Worldbuilding: Random Influences

A good writer should strive to write what you know; or at least know what you write, by doing enough research so you have a grasp of whatever odd situation or weapon your battered noir detective is facing down in a dark alley. But there’s a third element I find invaluable to worldbuilding, and that’s stuff that I neither know, nor set out to research. The random influence.

(AKA the bouncing reality-based Plotbunny Spawner OF DOOM. Capital letters non-optional.)

Sometimes it’s a news article. Sometimes recent science reports. Blog feeds. Often the new book shelf at the library can raise this chaos. You never know.

(“Florida Man Strikes Again” is a tag Instapundit puts on crazy news stories from… well, guess. Everything from fugitive thieves eaten by alligators to a guy crashing a building at 88 MPH in the name of attempted time travel. Yep. That happened, not far from here. Oy.)

Whatever the source, something in the story or topic strikes me as odd. Off-kilter. Just a little askew from how the world normally works, or how most people see it. So I poke it, and sometimes print/borrow it and take it home.

And from there, sometimes, come two things: plotbunnies, or background info for stories I plan to write / was already writing.

A few examples: Heavy metals in the brain, bad. The bloodhound breed originated from St. Hubert’s hound – yes, the same St. Hubert invoked against werewolves. The mind’s image of the body is apparently flexible and can be rewired under certain circumstances. It’s possible to train someone to use whiskers to locate themselves in space. Petrification attacks don’t work on undead. Elucidator is, SAO canon, a demonic sword.

(That last one is a key element in my outline for SAO/BE, which I will write someday, dagnabbit!)

I love the random tidbits, because to me they make the fictional world more real. If we run into things that make us go “huh!” in real life, so should characters.

Of course, given that everything should be in a plot for a reason, then you need to figure out a way to make it important to whatever other mess the character’s in. That might be just local color… or it might be the clue to defeating the invading Evil Overlord! You never know.

…If somebody does write a story where the main character uses artificial whiskers in the final blacked-out battle to save the universe, drop me a line. I want to read that one!

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8 thoughts on “Worldbuilding: Random Influences

  1. I take it that this is different from ‘I was watching a Suikoden AMV, and decided that a few frames suggested a common influence or artist with Full Metal Panic, and the multicross bunnies took it from there to an awful mess’?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Re : Florida Man, don’t feel bad. I just found out last night, at three in the morning when I could not sleep, that our county prosecutor (now deceased) had resorted to consulting a psychic during the course of the notorious railroad spike murder case. (I was called up for jury selection for that one, though they never got close to my number.) He and a lot of other county officials appeared as themselves in an episode of Psychic Detective. Oh, so embarrassing.

    He did not use county money but his own. And the psychic advice was, “Loooook closely at the crime scene photos…. the answers are therrrrre.”

    I mean, I’m glad this woman was not just making stuff up, but getting paid $200 an hour to tell folks to do their darned job? And having the prosecutor still convinced that he had followed special psychic advice?

    (For the curious, the revelation was actually in the corpse photos from when bruising came up, showing that the victim got strangled by somebody with the same finger broken that the culprit had broken earlier that week. And anyway, the guy’s lawyer stalled his trial so long that they were able to get DNA evidence when the technology caught up.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel kind of sorry for the “psychic”– “oh, holy heck, I’m here to get people to give me money so I can make them feel better, it’s just like a crystal version of psychology, and THEY WANT ME TO FIND OUT WHO KILLED SOMEONE?!? If I screw this up, I could get a bunch of people killed!”

      Yes, I utterly abhor confidence scams, but wow.

      Liked by 1 person

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