worlds from home...

In the Beginning

In Design Strategies, Written by Tiffany on April 13, 2011 at 4:18 pm

I’d like to tell you a story. In fact, I’d like to tell you several.
The stories I’d like to tell you are about beginnings. They’re origin stories. Some of them are familiar, like the stories my parents told me about how life began.

Some of them explain the beginnings through the end — through death. These stories may not be so familiar.

These stories are important. They answer important questions. They set the stage for a lot of other things to go down. Almost every good tale has an origin story somewhere within it. You can find origin stories for gods and goddesses, countries and kings, longstanding prejudices and long forgotten battles.

I believe at some point every storyteller should go back to the beginning. I’m very into causation. Without origins, worlds, for me, lack the depth needed to answer my ceaseless “why?”s. And as they say, the devil is in the details, so if you don’t ever develop the roots of your world, then on some level I don’t think the world will ever be truly complete.

But, as much I like origin stories, they have to be taken in moderation. A harrowing story of love, war, and betrayal can quickly lose much needed suspense and urgency when the Dawn of Time comes at an inopportune moment.

Origin stories should come on a need to know basis. You, the creator, need to know. They, the audience, may need to know, when the time is right and the past won’t weigh you down.

If you want an example of back story pacing that is incredibly well done, then take a moment to watch Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood. It manages to almost seamlessly weave together the characters’ past and present. And not just theirs, but those of the supporting characters, the military, the country, alchemy, etc.

Know your history. Enjoy it. Don’t get bogged down in the details.

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