World Building

The course description for my Monday night “Writing For Comics, Part 2” class reads thusly:

A master class on practical writing. Students will learn the standard applications of tropes and genres, the rules of pacing and scene work, the secrets of world building, character bibles, supporting casts, sub-plots, comedy writing, ongoing series and much more.

So. “Standard applications of tropes and genres.” That could be a very freighted thing. Last class we were freighting World Building.

As I said, before, Ty’s approach to teaching writing is very much about, “here is the template; fill it in, and you’ll have a sturdy foundation for your story.” His approach to world building for stories is no different. We spent the first third of the class working on the Successful World Building Formula. He wrote nine points on the board, and said, essentially, “make interesting decisions around these nine points that really speak to the story you want to tell, and you’ll have a compelling world.” Points number four and five were the ones that I thought were interesting.

  1. Citizens of this world are different than the reader in a way that the reader can immediately recognize
  2. The protagonist of the story is different from the citizens

So I looked at that and thought: “This is the recipe for the ‘what these people need is a honky’ story structure.” The Last Samurai, Avatar, and so forth. So I raised this point in class and Ty’s response was, “Yes, but those were very popular stories. They did very well at the box office.”

And then we were off to another point. I get that he has a lot of material he’s trying to pack in to each night, and the class likes to get him on tangents (because he often tells entertaining stories about people in the comics industry), so when he feels like he’s behind, he yanks things back on topic. But to some extent I thought: “really? No cautions about stepping in to problematic areas? Heck, no checklists or templates for not stepping into problematic tropes?”

Avoiding being a racist douchecanoe: a self-work exercise for the student.


  1. avatar sabotabby says:

    Hah, when I was reading the course description, I immediately thought that I needed to take it. Now I feel like I need to take it so that I can get all argumentative about it.

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