Hi, parents and fans of Lego building and fiction writing of all ages. I’d like to introduce you to a method of building with Lego bricks which may lead you to write great stories that may be even more impressive than the Lego build itself. The process is simple, but that’s not to say it isn’t magical in terms of how it can work for you to found new lands, heroes, stories and settings. While I’m at it, I’ll introduce you to as many great builders as I can and even a few writers you may want to read for inspiration.
Let’s begin. We’ll start with the build that started it all for me in terms of sensing how your best Lego builds can inspire you to write stories about them and the characters that go with them. That would be the Great Democracy Military (GDM) Arrow. I was inspired by a micro-build (that’s a build that isn’t meant to fit a minifigure inside of it because it’s too small) of an X-wing fighter from Star Wars.
I still can’t decide if I like the X-wing microbuild better than my Arrow or not in terms of the skill I think went into it, but I must give the nod to the X-wing because I borrowed a simple brick technique from the X-wing that let me build dozens of fighters using the spine assembly of the X-wing build from Star Wars and made by a great Lego designer. I was so inspired by the mini X-wing that I had to try to replicate the technique, but at the same time I needed to make it my own creation. I decided on a simple colours—red and white, for my country, Canada, one of the more sincere democratic nations in the world in my humble opinion. They would be the good guys. The ship I produced looked more like the space fighter from another science fiction show from my childhood, Battlestar Galactica. This ship was called the Viper. If you’ll examine my Arrow, you’ll see it has elements in common with the X-wing fighter (The wide wing section tapering to a long cockpit and nose) but the rear section has an elevated fin like the Battlestar Viper.
Once I had built it, I felt sad and disappointed because it lacked the detailing and cool shape of either the X-wing or the Viper. I was about to take it apart as a failure until my partner convinced me to keep it. The more I looked at it, the more I saw its unique shape and characteristics and slowly fell in love with the ship.
The Beginning of Backgrounding the Ship
Almost immediately, I wanted to build sister ships of the Arrow to complete some space force of fighters that would help me define an entire space military. I needed to know what sort of fighters fought best in space, which fought best in the sky, and which were excellent at both. What did designers of the Great Democracy (I decided to model the nation after ancient Greece transported to the space age) have in mind when they build fighters? I decided that at first the fighters fought each other on the various sides of opposing free city states as armies did in Earth’s antiquity. But while they fought each other in pointless wars in space fighters that scarcely deserved the name, citizens of the Great Democracy were leaving the war torn twin planets of their society in colony ships bound for mineral rich planets in distant star systems aboard faster-than-light (FTL) ships. They soon colonized 53 planets and by CC (Common Calendar) 33, hundreds of years after leaving the sister democratic worlds, their population was soon much greater than the Great Democracy worlds. (While what would become the 53-planet Explorer’s Guild federation, the Great Democracies of the Sister worlds ended war on their planets and a golden age began of peace, cooperation, and enlightenment). The plural of Great Democracies was made singular, and the Great Democracy became governed as democratic federation of tribe-states.
Maybe you’re asking yourself how I know all this about my worlds all just springing from one fighter in red and white? That’s the magic I hope to impart to you. I think all you have to do is imitate some Lego build that you admire and slowly feel your pride in what you have done take over. You may have to get over the envy you feel at the build you couldn’t quite equal, but after you manage that, you come to respect and admire your own creation as special in its own right.
Analysing the Ship and Background Conflict
Once that happens, you may find you want to explain the many decisions you made about how the build looks and what it seems made to do in some imaginary world. Once that happens, you’ll more than likely find that you want to write about your ship. How it flies. How it fights. What it was designed to do best, and what its weapons and propulsion systems can do. And this can’t happen without you’re wanting to imagine or build (they became one process for me) other builds to make its abilities comparable to some other society’s machines. Or to the machines of the same society.
Soon, you have the beginnings of a story. You have conflict. In conflict you have story. Good guys versus bad, or good and bad guys versus good and bad guys. It wasn’t long before I wanted to build a space fighter of the rival larger civilization that had left the Great Democracy to show how the society was different. Different societies make different weapons and starfighters to protect themselves from their enemies, and I was overwhelmed with curiosity about the fast-growing society that had left the Great Democracy for good. I called them the Explorer’s Guild. They were a federation of worlds that were all about stripping planets of its mineral and vegetable resources and not about sustainability. They used planets up rather than living in a peaceful and long-lasting relationships with them.
The Enemy Force
The Explorer’s Guild became enormously rich and powerful—so powerful, that their politicians turned their attention to their original home worlds, the sister worlds of the Great Democracies. They didn’t even declare war; they simply sent capital ships (large ships that contain troops and starfighters) to take possession of the sister Great Democracy worlds. They felt that the seat of power of the Explorers’ Guild ought to be their original home planets–that, and the two sister worlds were still very rich with teeming oceans, verdant forests, sustainable farms, and a vegetarian society that left their animal populations intact. They were the twin jewels that the colonial federation of the Explorers’ Guild had finally turned their sites to claiming as their own. They also admired the cultures of the Great Democracies, which had devoted themselves not to colonization, but to culture, cuisine, philosophy, architecture, engineering, and the arts.
Where Does the Story Background Come From?
You may ask where all this detail is coming from–my fervid imagination, right? Not so much. I’m not the best world-builder/designer, but in building ships with so much detail, and colour, I found there was a buried symbolism that I did not consciously infuse into the fighters, but rather had to interpret, name, and explain to myself–a joyous and not strenuous process. And again, I have no great imagination for this kind of fiction backgrounding. The secret is in the bricks. And the best thing of all is that I think this technique will work for you whether you are not quite as good a builder as I am, or a much better one. The secret is to build something as best you can, and then ask questions and more questions. Where did the ship come from? Against whom does it defend? These are the basic questions to start with.
Then, your questions become more specific and granular. What systems allow for space flight versus air flight? You needn’t be a scientist or astrophysicist to invent these glorious systems. Just use your imagination. Do your ships fire lasers, shoot missiles, drop mines, project lethal radiation in broad killing waves? Ask, ask, ask. And then answer. And be patient if the answers don’t come right away.
War, Violence, and Conflict, and It’s Place in Fiction, Especially Pertaining to Impressionable Readers
In some future post I’ll discuss the role of conflict in story and the necessity or non-necessity of war. You should know that I am fond of war stories insofar as they are adventure stories that are far more exciting than they are dark, and that have low body counts among the characters we come to love. I’ll try to drive a wedge between war stories that I think promote violence in children and adults and those that simply use war as a canvass for heroism and adventure. I hope I’ll be able to convince you that my intentions are benevolent and that I aim always toward the latter creations.
Further, I’d like to let you know that I intend to challenge myself by creating builds that have nothing to do with war, but which locate conflict in something besides fighting for a cause of good versus evil. I know that Lego has had great success with their Friends line of builds, and I’m eager for that kind of storytelling as well, though I cannot promise that I will succeed. I have three more themes all ready to introduce to you that use my fiction method. Besides space wars, I have magical sailing ships, magical walking castles, and robots, which are my newest theme, and may not be war-oriented at all. I’m early in the building stage, and the interpretation has scarcely begun.
Overall, I hope to find subjects that will excite all kinds of parents and AFOL (adult fans of Lego) to move from building to writing. I begin as a fan of non-war glorifying, non-toxic war stories, but hope to grow with my blog into a much broader builder and writer. I hope you’ll follow me through the whole multi-year journey.
Thank you for reading and following!
— Mark Stanski
PS. Here is the first How-To-Build video in a series on my Youtube Channel. Please watch it, comment, and tell your friends about it! Thank you!