Editing Rant: Generic Worldbuilding

Image courtesy of suphakit73 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you have been following my blog, you know I looooove worldbuilding.

Good worldbuilding brings a layer to the game where the characters are more real, the plot more driven, and the story becomes mind-blowing as the reader forgets about their own world and gets involved in yours. Generic worldbuilding creates an opposite affect – the characters are cutouts, the plot phoned in, and the story so “paint-by-numbers” the reader would have been better off buying a choose-your-own-adventure.

The superhero prose genre has some of the best and some of the most generic worldbuilding I have ever seen. Of all sci-fi/fantasy type stories, Superhero prose is one of the easiest for world-building so not doing it is beyond lazy. You don’t need to define where the powers come from – people could one day wake up with the powers; you don’t need to define how they work, they just do. You can play fast and loose with real science, sci-fi science, and fantasy magic. The rules don’t need to make sense. You can have standard powers ranging from “brick” (invulnerable and strong) to speedster to energy. This subgenre, thanks to roleplaying, comes with lots of quick power ideas clearly defined.

The superhero romance I just read did not even try. The superheroes were one family, and they fly and have superstrength, and, with the strength levels, needed to be careful with their romantic interests. Fly and have superstrength; that was it! The extent of the worldbuilding stopped with being careful when hugging their women. No variation between the powers – not even one brother flies better and the other is stronger and the third more invulnerable so they change who responds to what emergency.

I’ve seen generic powers become fun with the superhero learns control by learning how to cook; think fried eggs for strength and whipping up a souffle for speed. The Greatest American Hero TV show (1981-1983) had a flying hero afraid of heights, so  when he first started he topped out his flying at 5 feet above the ground. Take what makes your world unique to the next level!

It’s okay to start your world as “generic” fantasy with elves, orcs, and dwarves or your sci-fi with “typical” faster-than-light travel and laser cannons. Even urban fantasy has the generic setting of vampire, werewolves, and ghosts. But once establish…

make it yours.


Book Review: I, Zombie

Amazon Cover - I Zombie

Book Cover from Amazon

* Someone is Murdering the Dead. *

I, Zombie by Doris Piserchia under the pen name of Curtis Shelby


When the girl from the asylum drowned in the lake that night, she thought it was the end of her life, but she was wrong.

With robots at fifty thousand dollars a unit, it was far more economical to use corpse labour – all it took was a two-thousand dollar animating pack in the brain, and a zombie worker, under the direction of a helmeted controller, could do just about anything except think.

Or so everyone said. But in the zombie dorms at night, with only the walking dead for roommates, things were not as they should have been. The girl from the asylum seemed to have more mental ability, not less, and someone was trying to kill her. Kill a dead girl?

Maybe there was more to heaven than an afterlife of manual labour in the company of a bunch of stiffs!



One of my favorite books of all time, I don’t know how many times I have read it. Picked it up back when it was first released in 1982 at an airport to keep from getting bored on a plane. (now available on kindle – yeah! … because my original paperback is Beat Up(tm).)

Interesting psychological study. Pretty cool worldbuilding with the Frogs and the Zombies (deceased humans with brain packs to work them). Actually excellent worldbuilding, the layers to the Zombies and the world trying to translate that over to the mentally disturbed. Layers upon layers with the brain pack technology and the Frog culture.

Then the action adventure with fights in front of a furnace and problem-solving mysteries with someone murdering the dead and the ice world melting, keeps everything moving at a fast pace.

This book is one of my happy places.

NOTE: Curt Selby is the pen name of Doris Piserchia, so “Curt Shelby” appears on the cover but you will now find the book under Doris Pierchia’s real name for the kindle.

Writing Exercise: Unexpected Consequences

Tech Grid Hand Stock Art

Image Courtesy of pixtawan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

First Step, Initial Worldbuilding – Second Step, Unintended Consequences

Basically one part of worldbuilding is taking the change made in the world and parse it out to additional layers. Only when a writer commits to the consequences of those first choices does the world become real.

Example: Punk cuts off arm and replaces with cyber arm. We know the back muscles will also need replacement for the strength modification and likely the leg bones to support any additional weight carried. It will need to be charged, lets say solar thread replaced hair, plus a nighttime recharge against a wall. Yea – change and then additional change.

One step further, I had a friend with a missing body part – her daily calorie count was about 300 less than one would expect for someone her size (and she was small) – so her calorie count needed to hover about 1,200 except for special days. Not a diet to lose weight, but the meat missing from her body mass that no longer needed to be repaired, heated or function required her to take in less energy producing products or gain weight quickly. So this huge cyber punk guy guy with the cyber arm, replaced bones and adjusted muscles likely eats like a bird! … Oh, and additional question with 3 out of 4 of his limbs missing natural long bones – how is his body making all the blood necessary – is it necessary with the missing body parts – does he make more than he needs now?

WRITING EXERCISE: Okay – so for your present work – come up with one unexpected consequence and explain it below. Now you don’t want to do this all the time because you can spend forever on worldbuilding, but having one or two of these takes you beyond – well, the dude can fly, the wand makes magic. 

Other Cool Posts: Magical Words January 31, 2011

Temple In Sunset Stock Photo

Image Courtesy of pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Vernor’s Law

I’ve been going through the Magical Words archives, making certain I have made a copy of everything before it hits the seven-year disappear mark. And I found it! Vernor’s Law. No, not the one of “If the technological singularity can happen, it will.” but the one useful for writers.

(please note this is paraphrased) At any given time while writing, at least two of the three should be happening in a scene, preferably all three. Otherwise your writing has stalled.

  1. Develop character
  2. Advance plot
  3. Fill in necessary background information.

The most commonly known version of breaking this law is an information dump. On the other hand, the most common weakness of a new writer is the character description which just describes the character like they are in a police lineup.

David B. Coe goes into a series on descriptive passages helping writers to sharpen their descriptive skills so nothing is just an information dump. The series includes the following (with the comments being nearly as useful as the blog postings):

Part I: Settings

Part II: Character

Part III: Action

Part IV: Dialogue

WRITING EXERCISE: After reviewing the above, write 200 words or more description from your present WIP using one of the following prompts: a setting building toward action, a secondary character as described by the main character, an action scene from someone other than your typical POV character limited by that characters experience and language, or a dialogue which is particularly about character building and background information.

Other Cool Blogs: Magical Words June 16, 2016


Painting entitled: Woman in Prayer

Worldbuilding: Gods

Everywhere we look religious is steeped into our culture. How the days of the weeks play out, the days off, holidays, how people dress, quotes, country boundaries, and dozen of other expectations. To write a world without religion, whether horror, science fiction, or fantasy creates an unreal world.

I loved how steeped Babylon 5 was in religion: Stephen Franklin’s Foundationism, Susan Ivanova’s Judaism, the Mimbari government being lead partially by their priesthood, and G’Kar’s fanaticism. Every character is on Bab 5 was driven partially by belief in something greater, including Londo’s ties to his people. Without the religious overtones, Babylon 5 would have been the typical bland sci-fi we normally see. Instead it constantly was asking questions.

Magical word’s Diana Pharaoh Francis covered the topic in “God-Fearing Woman”. The list of questions to ask when creating a religion are especially important. I lightly touched on religion in the flash Joelie and Sarah’s Last Day last month. Joelie is an ongoing character for me; I especially love the religion I created for him. The Tester is neither good or evil, benevolent or petty, but a smith shaping materials to be the best they can be – sometimes the hard hammer and sometimes the gentle hands.

WRITING EXERCISE: Pick three characters from your present work-in-progress. Create one prayer for each they might say at the beginning or end of a day.

READING EXERCISE: Think of your present read-in-progress. How does religion impact one of the characters? Does their beliefs drive any of their goals?