World building exercises are possibly my favourite way of developing a story. You can create tiny snipits of information in any way that you like, and when you put them all together you have created a world in which you can base your latest story! Here is an example I did for uni, it has my commentary at the end explaining my ideas!
A Future Utopia/Dystopia
“Sorry mate, you know the rules, you can’t come up here.”
“But please, my ball rolled under the gate, I just want to go and get it.”
“No mate, you know the rules, you’re a middle dweller, no one goes up, and no one goes down. Middle class, middle levels, middle dweller. Upper class only through ‘ere, and they have the same rules, they aren’t allowed down here to your level. It’s for the best, I'm a middle dweller too, as soon as I finish duty I have to leave the no go zone, I have never even see any of them upper tiers.”
The small, wide eyes child stared at the man before him, a small diamond shaped tear drop forming in his eye. He knew it was pointless arguing, even at the age of nine. Every child that could speak knew the rules; no one goes up, no one goes down. Class boundaries had become physical rather than hypothetical following the uprising two hundred years ago. There was nobody left alive that remembered the conflicts, but the upper echelons still lived in fear of rebellion, and knew that the best was to prevent this was to ensure people stayed with their own. If you couldn’t leave, and you never came in to contact with the powers that be, you could not fight against them. His eyes scanned across the logo emblazoned on the officer’s top. SPOC-B; Special Police Of Class Boundaries. “Preserving Order, Preventing Chaos”.
“CHUTE CLIMBER DEATH TOLL HITS 1000’S”
A special report by The Level Two Weekly.
The fad known as “black holing” is becoming more dangerous by the day. Popular amongst young boys and girls, the life threatening sport involves climbing down the rubbish disposal chute; with the further you descend bringing you more respect and reverence amongst your peers.
This potentially deadly sport involves no safety equipment and has led to the disappearance and assumed deaths of over a thousand teenagers, with them falling down the disposal chutes.
Some may have survived the terrible fall, but there ordeal would be far from over, as every citizen knows the chutes come out in the underlands, where savages will inevitably murder them; this newspaper is anxiously waiting for the day that we see one of our young people, whom has fallen during one of these dangerous stunts, appearing on our screens, on the popular show “Underwars”, though we hope this day will never come.
Your favourite TV show is back! And it’s better than ever!
With more blood and gore, higher quality cameras inserted by our brave reconnaissance teams, and a new war ready to begin, this season promises to be our best ever!
Tune in every night as we bring you live images of the Underlander’s as they fight for power!
Don’t miss it.
Everyone knew the story, but it still fascinated her to read it. She dreamt of what lay above at night, dreamt of what lay outside the walls of the gigantic citadel. No one really knew, not on her level anyway. There were rumours of course, but no middle leveller had been outside for centuries. Not since the wars. She knew the structure though, the people that lived at the top made sure they knew. There were four levels in total; two above her and one below her. The middle, where she lived, was the city. An enclosed metropolis with shops of every kind. Then above her were the Upper Classes, in the Upper Levels. They controlled trade, and gave raw food and materials to the city in exchange for worked goods. Having a skill was important here, without it you couldn’t trade. Then at the top, oh how she longed to know what lay at the top! The rumours were various, but most agreed upon was the spire. One individual spire that apparently stuck out of the top of the citadel, in which one person lived. He, or she (she liked to imagine women ruled the world), controlled everything. They were the only people that could leave the city. The only people that saw what was outside. They brought in the food and the materials. They traded with the Upper Classes, and they provided for the city.
But what scared her most was what lay below. The Underlands always frightened her. It was a cesspit of decay and debauchery, with gangs of mutant like men and women fighting for power and living off the scraps of waste that were tipped down the chutes. It was the only level that other classes could see, with the TV show Underwars being broadcast daily. It disgusted her, the way the crowd leered and watched people tearing each other apart. But she would never speak out, and she would never try to save them. That wasn’t how it worked.
OFTCOP report citadel 3245
Laws currently in place; please revise and agree before implementation in other citadels.
· One Newspaper per citadel, to be viewed for editing purposes before distribution.
· Cameras in every causeway or corridor for protection and security of Middle Levellers.
· Weapons prohibited on Middle Level, pain of death.
· Narcotics prohibited on Middle Level, pain of death. (exception, Criqtonic.)
· Alcohol prohibited on Middle Level, pain of death.
· Religion prohibited on Middle Level, pain of death.
All trade controlled by OFTCOP, monopolisation on Upper Level, but advertising and competition allowed on Middle Level to provide incentive for quality in goods.
All healthcare controlled and provided, free of charge, by OFTCOP (excluding Underlands). Illness of an infectious type treated in quarantine. Illness of a terminal type treated by euthanasia. Anyone found hiding someone with an infectious illness punishable by removal to labour camp.
Please review these laws; they are currently fully implemented in citadel number 3245 with complete effectiveness. Dissent is not apparent in any faction.
OFTCOP; Organisation For The Care Of People.
He had heard so many rumours about the camps. He knew the elites, ghosts that they were, paid your family a reasonable wage if you went there. He also knew it was an effective way to avoid poverty. But more than any of this he knew that no one ever came back. It was rumoured that you got to go outside, which to a Middle Leveller is like being told you can go to El Dorrado. But with no one returning this could never be confirmed. Despite this he left. He tried to acquire a skill but apprenticeships were scarce with a growing population and he wanted to make sure his family was properly provided for. He signed up, and a week later they came to take him. He said his goodbyes, and left his family for ever. He didn’t feel sad, he knew they would be better off without him; one less mouth to feed, one more income to feed them with. He had no idea where they would take him, nor how long he could expect his life to last; he had known families to receive money for ten years, but he had known some to only get a few months. And when the money stops coming there is nothing you can do. But on that day, two years ago, he got in to the back of one of the SPOC-B vans, and there he sat for hours, waiting to find out what he had signed up for. Then he felt the van stop, and he looked at the doors, willing them to open. Slowly the handle turned down, and a slither of light penetrated the dark and dingy van. Then suddenly the door was thrust open, and his first experience of sunlight nearly blinded him. His eyes adjusted slowly, and before him were great plains, flat and dotted with plantations. These farms were, he later found out, the source of food for the citadel, and were run by the Elites. It was hard work, especially with the blazing heat, and people rarely lasted longer than a few years, but it was better than nothing.
“The Great War”
Data log 1278.
Archive Records; Citadel Library
A long time ago, when people lived outside, and war riddled the world, there was a class structure. But this class structure was not set in stone, and people could transcend their class boundaries, rise up, and take power. There was a rebellion, the poor and the weak rose up and tried to overthrow the rich and the powerful. This was a war of new proportions, a civil war with catastrophic consequences. Armies and families and friends were split in their loyalties, and the war ravaged the land. But the upper classes prevailed and maintained their power, crushing the lower classes. The worst of the suffering came for the middle class, who lost trade and civility amidst the treacherous war brought by the ungrateful bottom classes. To prevent a war like this ever happening again, and to protect the interests and safety of the loyal middle classes, the Citadel Project began, and the treasonous bottom classes were cast in to the Underlands to fight amongst themselves for all eternity. Class boundaries became set in stone, and war and crime were virtually eradicated. The upper classes and elites took care of, and still do take care of, those who show loyalty to the preservation of order and decorum and the right way of things.
In this collection of articles, advertisements and stories I wanted to create a fictional, futuristic dystopian society. My aim was for the society to be totalitarian and be run by a complete dictatorship, with class boundaries being present in a physical form. To do this I created citadels, and focused on one specifically, although the idea was for them to all be the same in structure.
The Citadels are roughly the size of a small city, and are completely enclosed and windowless. The citizens live in the section that reflects there class status, with the citadel being a pyramid shape with a spire rising from the middle. As the levels get taller they become less densely populated, with the spire in the middle rising above everything else and housing no one but the most elite one or two people in the city.
To prevent movement between the different class levels I invented a police force, the “SPOC-Bs”. These guard a three storey layer between each class level and stop people from being able to visit other class levels; this works both ways, so the elites may control the other levels but they can never visit them. My first piece, “The Police”, is supposed to reflect this complete no go zone and show how the inability to move from level to level is integrated into society.
The piece entitled “The Great War” is effectively a history of why this totalitarian dictatorship came to be. The idea I wanted to portray was that the ruling classes had narrowly squashed a rebellion from the working classes, and that this had caused serious social and financial difficulties. To prevent this happening again they invented the physical class boundaries, relying on the idea that they could monopolise and control a society that was not able to ever see them. They turned themselves in to fictitious gods, never being seen and nobody ever really knowing what they are like. I wanted to draw on the idea that rumour is so often more exaggerated than the truth, so rebellion against something that nobody knows or understands is much more unlikely. But on top of this, the Elites have made it their job to, through the upper classes, completely support the middle classes (or middle levellers). The original working class are the ones who rebelled, and as a consequence they are forced to live in the Underlands, (I will go on to explain about these later). But in order to make sure people don’t speak out against the awful treatment suffered by the working classes, the Elites have ensured that the middle classes are completely provided for, whilst any dissent is dealt with immediately.
My objective was to create a dystopian society that examined how dystopian societies really worked. Dystopia is so often the result of people aiming for a utopia, but not realising that what makes one set of people happy may not benefit or please another, and thus they are forced to use violence and constraints to make people “see things their way”. Here I wanted the Elites to actually be creating an idealistic society for the “middle levellers” whilst also benefitting the upper classes and themselves. The monopolisation of all trade I think is a good concept, as it means they can set the price that best suits the economic state of the city at any one time. Money being abolished prevents people being rewarded unjustly (within the middle levels obviously) as they trade with the skill they apply to goods. The laws set out in the OFTCOP report reflect the aspects of free will that I feel would have to be removed from society in order to create a perfect dystopia/utopia balance; in the drug ban section I even included a fictional drug as being exempt so as to give the Elites more control and power (being the only ones that can distribute this drug) whilst also giving the citizens a vice or way to de-stress. The removal of religion is important, and the punishment of death that is applied to anyone found attempting to practice organised religion sounds severe, but religion is the cause of so much war that any dystopian dictatorship that was trying to avoid an uprising would inevitably ban religion with severe penalties.
The newspaper report about chute climbers was an attempt to show teenage rebellion and the impossibility that comes with trying to prevent it. My theory was that the rubbish and waste from all levels is ejected down a chute that ends up in the Underlands. The teenagers in the middle levels, unable to find thrills in drug fuelled stupors and alcohol binges like modern day teenagers, look for thrills in seeing who can climb furthest down the chute. These “Black holers” play a very dangerous game as they run the risk of falling and dying, or possibly falling and surviving, only to be trapped in the Underlands.
The Underwars is a fictional TV show I have created that is simply a series of video feeds that run from the Underlands. The old working classes that live down there have become mutated and twisted due to mal-nutrition and incest, and constantly fight each other for power. Food is scarce in the Underlands so they fight to survive, with rival gangs slaughtering each other daily. This is the futuristic bloodsport that all the middle levellers watch, and that the Elites allow them to watch in the hope that it shows them the punishment for treachery, whilst also showing the rebellious people to be monsters not fit for civil society.
With regards to the resources, they are obviously completely controlled by the Elites. They are the only people who can leave the Citadel, or at least that is what most people believe. But inevitably labour is needed to work the miens and the farms, so people can sign up to work, but will never be allowed to return. If you sign up to work, then your family will be paid in bread and food as well as materials with which they can try to make a living, but only for as long as you live. But if poverty ever befalls a family then they are supported, as poverty leads to dissent, which in turn leads to rebellion.
Creating this dystopian/utopian contrasting world was interesting, as I wanted to be apparent that the dictators in many ways have the masses best interests at heart, but that they feel people need controlling, and ensure that they prosper first and foremost.