Welcome back to world building with the muse!
Today’s world building discussion is about connections. The type of connections that I’m referring to could also be called trigger events. Defining what precisely makes up a trigger event is not always an easy thing to describe, because a trigger event can literally be anything. But the result of a trigger event is always the same… it is an event that spurs on another event… that triggers another event… which triggers another and… suddenly you have a lovely domino/snow ball event that’s steam rolling towards one (sometimes obvious) goal.
Have you ever seen the television series Connections with James Burke? If you have, then you probably know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t seen the show, then… on this website http://www.k-web.org/ there is an example that goes a little something like this:
Question: How was Napoleon important to the development of the modern computer?
Answer: In Egypt, Napoleon’s troops, buy shawls and bring them back to France, which in turn creates a fashion craze. To supply the fashion demand, the shawls are made on automated, perforated-paper controlled looms… this in turn gives an American engineer, Herman Hollerith, the idea to automate calculations using punch cards… which eventually get used to control ENIAC, the first electronic computer.
Sigh—It’s things like this that make my inner scientist giddy with geeky excitement.
But what the heck does this have to do with world building? For me and my writer, it has a lot to do with world building, plot development, character development, and storytelling. Developing the connections within a world is what gives your world, IMHO, layers and depth. It’s what makes the imaginary border reality and is what can suck your reader into a whole new world and let them live there for the minutes, hours, days that they chose to escape into your world.
The connections that you develop within your world are what makes readers spawn those lovely discussions about… okay—who here saw Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, then Return of the Jedi when it first came out in theaters (way back when)? If you did, then do you remember how many discussions you heard about or had with folks about how Luke and Leia were connected? Was Leia ‘the other’ that Yoda referred to in Empire Strikes Back? And who was surprised about what turned Anakin into Darth? Who was surprised that he did turn back from the dark side at the end? Who saw the father-son walking the same path thing when Luke comes in wearing all black and has a mechanical hand? And who wonders… what if Obi-wan hadn’t set himself up as a martyr to die by Darth’s hands in front of Luke… what path or decisions would Luke have made? Would Luke have turned into another Darth? If Obi-wan hadn’t done that one seemingly senseless act, would Luke have turned the dark side?
All of those questions that we movie goers had would never have happened if George Lucas hadn’t spent the time he did on the first part of building his world and understanding the trigger events that set his world up the way he did. His dedication to developing the back story for the world was what made the Star Wars world have depth, layers, and characters that stuck with you long after the taste of popcorn left your mouth.
And so there you have it, my dear blog reader… connections. The idea that I keep near and dear to my heart and mind when I am building the back story that sets up the opening to the world I’m writing.
Good luck building those worlds with their connections!