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World Buidling Wednesdays: The Event

Tweet of the Day: A Quick Ode Against “That”


First off, The Event is not the Inciting Event, the former sets up the world/universe in which the story resides, the later starts the story proper. They might be the same, but not always so. The Event in speculative fiction range from World War III (post-apocalyptic), the invention of FTL travel (Star Trek), the collapse of a former regime (Star Wars) or a massive catastrophe (Dragonlance). The Event has the following features:

  1.   The Event permeates the setting: It might be a starting point for the current calendar, referenced by characters (in varying degrees) and sets the boundaries of the universe (technology, atmosphere, rules of magic, etc).
  2. The Event is known by most: Not everyone in the story knows all the details, or the exact date or even the real story behind the Event, but everybody knows something happened.
  3. The Event drives the plot: It may not set the particular character’s actions in motion or kickoff the story, but the characters tend to act in relation to it.
  4. The Event created the world as it is now and changing it will change the nature of existence.

The key word is pervasive. The Event is not just a line on your timeline of events, not just a thing that happens, but as stated above, something that gives shape to the world you are constructing. It need not take over the plot and the characters motivations at any given moment but they are at least tangentially connected with them. Before panic sets in, just know that The Event is merely the starting point in your world building. A good way to look at it is how it is used in Alternate History, the “what if?” or “for want of a nail” type of situation. The Event tends to be that factor that incites the divergence from our own history and creates a distinct setting  for the story.

Examples: What if the Romans developed nuclear weapons? Or the Russians hadn’t stopped in Berlin? What if all those prediction in say, the Chicago’s World Fair (1933) had come true?

Just make a a solid starting point for the world you are building and go from there.


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