The Key to a Great Story – Building a Micro-World

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I haveĀ a theory about creating story worlds, especially when you are like me and you create world from scratch, which I call the Micro/Macro theory. I’ve essentially based it loosely on the micro/macro economics theories, where I have borrowed the name of it from. There are two theories, the Micro-World and the Macro-World. In this post I will talk about building a Micro-World, and in the next the Macro-World. Then I will discuss the interaction between the two.

So basically, a micro-world belongs to one specific character and it includes all the settings that they interact with throughout your story. Starting very small this includes specific rooms, then the specific buildings that these rooms are located in and then the location of these buildings. Then the micro world also includes the connections between those specific buildings.

For example, on a typical weekday in my recent life I have been at my flat, I have been to work, I have visited my parents, and I have also been going to to a night class in a local library. My very recent micro world has essentially been my home, the office I work in, my parents home and the room in the library where my night class was held. And on top of that, my world also includes the train route from my home to work, the paths from my work to my night class, and the paths between my home and my parents’ home. If I was writing a story about all the main places that I was going to as a character, then those would be the small settings and the interconnections that I use to get from one to another.

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However, this is an incredibly simplistic model, because while this is a typical day, not everyday is the same. Some days I need to walk into the city centre to go to my favourite bookshop; some days I go to a large supermarket to get groceries and other days I’m in a smaller local convenience store picking up the odd item I need. Every now and then my world expands a little bit because I go to a new restaurant that I have never experienced before. Other days I’m in my usual cinema, but sometimes I go to the independent cinema because they show films multiplex’s don’t.

The individual micro-world of one specific character can be infinitely complex, it can change day on day. The thing is though, as an author you have control over your character’s micro-world. You chose for your character where the story is taking place. To make sure that your character’s micro-world doesn’t spiral out of control just involves a little bit of planning. When you write prose you have freedom to make your micro-world as complex as you like, just be aware that when you are building a world from scratch you are going to have to describe it to your audience. When you write scripts with the intention of them being made, then you might need to limit the number of locations you have just for costing reasons.

You also have to consider the amount of description of your settings that you need to give to the audience. When you use the real world most people would know what a 21st Century Coffee Shop looks like; most people could imagine a run-down little cafe out by the side of a motorway. You create a new world though, say like Hogwarts, then you are going to have to help your audience’s imagination a little bit. When you use historical settings, I always think accuracy is the best idea; they wouldn’t have an espresso machine in a medieval castle.

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So when plotting your story and dropping your characters into it, just remember what their little micro-world is like, and remember in most stories, most characters need to go to new places, so how does their micro-world expand beyond their normal lives.

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