Last week, we talked about setting goals, to make sure challenges like Summer Camp, NaNoWrimo, and Worldember are working for you! This week, we’re talking about ACHIEVING these goals! And one way of doing that is by writing towards specific worldbuilding prompts grouped together by themes.

Make writing with themes work for you

Last year, we introduced themes to our Summer Camp prompts. Your feedback was that you loved them! So we’ve worked to choose themes we feel are universal to all settings, and can help you create dynamic and exciting spaces in your worlds.

Remember, these themes are intended to give worldbuilding ideas and inspiration and help you create naturally connected spaces in your world. You can interpret them in any way you like! Not every prompt directly relates to a theme, but they can all be tied together, helping you create more natural, connected worldbuilding. And most importantly, remember YOUR goal! Consider how the themes might fit into what you’re planning and, if necessary, how you can twist them to fit YOUR purposes!

Writing Theme: Expanseย 

An expanse, by definition, is a wide continuous area of… something. If you’re writing an earth-like world, that might be a vast desert like the Sahara, rolling grasslands like the Savannah, jungle like the Amazon Rainforest, swamp like Louisiana, or Arctic tundra. It could be an expanse of water, like a sea or ocean, or of ice, like Antarctica. Or it could be the expansive sky above your world, or expansive tunnels and caverns beneath.

Fantasy worlds can delve even deeper here, into pocket dimensions, or another plane of existence, like fluid space in Star Trek, or the Plane of Fire in Forgotten Realms.

For more futuristic worlds, you might create an urban expanse like a cyberpunk mega-city, a vast sewer system, a Fallout wasteland, or a city-planet like Coruscant in Star Wars. Or if you’re in space, how about a nebula, asteroid field, or even an “empty” expanse of space.

Writing Theme: Leadership

Whether you’re writing fantasy, sci-fi or alt-historical, leadership guides the peoples of our world setting and forms their cultures. And leadership can take many forms – political and military, of course, but also consider religious, cultural, industrial, humanitarian, environmental and educational leadership. We’ll be asking you about people, places and traditions that typify leadership in your world setting, either from the past or the present.

The Leadership theme might relate to the expanse you’ve written about before, or it might not!

Writing Theme: Discovery

Settings thrive on change, and discovery – whether research, exploration, or investigation – is often the catalyst for that change! What wonders, mysteries, species, technologies and civilizations are lost in your world setting, awaiting discovery? Which parts of the world have already been discovered and which implications did this have over the setting?

The Discovery theme might relate to the expanse you wrote about before. Or perhaps the discovery was led by a great leader in your world.

Writing Theme: Monstrous

Almost all stories require conflict. And if your setting has no conflict, it’s often hard to get your stories, novels, or campaigns moving! In this band of worldbuilding prompts, we’ll be digging into things in your world considered villainous, cruel, unlucky, unnatural or just “wrong”.

Perhaps the monstrous things in your world are newly discovered, and tied to the discovery theme, or perhaps they crawled, hopped or few from the expanse you wrote about. Perhaps the leaders in your world are the monstrous and villainous ones (looking at you, Star Wars!). Remember, you don’t need to tie all the themes together, but there are myriad ways to do so!

Homework – Writing with Themes

Since last week, you should have a clear idea of what your goals are for your writing and worldbuilding! Now it’s time to figure out how these themes can help you focus your goals further.

  • Re-read your writing and worldbuilding goals and motivations.
  • Now it’s time to think about how the themes might fit into what you’re creating. This might expand on writing with themes in your world, and may even link to pre-existing articles in your world you can reference when you get to this point, to help you spawn new ideas!
    • If you’re building in a preexisting setting, read through your meta and your previous work.
    • If you’re building a new setting, I recommend filling out the meta to guide your worldbuilding!
  • Now, add a short paragraph to your plan about how these themes might connect to your world setting and your goals.
  • Post your articles in the comments to this blog!