Micro-worldbuilding: Conceiving the Culture and People

N. K. Jemisin

Lesson time 18:43 min

Nora continues to break down worldbuilding by discussing how to create a new, believable, and engrossing structure of humanity.

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Topics include: Develop Your Species • Develop the Structure of Humanity • The Structure of Humanity: The Broken Earth Series • Develop the Cosmogony • Incorporating Sociological Factors in Your World • Incorporate Your “Element X” at the Micro Level


[MUSIC PLAYING] N. K. JEMISIN Differences are observable in every species on our planet. The question becomes whether our culture ascribes any meaning to those differences. Now that we've got our macro world set up in our environment and we've chosen the place where this culture is going to develop, micro world building is where we begin the process of actually creating the people who will populate this world. We create the culture, we create the power dynamics, and then we can go from there on creating a character. So with macro world building, you started with the planet, and with micro world building, you also start at sort of the most macro scale, which is the development of the species. [MUSIC PLAYING] You can decide whether you want to deal with humans or nonhumans, but for the sake of the exercise, we're going to talk about humans because I just want to make it clear that even small changes in the way that these humans interact with their world is going to create a wildly different culture from anything that you've ever seen on this planet. So we'll start with species. The human species, we kind of know what humans are like. We're still figuring out things about ourselves, but for the most part, we pretty much understand how the human species operates. There's no reason why you can't tweak that a little bit, though, because the morphology of the human species, the ways in which our bodies work and are developed, are constantly changing with time, i.e. evolution, and are constantly changing in response to our environment as we try to adapt to the things that change around us. So there's no reason why you can't, for example, create, as I did in "The Broken Earth" series, a human species that is adapted for life on a very seismic planet. All the people in "The Broken Earth" trilogy have an organ in their brains that we don't in our world, or at least not that we know of. But they have an organ in their brain that is reacting to or is able to kind of give them a little bit of advance warning about seismic activity that's about to happen. And in creating that particular variation on the human species, I literally just looked at other species on our planet which do react early when they perceive an earthquake or something coming. And when you look at birds and other animals that react to those seismic vibrations, they do have a little organ in their brain or they've got senses or abilities that kind of warn them in advance that this is coming. So I just transferred that into people. So even though you're dealing with the human species, it doesn't have to be exactly humans like us. But then when you're dealing with their morphology, the ways in which their body is developed that's different from ours, you need to think about whether these people are aware of those differences. Human beings are endlessly curious. Our own species learned rapidly what our bodies were like and how they worked. We...

About the Instructor

The winner of the Hugo Award for three consecutive years for her Broken Earth Trilogy, N. K. Jemisin has sold millions of books and created new cultures and histories. Now the acclaimed science fiction and fantasy writer is teaching you how to create a world from scratch, develop compelling characters, and get published. Build your craft and share your voice with inclusive fiction that reflects your experience.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

N. K. Jemisin

Bestselling sci-fi and fantasy writer N. K. Jemisin teaches you how to create diverse characters, build a world from scratch, and get published.

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