WRITING How do you go about creating the "atmosphere" or "feel" of your universe?

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY HELP' started by Diana, Apr 16, 2015.

  1. In popular, recognizable universes they have this atmosphere, feel, CULTURE to the whole thing that makes them distinct. When you see something it automagically makes you think of that universe because they managed to create it so well.

    Harry Potter and Firefly are two of my favorite examples!

    What do you do to help make an atmosphere? What are some little things that help inspire you or the creation process?

    I AM CURIOUS TO KNOW! >> Sometimes I am not sure how to create this in writing.
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  2. I use the mood of the NPCs a lot to reflect the mood. How most of the population looks, acts, and speaks says a lot about the tone of a place. Also, the grimmer the atmosphere, the grimier (or at least less appealing) the setting sounds.
  3. I'm going to take this and expand a bit. Specifically on the 'speaks' part. Most people[citation needed] rely on trying to throw in out of place slang, or spelling words differently to try to convey a specific culture, but otherwise use the same diction and grammar that they do. I find that changing the grammar structure of the sentences people say can give that sense of who they are even better than misspelling a word. Remember, there's more to dialects than diction!

    The issue with this being, of course, that this takes a lot more effort to pull off well. Namely, research. For some that's a problem, and so I can understand why everyone doesn't do this. It isn't necessary, it's more of icing on the dialogue cake.
  4. I wasn't really referring to this phenomenon, but you definitely make a good point! You should expand on it further (maybe some examples and do's/don'ts?) in a culture workshop 8D
  5. I basically use core motifs and symbolism to carry the atmosphere and the mood of a reality. I usually take one element and place it at the centre of the universe, letting it dominate as the ages change, new cultures rise or fall. Along with that, I usually have several recurring themes, characters or perhaps even just hints.

    To give you two examples, one of my constructed realities is supposed to be realistic, but optimistic, so the way I convey that is with savage wars along with a fairly accurate presentation of human nature. Yet at the same time, progress ultimately tends towards the positive end, not to mention that there are extraordinary people, most of whom are good. Yes, there is evil out there, but it is defeated at the end of the day even though the fight may look absolutely hopeless.

    The second example would be a reality all about the conflict between often vastly different cultures, so I literally divided the place into different "countries" that even have their own, unique laws of physics. There is a constant, reoccuring nation that travels between nations and serves as a sort of anchor point to compare, contrast or sometimes make decisions that impact these places. There is also a larger, undergoing plot of fightng strange, alien creatures whom everyone knows little about, which is about as in-your-face as one can get, but I have way too much fun with the idea.
  6. Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. But maybe that's because I write primarily for video games. If the people living in the world feel real then the world that they are living in becomes alive and dynamic because of them. Everything matters. Even down to the words of drunken slobs in taverns. I think what people struggle with most when it comes to world building is the subtlety of the art. A lot of people I've seen just try to be upfront and blunt with what they want to convey by given long written descriptions of how something is meant to be when you should just let it be. It's hard to explain I guess. I'm sleepy so I've probably made no sense but it mainly boils down to character interaction (at least for me, anyway).
  7. I'll break this up into two, distinctive parts. In creating the atmosphere, tone, mood, etc. of a world, the very first thing I focus on is the introduction a reader, roleplayer and even I will later have in the world. The first few posts, the description in the OP, so on and so forth. Each new area should have its own atmosphere and tone that can either be connected to or totally different from the primary one. How the world is explained and how its plot is explained as it unravels are two entirely different things. Describing a series of events might lead to an entirely different tone for a world than describing the places and their history. I think it's important to be very clear, at least in your own mind, as to what you're attempting to capture and accomplish, then make an anchor point in the roleplay for that. Even if a player starts later, chapters later even, they will start somewhere and its important that somewhere give the desired tone and create the desired atmosphere for them to pick up on it. With a good, solid start, preservation itself is relatively easy. In terms of how one can create a mood, word choice and emphasis are two aspects I prefer to use. The same thing can be described a thousand different ways and its important to pick just which way you want illustrating the world you are bringing to life. It's not about "getting the job done" or "getting the post wrote"; you're creating a long-standing resource for a world, and it's important to get it done correctly. Rewrite it a dozen times until you believe that everyone who reads it will be able to interpret it in a way that you find acceptable for your world.

    Then comes culture. Culture and atmosphere go hand-in-hand in some respects, but they are truly different entities. A culture is a group of people brought together and bred by a world and its history. There can be different cultures. Each one will evolve. Each people will be different. And, in sculpting a world through culture, the biggest question to ask is "why?" Why would a human - a group of people - behave this way? What is the reason behind it? How did they grow, bond and adapt to survive? How did they react? Once you figure out the what's and how's, figuring out the why's is how you make others relate. And, if the subject isn't human, then the why might be different. But, if it's different, it should be consistent. There are universal traits in all humanity, and just like that, there are universal traits in any race you come up with, unless of course there actually aren't. In either case, it's important to preserve the consistency of why things happen as they do because as long as that is consistent, a whole group of people can be built on that foundation and you will always be able to return to it. If new events happen, you can predict how a culture will adapt because you know why they will do it. If a bunch of cultures react differently, chances are they're reacting on the same principle of "why?" and if a whole culture gets wiped out, then is it because they strayed too far from their basic, primal nature, or was their "how" just not sufficient despite having the correct reasoning? Culture can help maintain an atmosphere, but atmosphere itself does not create culture. More like, atmosphere is the culmination of almost every surface-level element in a world while a culture combines what is on the surface with what is at root, and in that way the two do affect each other, often extensively.

    If there is an atmosphere I want to create, there is definitely a reason I want it created. As long as that reason is good enough, it will seep deep into the boundless depths of a roleplay to make itself present wherever I want it to be, whether its in dialogue, nonverbal interaction, the setting, the world, a series of events, so on and so forth.
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  8. Research, note-taking, and 'playing' with a setting usually do it for me. The topics? Real world cultures, histories, and languages. Yes, making your own is fantastic, but if you look at the real world, you can see a few possible ways for your setting to have developed.

    Core themes? Hell yes. Keep one or two main things in mind whenever you're writing the setting, and it'll start to stick easier and easier.

    Then, descriptions. Try to be consistent in describing, either by having the same narrator tone or, for shorthand, occasionally repeat a piece of description. Sometimes, shorthand can be good!

    Finally, once you do commit something to canon, try to keep it canon and try to avoid making exceptions to your own rules.

    It essentially comes down to trying to keep the details and ideas of your setting consistent to themselves, in my opinion.
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  9. Personally I think the key to creating and maintaining a'feel' in a story is to develop what makes your world unique and set apart from any other and then run with it. Don't second guess yourself or backpedal. Stick to the main thoughts you have like superglue.

    Harry Potter is a great example of this. She created a magical world, and she never EXPLAINED that world, she just thrust us into it. There IS magic. It was not questioned. It simply was a fact of her universe, and because she believed it, so did we. Of course, you add to that core characters who know the world and act based on known assumptions without question or hesitation and that adds to the atmosphere as well.

    Spoken language adds to the credibility as well. if you want to create a very formal class driven society, people would naturally speak in a more rigid manner using titles and rules of order. Where a more slice of life feel would allow bantering and casual interaction between characters. I've never attempted to create my own language, but that can help as well. If you do so, remember point one, don't second guess it and continue from there without wavering. Nothing will kill a story or world faster than inconsistency.
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  10. I'm going to be completely honest, I think it boils down to feeling, for me, and a huge part of that is knowing the world inside and out for myself, but not oversupplying detail for the readers. Dialogue is a good EXAMPLE of this, but not the main aspect. I'm not great at altering grammar structure itself when writing dialogue, as this is honestly a hard thing to do even when you've had some exposure to other languages, but PHRASES are a big one. How many times have you said "oh my god" or "man that's such a pain" or even something like "he had free rein to do something." There are a lot of things that we say that we don't even think about, but that are actually phrases. If you parse them out one by one, you suddenly notice that by definition alone they don't make any sense. "Oh my god" is the easiest one to substitute with "oh my gods" if your universe has a pantheon of some kind, but I find it good to take a step back for worlds that are very separate from ours and think about all the things that they wouldn't say, make up phrases that they would instead.

    But in order to be able to do that with your dialogue or with any other part of your world, it requires you to have a very very deep understanding of how your world came about, what they value, what certain things mean, and talking to other people is the best way to teach yourself how to think about this. People from different cultures, for instance. Like today I was talking to some people who were Asian and some who were not about how we refer to our family. Asian people use titles for their older siblings "Unni" is how you call your older sister if you are a girl in Korean. You never ever use their name if they're older, and this has a lot to do with Asian understanding of respect and how the social hierarchy manifests in an extremely visible way in that culture. It's not better than what anyone else does, it's just different. And if you're not used to it, it's difficult to understand.

    It might sound kind of weird comparing that conversation about two real cultures with how you would want to approach a fictional culture, but it should make sense when you think about it, because if the culture is not real to you, then there's no way you're going to make it real to your readers. For me, personally, at least, it kind of needs to be alive and dynamic, and I find myself constantly thinking about "well, why do the people have this practice? what words do they use to swear with and why or why not? when did something get started? what is the history of this area and how well-known is that history? how did real events from the past get twisted and interpreted into the social structure that exists today?" Which are honestly questions that are interesting to think about about REAL places as well. Once you have that down, whether or not you mean to do it, it starts to leak into everything you write about the characters or the setting. Which is something you might notice if you watch American TV shows vs like iono Korean movies. Even though they're not doing it on purpose, a lot of the environment they create has nothing to do with just the plot or the characters alone, but with how they choose to approach the world simply by merit of what they grew up understanding. (Disclaimer: I may have a tendency to go unnecessarily overboard on my worldbuilding)
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