Arabella's World: What My 9-Year-Old Taught Me About Worldbuilding
By Seth Ring
The WorldCraft Club has put together a custom set of journal pages to help you get the most out of Deck of Worlds. They are being provided as a FREE digital download to anyone who backed the Deck of Worlds Kickstarter, or pledges to the Worldbuilder’s Journal Kickstarter.
[Update: The Worldbuilder's Journal is now available for preorder here.]
As a full-time writer, avid worldbuilder, and long time worldbuilding podcast host, I was incredibly excited to get my hands on the Deck of Worlds. Seriously, anything that makes it easier to craft settings is a lifesaver. But my excitement was not limited to the deck’s application to my craft, instead, I had a much more ambitious plan in mind. Most of my excitement stemmed from having the perfect opportunity (and test subject) to road test both the Deck of Worlds and the customized journal pages that I had been designing as a collaborative surprise for anyone who backed the Deck of Worlds or the Worldbuilder’s Journal.
You see, I have a nine year old daughter. A daughter who delights in words as much as I do. While she is still largely forming her creative bank through ravenous reading, I’ve noticed her hesitancy when it comes to creating stories and worlds of her own. It is not an uncommon or unique hesitancy, but rather, this is a problem that every creative person faces when they begin to explore their creativity. It can be seen in unfinished stories that only get a few sentences down the page, or pictures that are abandoned when they do not conform to the scene imagined.
That is where the Deck of Worlds came in. Having flipped locations from the deck for myself, I knew that this was exactly what my daughter needed to get her mind moving and build her creative confidence. Which is where the collaborative surprise that I had been working on for the Deck of Worlds and Worldbuilder’s Journal Kickstarter backers came in.
Sitting down together, Arabella and I began to flip our cards, quickly creating a micro-setting.
As the cards continued to land, a theme began to appear, and I could see her making the connections between the different landmarks: a town founded by a secret society, farms inhabited by refugees, a dangerous abandoned mine that was home to an outlaw, and a windswept lake where a now extinct animal once lived.
“Or maybe they just THINK it’s extinct!”
That was the moment I knew that my experiment had worked. So I wrote down what she said and asked a followup question.
“What sort of animal could it be?”
All of a sudden it stopped being just an activity with dad. With that simple exchange, the micro-setting we had created became her world. She was the one calling the shots. She was the one who was making the connections and developing the lore. And most importantly, it made sense to her. Thanks to the cues that the Deck of Worlds provided, the world that was coming together in her head felt complete, as if it could have been plucked from the novel she had just been reading.
What followed was a delight.
It took us about fifteen minutes to get the micro-setting flipped and recorded and to begin to discuss the connections that existed between the various landmarks and people in the setting. Over the next half an hour I watched as she drew out a map, carefully positioning everything so that the connections that we crafted made sense, while continuing to point out details to me (that she had just made up). Once the map was done, she flipped over to the last page of the custom journal pages we were using. It was empty. She stared at it blankly for a moment before asking me what it was for.
“That’s so that you can write notes or a story,” I said, pointing to the quill on the top of the page. “See, we just created a whole world and identified not only the people who live there, but the potential conflicts and challenges they face. You can use it for anything.”
And so she did. The letter she wrote detailed the experience of a traveler who had been exploring her world, clearly expressing the wonder that I had seen reflected in her eyes. The Deck of Worlds had provided the seed for her world and the journal pages we filled out had given her the framework to bring it to life.
As I watched her fill in the journal pages, it was clear from the way she was engaging with her world and story that the combination of the Deck of Worlds and the journal pages we had developed struck the right balance. We gave her the tools she needed to assemble her own picture, but left enough room for the unknown, enough room for wonder, that the process captivated her. See, a totally blank canvas can be really intimidating, but by filling in one smaller blank at a time, exploring your world step by step, you eventually find yourself with a full map. At the end of the day, it's all about finding the right sized blank to fill in.
For the last two years I’ve been exploring this question of how to turn ideas into amazing worlds on the WorldCraft Club Podcast. Everything we have learned and discovered through that process has helped us create a specialized journal to help worldbuilders make worlds so enticing that their friends will be talking about them for years. We use this same system that my daughter used, giving you the right sized blanks to spur your creativity and make your worlds shine. If you love worldbuilding you should definitely check out our Kickstarter page.
As soon as I saw the Deck of Worlds, I knew I wanted a system to record the micro-settings that I would create and so we built special journal pages specifically for the Deck of Worlds. With four hand illustrated pages to help you record your micro-setting, detail the connections between your landmarks, draw a map, and write your fiction, these pages are easy to use and feel great to fill out. They are being provided as a FREE digital download to anyone who backed the Deck of Worlds Kickstarter, or pledges to the Worldbuilder’s Journal Kickstarter.
Author of the Titan Series and host of the WorldCraft Club Podcast, Seth loves telling stories, building worlds, and sharing those stories and worlds with other people.
Growing up traveling between the USA and Ghana, West Africa, books were Seth's constant companions. As he grew, so did his imagination spawning fantastical tales of heroes and villains, of magic, technology, and skill.
Eventually, Seth thought it would be a good idea to write some of his stories down since he was running out of room in his head. Seth Ring currently lives with his wife, kids, and dog in the United States of America.