My First Talk!

Posted: June 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

Last Saturday, I actually completed my talk at Nerd East as mentioned in my previous post. It got video recorded in three parts; the first of which as just gone up on my Facebook page, which you can see here if you wish, and can excuse the sound quality, especially towards the end. The other two parts will go up over the course of this coming week.

Below, I’ve put in a slightly remixed transcript of what I was talking about for those who missed it, or just can’t hear me:

  • I confessed that I’d never even heard of the existence of the urban fantasy genre when I started the book, and I barely had when I’d finished the first draft!  But after the nineteenth-odd person asks you what it’s about, you kind of have to look into these things.
  • The Wikipedia definition of urban fantasy provides a base both for writing urban fantasy and building a world for a game. The two are certainly not mutually exclusive. The world-building process is somewhat different to pure fantasy, in that the obvious difference is while you can’t just load up your car and travel to Mordor or Westeros from your house (though LARPers may beg to differ on this), London, Manchester, Bristol or even Chicago are all perfectly feasible real-life destinations to get to.
  • In some ways it’s more straightforward, in that you can just grab a map, or hop on your computer, and most of the time you’ll know exactly what’s where easily enough. But in some ways it’s harder too. People will usually know of The Gherkin Building or the Houses of Parliament, and will have already formulated their own perceptions of it – which can help you greatly, but hinder you too. There will regularly be certain expectations of a place which you have to either meet when writing them up – or make crystal clear that you’re taking them somewhere else as soon as is necessary.
  • This is where the ‘fantasy’ element really comes in. Though you may have the foundations of your cities, villages or hamlet ready to visit for research, you’ve still got a blank slate on important stuff. What really goes on inside the Gherkin Building anyway?
  • One direct example provided was from Misery’s Tear, in the use of the Half Moon pub in Croydon. It *does* exist – or at the very least did, for now it is a boarded up, derelict wreck. But I used to pass this place every day, and it was open once, though I never got a chance to set foot in there. In my world though, it provided me a scene in which the reader gets to meet a ghost that has haunted the place since the Second World War – and to see how the main protagonist, Rose, ‘levels up’ in her interaction with him.
  • At the larger end of the scale, you have the metaphysics of your version of this world to consider. Will the words, Avada Kedavra  have any effect if mumbled by a casual passer-by in your world? Does being caught in dark alleys at night time mean getting your blood drunk or turned into a frog? How far can you fly on a broomstick anyway? Is there a god? Or are there five hundred? And are they walking the streets at night time and threatening to drink your blood, before turning you into a frog and riding off into the moonlight on their broomstick? These are all questions you have to consider amongst the basic ‘game rules’ of your world. This probably sounds familiar to both player and GM alike, and so it should. With gaming, hopefully there’s a nice, convenient rulebook that’ll answer most of these questions for you. If writing, unless you’re doing so for an existing fictional universe, such as the World of Darkness stories, you’re on your own with that one. Though a homebrew system will do that for you too.
  • Consider the people populating your world. Is your boss just a regular git? A werewolf? Or the mentor who will teach you exactly how to cast a proper spell, instead of that Harry Potter one she caught you comedy miming at lunch time?
  • I agreed with Adrian,who gave the first half of our joint talk adventure, in that there’s nothing like a good gaming campaign to train a writer for world building. Games Mastering trains one very important adage: that no plan ever survives contact with the players. This is true for characters, even ones technically controlled by the GM writer. You want to treat them like NPCs, but they’re just not. You’ll sit there writing, totally certain of how a scene’s going to go and then one of your characters will be perfectly happy to engage Plan E. If any of you are kind enough to read Misery’s Tear, just you try and work out how I managed to control Tally for any of her scenes.
  • Oh, and as a final note on world-building, having not been to half the places I’m heading to for Book 2, I would remind budding urban fantasy writers that, just as with GMs, that Google Maps is your friend.

Stay tuned for the second part soon…

  1. Oddly enough, the connection between world building and roleplaying was the topic of my recent bloggage too 🙂

    Congrats on the talk. I am sure it went well.

    • Yep, I spotted that – but I’d already had this one well in the pipeline (as had Adrian) by the time that I saw that. Had fun doing that talk though and hoping it won’t be my last!

  2. Space_wolf says:

    You and your talk were mentioned as part of this week’s Random Wednesday post over on Wolfish Written ( as part of my Nerd East write up.

    I hope you don’t mind.

  3. […] Wikipedia was revisited in this stage of the talk, as I began to define in Part 1: […]

  4. […] year at Nerd East, up in Durham, on something very relevant to this. Have a look on my blog post here (and the two which follow) for a lot more on that […]

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