How is story formed???

This morning in the shower (formerly my favourite place for musing about random shit, though rapidly being supplanted by my bike commute) I was pondering something a teacher said about XLR cables and gender changers, and I got to thinking about what sort of lifeform would be male at one end and female at the other, and if that existed, what role would something play that was female (or male) at both ends? Next thing I knew, I had a fairly complex society imagined, with line marriages and rites of passage and institutional oppression and all that good stuff* (* not actually good stuff). And of course I started thinking that I should write something. The problem is, I have this world but no story to go in it.

Last time this happened, it was a complex alternate history of convict-era Australia, where the French invade in 1802 and the resistance is formed of the former NSW Corps and some of my favourite bits of the Royal Navy. But, hilarious as it would be to make Macarthur and Bligh team up to fight crime the French, I don’t actually want to tell that kind of “yay! colonialism!” story, and so all my detailed worldbuilding sat and gathered dust for a good long while.

I can’t remember which of our summer house-guests it was (anatsuno?) who suggested that I simply tell another story — one that I wanted to tell — set in that world, with all the military invasion stuff as background rather than foreground. It was excellent advice, and the story that I subsequently started to write is definitely the better for it.

So, what about this world with the gender stuff I was thinking about? I’ve got the background, but what’s the actual story? I randomly wondered what a police procedural would be like, and started building something around that on the bike ride home. It’s turning out quite interesting in my head, but that was a genre chosen more or less at random, which seems like a rather hit-or-miss method.

Do any of you have this worldbuilding-first habit? If so, how do you find the damn story?

7 thoughts on “How is story formed???

  • Trolleypup

    *Sigh* Yep. Only I don’t really have the interest to actually create the story, so I have these dry bits of world building…which get abandoned due to lack of interest. I mostly spend my energy on projects that fall within my realm of skills, whether artistic or otherwise, so world building, and the stories that ought to be spawned have mostly fallen by the wayside.

  • Skud Post author

    Trolleypup: for the longest time, whenever I got a worldbuilding urge, I would run up a LambdaMOO instance on my own computer and build a world, without actually writing the stories. Worked well at the time; I just wish there was a market for it (in the non-commercial sense — I mostly wanted people to come and look and go “ooh”.)

  • SJ Kasabi

    When your brain is all creative and stuff and then picks a bit apparently at random – well, when my brain does it, I usually find it knows something I don’t (yet).

    I’d love to read both stories, I have to say. The only sorts of police procedurals I really like are the ones where I don’t understand how the world works except through the unfolding of narrative. (This includes “The Wire”).

  • SJ Kasabi

    And in further thoughts, police procedurals are fundamentally about imposing order on chaos. Is there some such tension in your builtworld/story idea? That could be why your brain chose it.

  • Skud Post author

    My actual thought process, while riding home this arvo, was that I wanted a professional field where the protagonist could be frustrated at institutional bullshit and overstep hir role as part of the story. PP seemed like a good choice for that; I also considered techno-thriller and military adventure. (The idea of a Downton-esque family saga/melodrama set in this universe was discarded very rapidly.)

  • Skud Post author

    Also, randomly: SJ Kasabi, I am delighted that the WordPress thingy that comes up with distinct icons for people who don’t have gravatars gave you that green one… it’s very you.

  • fluffy

    “The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula LeGuin sort of covers this subect matter, although it’s about a society of folks who are natural hermaphrodites who cycle between male and female.

    In real life, many slug and snail species are hermaphrodites who start life in one sex and end it in the other.

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