‘Instant world-building’ isn’t quite as thrifty as it sounds – it doesn’t involve rolling dice or scrambling names for towns – because it’s based on the simple idea of stream of consciousness.
As writers, we easily get bogged down in researching time periods or naming ships or deciding if Town A hates Town B and if it’s really Town C’s fault, but often we can be saved by something many of us loathe during the writing time: socializing. Instead of spending hours deciding if Town C is named This and Town B is named ThisThat, use rapid fire questioning to make the executive decision, with confidence as you’re with a potential reader. Bringing in another person and attempting to explain your work is a terrifying notion but, unfortunately, extremely helpful, and instant world-building buds from this.
When you talk with another person and explain to them about your work, it forces you to put your work in a perspective understandable to someone who doesn’t live in it with you. They don’t know all that backstory and detail and random information rolling around in your head. But, sometimes, neither do you, once you get past government and religion and climate and bigger things like that.
‘Instant World-building’ uses your creativity without your inner questioning editor, because it depends on you creating details quickly and confidently. When your person asks, “What type of trees are predominant in this forest?”, you answer without hesitation, “Eucalyptus,” without hemming and hawing over if it’s biologically possible in that forest along the coast anyway because that’s something your inner editor can handle later.
The point is to answer as many random questions as possible, and take notes, to create your world ‘instantly.’ Your creative mind, your imagination, is doing the work for you. And then all that is left is auditing a bit later on – making sure you don’t have goldfish dominating a salt water lake or 19th century thinking in a 17th century town or palm trees by your northward town experiencing a blizzard, unless you have good back-end explanations for the break from our reality’s science (or history, etc).
Instant world-building makes the process fun and less pressured. You can sit for long sessions pulling out random details you’d never even think of, just because someone else’s mind is thinking of it. Invite a friend over, order a pizza, have some wine, maybe record the conversation so you don’t have to worry your memory, and get that world expanded!
A quick compilation of questions to get the session going:
Which are the fishing towns? The cold towns? The tropical?
What are the common illnesses?
Which fish are eaten most?
What’s the fancy cuisine like?
What are some more expensive purchases?
Which place exports this and imports that?
What are the main crops? Which crops grow where? Do some towns have crop monopolies?
Which animals are often hunted? Which are protected?
Is marriage secular, legal, religious? Who can marry whom? Is there an age barrier?
What are the community events like? How is community represented?
Do most people go to school? For how long? Is school meant more for certain people rather than others?
How ‘woke’ are the people? Are most people ignorant of current events, or is there a working news system?
What is poverty? Are there homeless? How is poverty and homelessness handled?
What is the majority species/race? Who are the minorities?
Prompt updates! Here are the latest bauble word prompts, added to baubles posted over the last few years. Have a Bits & Baubles suggestion? Contact us with the bauble number and your suggested bit!
“The James, at Lake & Honor, welcomes our luxury guests to this exclusive all-inclusive weekend. Be sure to check in at the front desk – we wouldn’t want any… oversights, would we?”
“Look at that.” “What?” “He’s… Well, he’s smiling.” “He was laughing only a few minutes ago.” … “We’ll have to find his fiance.” “What? Why?” “He was getting married, Miss Jones, I’m sure the bride will want to know he’s dead.”
“Has she done this in front of an audience before?” “What do you mean?” “Radio talents don’t always hold up on stage. I just want to be sure of my… investment.” “Don’t you worry, Mr. Connor, I’d say your investment is safe.” “It had better be, Mr. Reed. It’d better be.”
One of the other girls found her and assumed she had passed out drunk. The champagne bottle nearby was empty and no one questioned it until the governess tried to wake her up. She was dead and everyone panicked.
She paused as she reached out, the jellyfish pulling back from her. The group glowed with a soft blue light and shimmered as they floated around the room. She took a deep breath, partially to steady herself and partially to prove to herself that she wasn’t dead.
“It almost feels like your real wings, I’m sure.” His words echoed in her mind with every step as the golden feathers brushed against her bare skin, every touch a reminder of what he stole. It was a game, but she refused to play by his rules.
The smoky ring swirled over him and the deserted road, as if it knew he was the sole witness. Who else could he tell at two in the morning? No one. But he knew, from the twisting knot in his gut, that someone needed to know.
“What?” Her hand wavered over the girl’s ear. The girl shrugged and started to walk away, but she grabbed her arm. “What did that mean?”
The girl smiled at her and said, “I get it. She chose you for a good reason, didn’t she, Violet?”
Violet tightened her grip, searching for the meaning behind the girl’s words. She let go: “I don’t know what you mean.”
She wasn’t quite queen yet, but no one was particularly surprised by how eager she was to inherit the crown as her father became weaker and weaker. Her stepmother was furious but didn’t dare speak out for fear the princess’ wrath would fall on her too. Survival outweighed common sense in this court as everyone waited for the coming storm.
The energy throbbed around and through the outer hall, emerging at the back and dying off as it reached the front, with small sparks and a whine. The observer stood at the deck rail and carefully avoided the walls; they eyed the semi-hidden door in the smooth wall surface, taking a deep steadying breath.
“Let my hand be steady, my heart be strong, and my mind be firm.” The blade shone dimly as it wavered in her hands. With a deep breath she lowered her arms and gazed through the mist. “Today is a dark day. I’ll be fighting the fear before I even reach the battle.”
To the crowd, they were pretty bows. To her, they were part of a high-fashion straitjacket, and the people who forced her into it weren’t going to let her out any time soon.
The sheer fabric over her eyes did little to obscure their route through the building. She supposed it was purely ceremonial, until she noticed the other girls voluntarily keeping their eyes tight shut.
Stay tuned for more prompt updates!
Newest updated prompts – new bits for each bauble!
Talons scraped the rock, snow breaking away as the hands sought the long engraved sigils. Whisperings and hissings poured over the stones and soaked the air around this quiet place.
He paused, glancing in either direction before approaching the fence. No matter how quick I thought I was, dodging behind the wall at the corner, my heart skipped a beat and I knew his eyes met mine.
Each step made her toes more froze, and each step seemed to make her heart beat louder, and each step was another leap of faith. She didn’t see anyone, not even the person she was expecting to see, and she started to worry her heart would pound out of her chest.
“How did you steal the matches?”
“I traded for a box of cigarettes.”
“How did you get a box – actually, I don’t wanna know.”
“You really don’t. Let’s just get started.”
“You hear that?”
“We all hear that. How could we not hear that?”
“We should head home.”
“What, are you scared?”
“You know what that sound means, we should go.”
“It’s just a stupid legend.”
“Or maybe you’re just stupid. Let’s go.”
“Hang on… There. We can find the arrow tomorrow and see just how much of a legend it is.”
He could see her eyes flash momentarily, and the warmth fade in favor of cold logic. Her decision required logic without feeling, she finally realized, and he knew the logical outcome meant nothing good for himself. It was perhaps a selfish thought, and he considered it for only a full minute, but he allowed himself the vain hope that those emotions were still there, speaking in the guise of logic.
The sharp nails scratched the back of his hand as they shook on their deal. He shivered, giving away the subconscious fear of his partner, and the other hand tightened around his own. “Not to worry, you couldn’t have made a better deal.”
He slammed the paper down on the table, scratched his chin, and consider for a minute. A door closed downstairs. He struck a match and watched with sad eyes as the letter rolled and charred and disappeared into ash in front of him.
“Why are they all here?”
“Why shouldn’t they be?”
“But why not in the garden?”
“Perhaps they found a sweeter nectar on the walls.”
She slid into the statue’s arms as a joke, pretending to play the aged silent flute. It was a joke. She didn’t set out to cause any real damage or offense; and she certainly didn’t expect the flute-player himself to be offended.
“There’s something so dramatic about yellow roses.” He squatted beside the flower and took a quick picture. “A survivor, despite everything man might build on its ground.”
The back of the bottle had a small label with a nearly illegible scribbled date. “It’s just some white stuff.” She angled the bottle, up in front of the light, and, with a loud gasp, she nearly dropped it. “There’s… There’s something inside!”
Shallow breaths echoed in the silence; he wasn’t gasping anymore, or even struggling. Reality felt limp and unfocused, and he hardly registered the sound of footsteps before he was turned over, a blurry dark mass standing over him.
“We’re the ones staring at the ceiling, at the walls, out the windows, at anything that isn’t reminding us how crappy life can be, at anything that lets us freely think.”
“You’re kind of dark, aren’t you?”
“So, you don’t sleep?”
“I do. Sometimes. Eventually.”
“I’m glad we’re sharing a room.”
“I like the way your mind works.”
“Thanks, I guess.”
“Let’s be dreamers for a little longer.”
She shuffled deeper into the shadows, her bright blue eyes bouncing around, watching carefully for any movement. A nearby box fell with a thud. Her breath caught, her eyes flashed, and she shivered a little. A cat appeared around the side of the box and, with another flash, was reduced to a scorch mark on the tile floor.
It wasn’t just a flash of lightning, but something sustained. She pushed through a couple more bushes above the dunes, watching the light flicker over the water – and into a small boat. She laughed a loud “ha!” and hurried to turn on her camera before the light disappeared.
Stay tuned for more updates regularly!
NEW updated prompts this week! New bits for each bauble means new word prompts! Check the new ideas out below:
“You think you should be heading this mission?”
“Goddamn right I do. Do you have any idea…”
“I do, actually. Just in case you’re having a senior moment, I’ll remind you of some of your record’s highlights: misfired bomb in a civilian city, entire squadron still MIA five years later, and two diplomats killed under your watch.”
His face squished up, turning red slightly as he ground his teeth.
“Now, how about we get through this mission alive? And, then, you can complain about my age.”
She unnerved him; he could feel her eyes boring into his soul, examining him, judging him, even if her expression softened. He watched her relax, a small smile dancing on her lips. To her, he was beautiful, his soul alight with a unique fire.
“You done messed up.”
“Like real messed up. Like grounded until you’re forty.”
He laughed as the picture snapped, and Sean couldn’t help smiling with him. “Dude, I never felt so pretty. Imma wear flowers everyday now.”
“How do we know this is the right house?”
“I saw them go in.”
“I don’t know, looks too nice.”
“Too nice for what?”
“Their ugly faces.”
“You’re not a princess, you’re a bitch, and there’s a major difference.”
Sofia looked up from her mirror, with a soft condescending smile: “No one ever said a princess couldn’t be a bitch, honey.”
“Why do you wear a mask? It scares people.”
“They deserve to be scared.”
Sweet nothings in her ear and the smell of coffee as he kissed her cheek. He was warmth and she wanted to bask in his light forever.
Stay tuned for more!
An excerpt from the full review:
Older women are a rare protagonist, and not just in animation; strong and capable grandmothers even more so. But Triplets of Belleville is its own kind of rare film. Following Madame Souza’s quest to find her grandson Champion, a bicyclist kidnapped by the French Mafia, Sylvain Chomet’s debut feature film has quiet simplicity that may seem unusual to most American audiences.
Beginning with a black-and-white television program featuring the Triplets of Belleville and several caricatured but real-life stars of the time, we meet Madame Souza and her young grandson Champion. After the unspecified death of his parents, young Champion lives with Madame Souza, who tries to find the quiet young boy’s interests, eventually even getting him a dog, Bruno, but to no avail. That is, until she finds a scrapbook all about bicycling; the young boy gets a tricycle and the grown man has a bicycling regime leading him to the Tour du France. Oui oui! But the French Mafia lie in wait. Sacre bleu! Champion and two other cyclists are kidnapped from the race, and Madame Souza does her best to follow their trail – to the bustling metropolis of Belleville…
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