It’s the last week of Summer Camp! Here’s the fourth and last wave of prompts for the challenge—it’s time to look at communication and logistics!
The Diamond theme: Communication
Communication is essential for… well, for everything! From interpersonal relationships to diplomacy and war, communication makes the world work—or not work, if handled poorly. And when it comes to worldbuilding, the flow of information is a great storytelling tool, especially to add intrigue and mystery to your stories! Communication and language can also help reinforce the themes of your world: if secrecy is important, it will probably be full of secret codes. And of course, thinking about logistics (which is just another part of communication) and isolated communities can add even more depth to your world!
Janet wrote a deep dive into communication—use it to guide your worldbuilding for this theme!
These are the Diamond prompts that follow the theme of Communication. To answer them, visit the Summer Camp challenge page!
Somewhere in your world, describe…
31. A method used to carry goods over long distances [vehicle]
Shuttles, cargo ships, airplanes
We’re starting out with a logistics prompt! How goods are carried over long distances will change many aspects of society. For example, if a certain good takes a long time to get to its destination, it will probably be more expensive. This can have deep impacts on society, as it will make these goods more scarce and only available to the few who can afford them. But of course, a vehicle can only be as fast as technology allows. So this should be your starting point—and then, if you want to go deeper into it, think about how this affects society at large!
32. A system to send messages between distant places [technology]
Optical telegraph, beacons, spanreeds (The Stormlight Archive)
This one’s a mix between logistics and language! You need logistics to manage this system (whatever it is) and a language or code for the messages themselves. The system could be designed to relay a single message (like the beacons from The Lord of the Rings), to have a code that needs deciphering (like the optical telegraph), or to allow for full writing or even drawing (like spanreeds in The Stormlight Archive). While low-tech systems like the optical telegraph can be used to transmit complex messages to a certain extent, the main limitation here is privacy. Anyone with the key to decrypt the message and the means to intercept it (quite simple to do in low-tech worlds) can very easily know what is being relayed.
33. A form of silent communication [language]
Sign languages, flag semaphore, secret handshakes
We’re all familiar with spoken language, but silent communication can be just as (if not more) important and useful! There can be many types of silent communication: for example, in the field of accessibility, sign languages are languages with their own distinct grammar and vocabulary, while Braille is simply a different way to represent spoken languages. Then, we have silent communication used for situations in which it’s the most practical one (like flag semaphore, an alphanumerical code), or for identification purposes (like the secret handshakes Freemasons use). The complexity of a communication system will depend on its practicality: an emergency code should be as simple as possible, while a system meant for complete communication should be able to express the same things spoken language can.
34. An organization for which recruiting or proselytizing is important [organization]
Some religions, armies, pyramid schemes
This one’s more about how communication is used rather than the method itself! Recruiting or proselytizing requires great communication, and we’ve got tons of organizations in the real world that have this as an important part of their agenda. Now, some organizations specifically need this to happen (like an army—you can’t have an army if you don’t have soldiers), but that’s not always the case! For example, many fandoms or communities are so passionate about their hobby/activity that some of their members keep trying to “convert” other people at all costs. This could be a really fun way to approach the prompt too!
35. A species with an unusual form of communication [species]
Dolphins, birds (courtship dances), bees
What you consider to be “unusual” is up to you, but I recommend looking at communication methods that are not used by us! In the real world, we see many animals that communicate through methods beyond their different calls. Birds (and a certain toothless dragon…) have their courtship dances, which usually look funny to us, and bees have their unique way of communicating direction with their movement! Animals will usually have limited communication systems, perfectly capable to fulfill their needs but nothing else. So to start with, think about what this animal would need and why is a communication system required for that. Of course, you could create a sapient species too—in which case, decide if this will be their main language or will have limited use for certain situations only.
36. A character who excels in manipulating others through communication [character]
Politicians, artists, D&D-like bards, Wormtongue (The Lord of the Rings)
Organizations with strong interests in something are often led by people who excel at communication—and frequently use their skills to get people to do what they want. This is a great link to prompt 34 (as well as to the entire Power theme!), but you don’t need to understand this prompt in a negative way! If you understand “manipulation” as “changing someone’s feelings”… well, that’s exactly what artists do! Good art changes how you feel and can even change your opinion or thought processes—that’s manipulation! And it’s also where the bard trope comes from: a highly charismatic character who uses their words and music to manipulate people and magic, not necessarily for evil purposes.
37. An important public announcement that one person addressed to many [document]
Presidential inauguration address, obelisks, “mind the gap” signs, One Ring inscription (The Lord of the Rings)
Most communication is either one-to-one or one-to-many—and this prompt is about the latter! Often, one-to-many communications come from someone who’s in a higher position than the many. For example, when a newly-elected president gives his first speech, they’re addressing people who are hierarchically lower than them. Similarly, when you go to the London tube and see all the “mind the gap” signs, the sign is giving you a kind of order. And yes, signs also count for this prompt! Even signs that have a single icon (such as traffic signs) are one-to-many communication systems. Oh, and don’t feel like you need to come up with an entire written speech for this. The inscription in the One Ring (“One Ring to rule them all…”) fits the prompt too! After all, Sauron wanted everyone to know his plans for the other rings of power.
38. A building or landmark used for, or associated with, communication [building]
Lighthouses, telephone exchanges, Tower of Babel
We’ve talked about communication systems and about those who use them—but when the communication system is not just regular spoken or signed language, there needs to be some infrastructure around it! There are many ways you can approach this prompt. You could write about a building that makes communication happen (such as a lighthouse or telephone exchanges), or where the components for the communication system are manufactured—you can’t have a phone without a phone factory! Or what about a language school? You could also go into the mythical space and create your own Tower of Babel: there’s no archeological evidence that it existed, but it still holds strong symbolic value in Western cultures!
Wild Card prompts
Every week, we also release two prompts that are not related to the theme, so you can answer them instead if you want to take a break from the main theme! Here they are:
39. A character who prefers to lurk in the shadows [character]
Rogues, vampires, Gollum (The Lord of the Rings), Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastards)
Who doesn’t love a good ol’ rogue character? It’s a very common character trope, and if handled well these can be really interesting characters! Of course, not only rogues fit this prompt. Some characters might have a physiological need to stay in the shadows (e.g. sunlight hurts vampires), and characters like Gollum might have a mix of need and preference (he was a hobbit originally, but he’s too used to darkness now). Whatever the case, asking “why” is always a good starting point when coming up with any character traits! Look at the character’s backstory, and see if there’s anything that could have made them withdraw to the shadows.
40. A “negative” condition that has hidden advantages [condition]
One eye, dyslexia, blindness or deafness
There are many conditions out there that have a clear negative consequence because they establish some limitation in what that person can do compared to the average. However, many of these conditions also have advantages that people without the condition don’t necessarily have! For example, people born with one eye are often great at spotting camouflage and have better low-light vision. Research also shows that dyslexic people tend to have better spatial reasoning and more creativity. And blind or deaf people tend to be more perceptive with the rest of their senses as well! And then, there’s things like lycanthropy and vampirism – they’re “negative” conditions, but they sure come with some perks – who doesn’t want to turn into a cloud of bats to avoid awkward social situations?
You’ve got this!
Summer Camp ends on August 1st—make sure to have submitted all the prompts you want to answer before then! Remember that to get Diamond, you need to complete any 32 prompts (not the full 40 prompts!). Tune in to the stream on August 1st to close the challenge live, and don’t miss the Awards Ceremony on August 26th!
What are your tips for this theme? Share in the comments—and go to the challenge page to answer the prompts!