When we started working on storyworlds and IP development we lacked a clear source of information or principles that we could test our ideas on. Out of researching and trying different approaches, came this set of principles that we use in our storyworld building progress.
1. A storyworld is not a setting
We see a storyworld as a set of narrative constants like conflicts or thematic subjects that every element in a storyworld shares. It acts as a backbone to keep characters, locations and stories together and have them share the same common identity. The setting (and its maps, cities, etc) is a result of that backbone. This allows us to keep creating new content for our storyworlds, without losing consistency throughout our stories.
2. Build for multiple seperate stories
The goal of a storyworld is to have a playground that generates inspiration for stories. What that means is that when we are developing a storyworld we build it for conflict and drama instead of detail and setting. We believe a storyworld needs to inspire storytelling instead of giving storytellers a checklist of things to consider (such as setting and details).
3. A story does not explain the world or deepen it, the world merely gives weight to the elements in the story.
A storyworld exists in the background of a story. Within the story all that the storyworld does is give different elements such as characters, props and settings weight. The weight is what makes us believe that the different elements belong in the story.
4. Every element suggests another: the power of suggestion.
We always create relations between elements whether the element is shown in the story or not, this relation suggests that other elements exist outside the story. With these relations we want to create a sense of a bigger world that is out there to be discovered in new stories.
5. Set boundaries and rules for your world. Limitation is a gift to creativity.
We always try to limit the realm of possibilities as soon as we can. By setting the rules for what absolutely can’t happen in a storyworld we are forced to push the boundaries of what can exist, resulting in more original and unique design and content.
6. Experiment with stories: a good storyworld inspires endless stories, it does not support just one.
We believe that a good storyworld should constantly inspire new stories. If that inspiration is lacking, you might end bending the storyworld to one story and lose the point of having a storyworld at all. Having a strong storyworld will leave you with endless opportunities when it comes to the creation of new stories in the form of games, films, comics, apps, etc.
7. Aim to create fans, not projects. Your fan base decides your projects and influences the world’s growth.
The beauty of a powerful storyworld is that it will inspire new stories for all kinds of content, whether it is a full feature movie or a flash game. We use a storyworld to start our IP in a lean way, we do this by engaging with a small audience first, and then releasing more content when we have established a growing fanbase.
8. Clear documents and folder structuring act as consistency tools.
Create a good structure to keep control of all the data that is being generated while building a storyworld. Without control over all the data of your storyworld you can’t check it for inconsistency’s, which will result in lower quality stories. Good documentation and folder structuring is all part of this.
9. Do not overcomplicate the design, anyone should be able to say in a few words what it is that makes your world stand apart from others.
The most important aspect of the storyworlds we create is their premise. It is one line that tells us what the themes and conflicts are in a world, what the setting is, what kind of stories we are going to create and preserve consistency through the world’s development. By using a good premise, it becomes infused into every aspect of the storyworld and serves as an identification that sets our worlds apart from others.
10. Aim for longevity and know that your world will be expanded by fans or other creative teams
We never fill in all the gaps, instead we place the limitations that allow creative teams and fans to discover parts of the world through their own imagination while still under control of a governing ruleset.
We would love to hear your approach!