Pantsing Fantasy: Generating Ideas: Setting

“Look at this place, isn’t it neat. Wouldn’t you think…

…a great fantasy story could happen here?”

Okay, okay, maybe I fudged on the lyrics a little bit. But really, have you ever found yourself totally enamored with an idea of a world, but you don’t have anything else figured out?

Someone once told me this was called a ‘milieu structure story’. I had no idea what he was talking about, but alas, a quick Google search told me all I could ever possibly want to know about it.

In a nutshell, it’s a story whose most important characteristic is the setting.

Maybe you’ve got this super awesome, funky world/planet that does all kinds of weird stuff, so the character’s story arc is more based on interaction with the world. Or maybe you like playing with colors of things – trees are blue and leaves are orange and the sky is green because of the concentration of whatever in the atmosphere that bends light in just the right way…

Totally cool.

Have fun exploring that world and deciding what it can and can’t do. Or what it will and won’t do.

Because, yep, pantsing.

Even if you ultimately decide to shy away from a milieu structure story, you can always start your story with just the world. Nothing else needs to happen except that. Can you imagine the richness built into your world just by spending a few weeks walking around the blank planet?

Good grief, I can’t even imagine!

I started a novel a while back, and it sits at 5,000 words or something embarrassing like that, and the most interesting part of the world IS the world. The MC’s main objective is to survive an expedition. I don’t know where she’s going or what she will encounter. I know there’s a land bridge between two continents that is SUPER narrow and extraordinarily dangerous for many reasons.

It was supposed to be a collaborative effort with someone, but this person got busy publishing their own novel, so what can I say? That book fell off the radar.

But it sits in the far back of my mind. I hope someday to return to it when I’m a better writer and flesh out something really interesting.

But, for now, what I have is some really cool stuff about the world.

Maybe you do, too, and you just need to spend a bit of time hanging out and figuring out what the deal is with the world before you add characters, plot, and conflict.

Because, in all this, remember that at the end, you need all four in order to have a good story. You just don’t need them all the very beginning.

For the final prompt, try taking an average part of Earth and change just the color of everything, so it’s no longer “normal”. See what happens.



So, here we sit, at the end of this series. I had a ton of fun writing it, I hope you found it helpful. I actually learned a lot about my own process by evaluating what I’ve done that fits.

Remember, the hard work for a pantser is always in the editing.

Until next time, happy writing.