Mike Jones has a diverse background in screen production, writing, project development and technology. He is currently lecturer in screen studies at the Australian Film TV and Radio School. www.mikejones.tv
Lets take another big and well known story-world - Battlestar Galactica. The logline might go something like this.
Lets take another big and well known story-world - Battlestar Galactica. The logline might go something like this. BSG is a futuristic scifi world where Humans have colonised many planets with the aid of robots called Cylons but the Cylons revolted and have now returned to eradicate the Human race. The Humans must struggle to survive and find a new home out of the Cylon's reach.
Much like the Star Wars example, a structured logline like this gives us a firm set of oppositional forces (Humans vs Cylons) and a clear macro-level goal (survive and escape). But it's the Rules of the BSG world that really crank up the gas.
These three rules which govern the sociology and interaction between Humans and Cylons are not abstract but specifically crafted to up-the-stakes and pressure on the story-world. Robots killing humans is one thing, but robots that look like humans, and may not even know they are robots, are a whole different ballgame; one that brings hefty doses of paranoia to the already high-stakes intergalactic chase scenario of the story-world.
The creators of BSG go further with the use of Rules to generate dramatic pressure. In the series bible for BSG they write;
"Our spaceships don't make noise because there is no noise in space. Sound will be provided from sources inside the ships - the whine of an engine audible to the pilot for instance. Our fighters are not airplanes and they will not be shackled by the conventions of WWII dogfights. The speed of light is a law and there will be no moving violations."
In one paragraph of rules two crucial things have been shaped for the BSG story-world: first is to create a point of difference between BSG and other space-opera scifi. Science-based rules like "there is no noise in space" tells us this aint Star Wars...! The other, more specifically, is that they have cemented hard-science as a rule-book and this locks the characters into a world where there is no magic to rely on and where real-world physics entrap them further, making things harder. Any dramatic problem a particular storyline throws up will now have to be solved in the context of semi-real science. And this just makes the plight of the Humans all the more dire.
These two elements - structured logline and rules - are arguably the most important elements of story-world design. Without these two things in place and conveying clear macro-level dramatic pressure and oppositional forces, all other components of story-world writing - characters, plots, timelines, etc - will be potentially weak. If you can get these two parts right then all other parts of story-world development with have a firm foundation of natural dramatics to stand upon.