now, I know a lot of you are gonna be coming into this with a lot of prejudice against outlines in general. Stephen King has famously come out against outlines. Numerous other officers don't like it. I've heard some terms on the Internet. Like being pants. Er is someone who writes a story without an outline, I will tell you that I started writing to different novels without an outline, and I didn't finish either of them. And it was only when I outlined my third novel that I actually finished a book. Once you've written an outline, you don't even need to use it. Just having written it down, you will know where your story is going where your story is gonna end up and knowing that will guide you through the writing process. But if you do want to look at it, it can be a really helpful reference. Most of the time when people talk about writer's block not knowing where to go next, what's really happening is they've written themselves into a corner and they don't know how to get to a satisfactory climax from there. If you have a road map that telling you where to go. Then you don't have that problem. You're writing the scenes that have already been mapped out. And if you ever really get stuck, all you have to do is look at your road map and see where you're going next. And then start writing that scene. Now you can have days. Where you're writing doesn't feel good or doesn't flow is naturally. But that's the whole point of drafting. You write it, you get it on paper and then you come back to it later and fix it when you're feeling better. Now, there's a couple different kinds of outline I'm gonna show you, but I'm going to start with my favorite. This is called the Snowflake Theory. And how the Snow Filic Theory basically works is like this illustration of a snowflake. It's incomplete at first. Then you add to it. Then you add some more. And as you add an ad and add to it, it eventually becomes a complicated and beautiful snowflake much like a story. Now, how you actually do this is you start by writing a one line description, so I'm gonna use Harry Potter as a reference again, Boy finds out he's a wizard and goes to wizard school. That is a summation of the plot of Harry Potter. Now let's add to that will say, orphan young boy, raised by abusive aunt and uncle, discovers that he is a withered goes to magic school of wonder, where he discovers that he is actually famous and treated with a level of respect that he is not accustomed. Teoh. Then you can add on top of that and start describing his relationship with Snake, his relationship Ron in her mind and Draco and dumbbell Door. You expand and you expand and you expand until you have a completed hole. Now, in theory, you can do this all the way up until you have the novel. You can start with a single line, and you can turn that line into a paragraph, and you can turn that with paragraph into three pages to turn that three pages into 10 pages that 10 pages into 50 on and on and on until you have the whole novel. That seems like a lot of extra work, but that is one way that you could write a novel. What I like to dio is, I start with a single line and I go from a line toe a paragraph, and I go from a paragraph to a 5 to 10 page summary of the entire story, beginning to end the entire plot arc from the status quo to the resolution. Not like a jacket description with a cliffhanger. You write the entire thing, every twist and every turn. What you really want here is at least every single scene in the novel. To be noted, this is the scene where these to have a conversation of that get to know each other a little bit better. This is the scene where they discover that it's been a conspiracy the whole time. Or this is the scene where the robot tries to get in the water and the ceiling isn't 100% foolproof, so it starts to spark a little bit. What you're really trying to do here is create a comprehensive description of everything that happens in the story, and the characters reactions to it. That way, when you go to write the story you're adding and dialogue, you're making the descriptions more artful. Instead of just saying he went into the room. You describe the room, they enter that sort of thing. You're turning it from the bare bones of what is happening in this story. Two pros, which is what you really want to end up with, and that's where the line level stuff really comes in. 8. Outlining Pt. 2: the next kind of outlining is called the Spider Web, and this isn't really going to help you so much with the plot as it is with a kind of figuring out characters relationships. What you do is you put the protagonists in the very center of the Spider Web, and from there you branch out their relationships with everyone else. You'll draw a line between Harry and Ron, and then you'll write best friend and then from Ron, you'll connect to his brothers, and you can get into those relationships. And the more you look at this, the more it will sort of in form how these communal dynamics work. How is Harry and Fred and George's relationship defined by Harry's relationship with Ron? How is Ron's relationship with Harry defined by his relationship with Fred and George? By looking at all the characters in this way, it will help you to get a better grasp on the interpersonal relationships in the dynamics that go on between multiple characters in a given setting. And once you've done this, it might help you to go back and re examine your character's motivations and what it is that they want and why it is that they want that, and that's going to really help you to create believable characters that your audience is really going to resonate with. Is your writing a large scale political or social drama? This can also be useful for sort of plotting out where different groups relationship stand with each other. I haven't used it that way, but I could see why someone would. Another thing that you can do just to help you get a better grasp on who your character is is a well rounded person after you've discovered their primary motivations, and that sort of thing is, give them a character interview and what that is is basically, you draft a list of interview questions, questions that could apply to literally anybody they have these online. You could just go find one and download one, or you could write your own. It's entirely up to you, but what you do is you take this list and then you try and think of what that characters answer would be to all of the's different interview questions. Now, this is a little hokey, Honestly, 99% of the stuff that you write on there isn't going to end up in the book. This is more for you. This is more just for you to get a better grasp on who your character is. So if you feel like you don't know what a character would do in a certain situation, or you don't really have a good enough idea of who that character is, and you want just another tool to try and help you figure it out to try and give you a better mental image of who they are as a person, this could be a really useful thing, so just keep it in mind. Doing a really detailed snowflake outline could be really helpful for you in terms of making sure your 1000 word story is a proportional plot arc. Start out by writing your outline. Then compare it to your plot arc and look at how much space each section takes up on the plot arc and a sign word counts to each section in the outline. Remember that 1000 words isn't a lot of space. I think it's about three pages double spaced. Be sure to keep your plot arcs small. Be sure to keep your outline small. Probably no more than a paragraph. And I said 5 to 10 pages early. I was more describing a novel, not a 1000 word. Short story. Keep the motivation small. Keep the conflict small. That will help you keep the story small. You can do it. I believe in you. 9. Setting: all right setting is about the where and when that your story takes place. It's about thinking about the geographical setting, the political setting, the religious setting, the technological setting. And this is really where you have to start thinking about where the science or magic really plays into the story. Because make no mistake here. If you're going to write a science fiction or a fantasy story, the science fiction or fantasy element of that story half to be central to the plot, it cannot be separated from it. You can't tell the same story without it. Otherwise, what's the point? You really need to start thinking about how it has affected the protagonist and their surroundings, how it's affected their development. For example, in Ender's Game, the world is so overpopulated that every family has been restricted toe having two Children . But Enders family had Peter and Valentine, who were both very, very intelligent. So the state gave their family special dispensation to have 1/3 child, and that was ender because he was 1/3 child. He was highly stigmatized. People called them Dirty 30 and other nicknames like that. His older brother Peter was really jealous of him because he had been passed up for battle school. But Ender hadn't so Peter became sort of a bully and because Peter became a bully enders relationship with bullies shifted in addition to his relationship with everyone else. And that's kind of informed his character, which in turn informed the plot. See where I'm going here, the setting, which was an overpopulated, future world affected Ender, who was a character who was bullied by people because he was 1/3 born child in a world where that wasn't allowed, which affected the plot, because the decisions that ender made were affected by who he is as a person. So you see how that kind of comes full circle. You really need to be aware of your setting and how it influences your character, and that will really help you to make the story more clean and well rounded. Science fiction and fantasy are famous for having a lot of setting, and that's because you're essentially inventing the world. When you set a story in Southern California, we all kind of already know something about Southern California. We know that it exists. We know a little bit of what It's like from what we've heard about it throughout our lives . And because of that, there's less that the artist has to do in order to paint a picture of Southern California. They just have to modify what we already have in our heads. Science fiction and fantasy are different. You are creating a setting. Something's more so than others. Sometimes you're adapting a setting and adding to it. Other times you're creating an entire new mythological world like token. But there's a lot of danger that comes with building your own world in terms of keeping your story interesting, because a trap that a lot of writers fall into is what's called exposition. That's where you spend whole chunks of text describing the setting, describing a building or a city or a country or a religion or a political system. And you're not describing it in terms of your visual, sensual, tactile composition, which is how good description is written. Your writing it in terms of just what it is. You're just telling the reader what they're looking at, and that is kind of a no no, you want to avoid that as much as possible because these air such grand escapes of fantasy and science fiction a little bit is going to be unavoidable. Sometimes that's okay. You just want to reduce that as much as possible because the more time you spend telling a reader where they are and what's happening is more time that the reader is spent not being told the story. The best and easiest way toe work around exposition is in dialogue, but you want to be careful because dialogue can still be exposition. You don't want one character telling another character everything that you want the audience to know. It needs to be a conversation. It needs to be, ah, back and forth, and if possible, you should keep it plot relevant people. One character should be asking the other character because it's information that they feel like they need to know in order to achieve their goal. When you do that, it becomes a part of the story, and it becomes sort of invisible to the reader, where one character just saying, Oh, by the way, this building history is blah, blah, blah, blah. That's not interesting, and it's not going to keep your readers attention. That's something that you're trying to shove in their real quick before getting back to the story, as opposed to making it part of the story. There are also a bunch of little cheats and work arounds. You can have someone discover a diary with all the exposition information that they need or it come on a news report or all those other little tricks that you've seen used a dozen times. None of them are going to be as convincing as actually making the information a part of the plot a part of the characters desire to solve their conflict. But tips and tricks like that are better than just dumping it all in the descriptive paragraphs. So do what you gotta do to get your information out there, but try your best to make it as invisible as possible. 10. Magic Systems: This is sort of a continuation of the setting section. I'm just going to do a quick overview of Brandon Sanderson's take on the magic systems. One of Brandon Sanderson's rules for writing Magic is your ability to solve problems with magic in a satisfying way is directly proportional to how well the reader understand, said Magic. What that means is if the reader has a really good understanding of how that magic or technology or telepathy or cybernetics or what have you? If the reader is a really good understanding of how that works, you can use that to solve problems for that reader. If the reader doesn't understand how that works, it's going to feel like cheating. It's going to feel like you are just saying the problems went away because magic and that's not good. That's not good writing, and readers won't appreciate that. They're going to feel like you put your character in a tremulous situation and then you said, but it's OK. Magic saved them, and that just takes all the gas out of that situation. It takes all the tension away, and it makes the reader leave feeling really unsatisfied. What you want is to think of magic or technology or what have you as a tool, and you want your characters to be like little mcg Ivers figuring out interesting and creative ways to use those tools to solve problems. At least that's how hard magic systems work. Hard Magic systems are magic systems with logical rule sets. They have costs and limits. There are a lot of stories that use thes. They're actually becoming a lot more popular in recent years. That basically means is the reader has a really clear and defined idea of how these things work and how they can be used to get out of difficult situations. Soft magic systems, on the other hand, are generally mawr mystical and inexplicable, or like divine as incoming from the powers of the gods, less defined magic magic that does just sort of wipe away problems without explanation. Now there's a lot of really great uses for soft magic, particularly with antagonised so antagonistic magic is often scarier when it's inexplicable . You know that saying that humans are all afraid of the dark because they're afraid of the unknown. That sort of applies to this magic system rule as well when you want to make magic scary. Making it undefined can actually be really helpful. If you want to watch a video essay that gets a lot more in depth on this, you should check out Hello, future me on YouTube. The channel is really, really great. I definitely recommend you all check it out anyways, but he goes in depth in particular, into these two different systems and just doesn't really, really great job covering at all. Great examples of hard magic are full metal alchemist avatar, The Last Airbender, or Sympathy in the Name of the Wind. Those all have really great structured rule sets. Or you could look at Brandon Sanderson's actual work. The Miss born Siri's has a really great magic system where people get abilities based off the medals that they burn. So not only are their ability is limited by the kinds of metals that they have access to and how much of it that they have, their also limited by their ability to use them. So that's a really great version of a hard magic system. Soft magic systems, The Lord of the Rings, the deed of packs Inari in most of the magic systems and game of Thrones like the Lord of Light, those air all very soft because their mysterious and inexplicable and don't have to find rule sets. Just keep in mind that, well, soft magic systems are great world building tools. They are not very great problem solving tools, so just keep that in mind when you're designing your magic system. 11. Theme: in this section, we're gonna be talking about theme, which is sort of the high art aspect of creative writing. It's also the most difficult to define. If you ask different people, what theme means, you'll probably get a lot of different answers because it's sort of muddled in terms of what it is. But the best way I can describe it is a plot is what a story is. A character is. Who a story is a setting is where a story is. The theme is really why the story is. It's the reason that story is worthwhile. And that's kind of beyond its entertainment value, like all stories, more or less exist to engage the reader. But the theme is the thing that the reader is meant to take away from this story, the thing that made this story worth the investment of reading So stories can have you know , the hidden meaning like what are you actually supposed to be deciphering here? Is it an allegory for something? Is it a metaphor for something that is more surface level or problem solving for the reader ? And that can be really engaging? I don't want to knock allegories and metaphors there great things. But theme is a lot more than that. And really good stories generally have a lot more than one theme. For example, I'm gonna go back to Harry Potter. Harry Potter has themes of the importance of friendship, of not being able to fully trust political systems. It has themes of standing together in the face of adversity. It has themes of embracing bravery. There's a lot of things that could be taken away from reading the Harry Potter novels, but the interpretation is ultimately up to every reader. So a theme doesn't always match up with what the author intended the theme to be because different people bring different worldviews every time they read a book. And so their interpretation of one thing might be different from another person's interpretation. So when you're writing something, you need to be considerate of how all these different people are going to view something that you write. Maybe a story that you think has a really clear theme about one thing can be interpreted an entirely different way by a different person. So try to think about that. What going forward, show your stories to people, especially before publication and just really try and get a well rounded grasp of what your story is saying to people outside of its actual narrative before sending it out into the world. Make sure it's something that you agree with, and it's something that you want to present. 12. Conclusion: So that's it. We've covered narrative voice. We've covered character, plot, outlining, setting and theme. You're ready now. It's time for you to sit down and actually write your story. I suggest starting with the outline, then making the plots and character arcs along with your character profiles. You know, the motivation and conflict and all that sort of thing. And then once you have all that going back in redrafting your outline, it's just short. Little outline should just be about a paragraph or so, just redrafted. See of a really firm idea of what's happening, then go through your outline. And as sign word counts, Teoh each section to make sure that it's paste appropriately throughout the story. So when you're sitting down to write it, you know you have 200 words for this. 500 words. For that, etcetera really get a firm grasp of how much space you're going to need to write this story . When you're all finished, remember to do your too detailed revision and then turn your story down into the your story section. After that, you'll be ready to offer your to constructive critiques to two other students and hopefully within short while you will be receiving some critiques of your own. And you can take those reexamine your story and drafted into something that you can be really, really proud of. All right, I hope you've enjoyed my class. I hope you found thes different steps and pieces of information really helpful. If you're interested in seeing more from me, you can check out my website at Cody d Campbell dot com. I have my media review. Blawg there where I do books, TV shows, video games, movies, all kinds of stuff. You can also get updates on my writing if you're interested. Thanks for watching and happy writing.