On Saturday 15 August 2020 I took part in the Romancing the Gothic‘s Gothic Creative Day via Zoom, leading a workshop on world building and language. The workshop was not recorded, but it was pretty popular, so I’d be happy to run it again. In the meantime, here are my slides for you to play along at home.
Part 1 of the Workshop [Sample!]
There’s no right or wrong way to start your story idea. It might come to you character-first, or plot-first, or just a glimpse of an aesthetic/vibe. When you’ve figured out a viable story idea, you could try to distil it down into a basic concept so that you can communicate what the story is about to others, but also to yourself.
What’s your concept? How does your setting compliment the concept, how does it complicate things, how does it work with the story?
A CONCEPT is a short sentence that sums up your story. It should contain the following elements:
– Main Character
– Central Conflict of the story
Your concept can express these in any order.
GOTHIC WORLDS can be anywhere, and on any scale (micro to macro).
•A dark fantasy or historical fantasy setting
CHOOSE A CONCEPT (but note we haven’t put the setting in yet)
◦A young orphan is raised by their jealous step-parent whose envy becomes homicidal, forcing them into a cat-and-mouse game of survival.
◦A child is cursed by an enemy of their family to fall into an enchanted coma on their sixteenth birthday while their godparents race to find a loophole.
CHOOSE YOUR SETTING:
~ Gothic mansion (but the action never leaves the front door)
~ A vast pine forest
~ A rural village in the 1700s
~ A modern-day coastal town
Why are your characters there and how does the setting impact the characters?
Why is your setting the way it is? Brainstorm some factors that make it work with the concept and aesthetic you want. There has to be internal logical cohesion to the setting or readers won’t be able to properly suspend their disbelief.
Now you have your concept [either the ‘Snow White’ or the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ basic concept] and your setting, put them together. How does the setting affect the shape of your story?
~What do you need to include in this setting to make the story work? What Gothic conventions and tropes fit? For example, if you’ve chosen to have Snow White take place inside a Gothic mansion and never leave it, then you’ll need to think about all the elements of that story – how does she run away or hide? Is it like Gormenghast, essentially it’s own world, or is it like the Winchester House or Rose Red where the house itself changes around you? Why can’t the characters go outside? Are they trapped for some reason [natural or supernatural], or is it a nuclear winter, or is it a metaphorical mansion and actually a space station, or is it on a remote island battered by storms? Or something else? How do you introduce other characters? Are they already living in the house, or can you enter but not leave? Why? Where do they come from? Where did they come from before (or is this something that will never be answered?)