Worldbuilding: The Proxy Audience

I read and write fiction in fantastic worlds with their own unique rules.

As writers, we need more than just a pretty, unique setting. Story is god (and in this case, demigod). But alot of the time, the story and the world can’t exist without each other.

We can’t just start a story with “Here’s the world. Here are the rules. Here’s the glossary you’ll need. Got everything? Okay. Now here’s why you should care about the setting, starting in chapter 2.”

So how do you do all that and tell the story at the same time? Well, often, we use a PROXY AUDIENCE.

What is the proxy audience? Here’s an example.

Pictured: The Audience Proxy

Pictured: The Proxy Audience

The Star Wars universe has countless aliens, republics, rebellions, and space-wizards. Our hero, Luke Skywalker, will become one (a space wizard, not a republic).

Star Wars: A New Hope uses two great methods for world-building. First, it just lets characters live in their universe and the audience picks it up through osmosis. Galactic denizens buy secondhand robots from tiny sand-people? Okay. Aliens are as scummy as humans and they hang out in filthy cantinas? Sure, why not?

But for the story to progress further we need to know the RULES of space-wizards. So to do that, Luke doesn’t know jack shit about them. Having an ignorant character is method number two.

Everything about space-wizards has to be explained to Luke. He has misconceptions about the rebellion so Han Solo can disillusion him.

Luke Skywalker is the stand-in, or PROXY, for the audience.

When Obi Wan tells Luke that the force is an “Energy Field created by all living things blah blah,” He’s really saying that to the audience. Remember, the writer could have had Luke just already know this.

So remember, the easiest way to create a world with new rules is just to write in an idiot.

Harry Potter didn’t know what british-wizards were, so they held his hand along the way.

Neo didn’t know what techno-wizards were, so Morpheus gave him a tour.

And Ryan Gosling didn’t know what notebook-wizards were until Rachael Mcadams sent him to notebook school.

I think. I didn't actually read this one

I think. I didn’t actually read this one

And it doesn’t have to be your main character. Your sidekick leans over your main character’s shoulder and says, “What are you doing?”

BAM, there’s your chance to explain that Barney the Dinosaur was a serial murderer in your universe and why it’s important to the story.

Whether or not it’s mentioned, that’s true in all of my stories.


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