Monday, October 14, 2013

World Building Basics: In-group/Out-group

This is the last of our series on world building. I particularly left this one to the end for a particular reason, so be prepared. It'll be heavy!


I think that the final component to a story, what really makes it click, lies in implementing some form of class conflict in the greater narrative. If you are bent on making a world functional and realistic, be prepared to get your hands dirty. The real world is full of evil people, specifically those that malign and hurt others out of cruelty and bigotry. To make a world convincing, some elements of these humanitarian crimes must be wielded. My objective today is to show you how this is executed. Keep in mind that this is all done to emphasize realism. I think sometimes we can mistake "gritty" for "realism," in that by taking a story and making it dark and brooding one can create something resonant and powerful. This isn't our objective here. Two hundred years ago Jews were persecuted all over Europe by hateful denizens of all walks of life. To gloss over the fact that it happened is one thing, but to forget it entirely is another. Your book needs to remind people of the Human Experience, the good, the bad, and the atrocious.

Psychologists have done lots of work on in-group/out-group research and during my time at UCSB I was able to glean a few of their case studies that were made available to us students while we were taking our courses. One study stands out to me. I forget the name, but the premise follows this logic: take a randomly selected group of kids of varying ethnicity and pit them against another group and watch them develop discriminatory patterns based on their social grouping. The studies show that we naturally develop cultural associations by labeling others. This is the perpetrator of racism and classism and bigotry of all shades.

I suggested earlier that social fabric creates the cultural milieu that your story takes place in. In-group/out-group dynamics will be worn over this social fabric like a pin. Remember that racism and classicism are garnishes, one of many aspects of a sprawling world. Don't overkill the bigotry. It will just come off as campy. Allow the reader to fill in the blanks and visualize this culture as one built on the backs of the many. How specific you are and who becomes the object of your bigotry will temper your world.

Name calling, and other incendiary phrases should be articulated with care. Obviously if a character in your book is discriminated against, based off of an external characteristic perhaps, the derogatory language needs to have weight and personally injure the characters that these insults are leveraged against. Just saying, "go home black skinned humanoid," isn't enough. These insults need to be commentaries of their own, which slander various aspects of the lower orders.

This discrimination should carry over to the setting as well. I'm sure you have all seen a film where there are poor slums and rich areas blended together. Los Angeles is one of these places. It should be clear then that the places where these people live are associated with strife and difficulty. Often the slums serve as symbols of oppression. They are the cages that imprison undesirable minorities and sequester them away from society. A demoralizing structure of power will break down the facade that these places are simply creations in the author's imagination. What's more is that their oppressors are placing the poor there to remind them of the permanence of the class disparity. Playing around with this idea has worked for me thus far. Always remember one thing though: This takes quite a long time to research and develop.

I have some more I could add but will leave it to you to give me feedback on the lesson, what you thought, etc.

I realize though in retrospect that this article didn't post correctly on Monday. Sorry about that. You know how it is, computers.



SW

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