Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Road to Worldbuilding

There are four basic elements in every story: plot, character, theme and setting. As writers we keep the plot compelling - engaging our readers and bringing them along every step of the way. If the plot is predictable we lose our readers to boredom. Characters, whether human or from another genre, have to be multi-dimensional, realistic and identifiable so readers will care about the characters and want to read their story. Theme is what makes the story more than mere entertainment. In the fantasy genre, even if the setting is not the major focus, it is paramount to build a credible world for your story. The key to this is creating a world as a whole – with depth - paying close attention to the many details that interconnect to make it work; it is through these interactions that you build an internal logic to your empire. The process is similar to building credible characters – the realism of your imaginary world is born through the details and back-story of the history of the realm you create. These details are usually revealed, at least in some degree, as the story unfolds.

Over the next weeks I thought I would dedicate Wednesdays to the art of worldbuilding. How much worldbuilding will you have to do and what elements of a new world will you have to consider? The amount of detail you need within your created world will depend on your story line. You may just need enough to keep your world interesting with enough twists to keep the reader’s attention yet not to distract them from the storyline. If, however, the storyline has some element of this world as the cause of the conflict in your story, you will need to delve much deeper into the back-story and the interconnections of this world. Why do you want/need a new world? Could your story take place in our world but you are looking for a new and interesting location or is this new world pivotal to your storyline? These are key questions to be answered, looking closely at the plot of the story churning in your imagination eagerly waiting to be told.

Like this post? Tweet it. Go ahead, you know you want to!

TweetIt from HubSpot


Karen Walker said...

Your posts are always so interesting and informative,Nancy.Even though I don't write fantasy, I enjoy learning about that world of writing. Thanks.

Karen Walker

N A Sharpe said...

Thanks Karen!

Galen Kindley said...

Yeah, Karen's right about your blog. So, "What she said!"

Of particular note this time, are your comments on detail. That bugs me more than anything. How much detail to give the reader in all story elements?? It's really hard. SOme readers like detail, some just want a brief sketch. It's like you can't get there from here. Nothing you do is right.

My solution was/is to think like the reader I am, and put in enough detail to satisfy me...unless the detial (as you point out) is key to the story, then add as needed.

So, that's how I try to deal with the Detail Monster.

Best Regards, Galen

Patricia Stoltey said...

I read fantasy occasionally, and recently read and critiqued two more very, very long fantasy manuscripts. It seems that beginning fantasy writers have an enormous amount of detail in their minds about the worlds they're creating. The problem comes when they put every single detail on paper, and often repeat those details way too many times. Is this characteristic of fantasy first drafts?


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great post, Nancy. I love the idea of having Wednesdays dedicated to a particular segment. I agree with Galen that it's tough to know when the setting, etc, you're giving is "just right" or TMI. I'll be interested in your thoughts!


N A Sharpe said...

Hi Galen! Thanks for stopping by and your kind comments. I agree, it is a fine line to determin how much detail to provide - I don't think you are ever going to please everyone, but you need enough detail for the reader to clearly see your world without being bombarded by an overwhelming amount of detail that isn't pertinent to this particular book and the story it is telling - it gets too distracting if you overwhelm with the details.

Hi Patricia,
I think it is an easy pitfall for new writers of any genre o overwrite their story. With fantasy and sci fi you need to have so much detail in your head - the setting, characters and story line. In stories that take place in our world, the reader is already knowledgeable about the world and how things work. In fantasy and sci fi you have to determine all the details of your world, how they interconnect and the effect it has on your story. The trick is to weed out the details that are not pertinent. I think similar issues are in all genres but when you have to defie the paramaters of the world you are creating and effectively relay them to your reader without overwhelming them, you have an additional challenge. I think there has been a growing trend in recent years to make the books longer too. I don't think this is a good plan for new authors. It will make finding a publishing house more difficult, particularly in this economy.

Hi Elizabeth, I think the amount of detail you need to show is going to depend on the particular story and how much detail is directly necessary for the story. It is a delicate balancing act requiring the writer to read the manuscript as a reader.

Thanks so much for stopping by everyone!


Enid Wilson said...

Nancy, I like to write fantasy or paranormal romance because I have more freedom in creating a new world and its order. But I tend to write rather short stories and some reviewers felt that I had not explain or explore the new world enough.

In Quest of Theta Magic

Anonymous said...

Good idea for a post series. I'll be interested in reading what your thoughts are on this very important element of writing.

The Old Silly from Free Spirit Blog

Anonymous said...

Hi Nancy,

Creating a new world is fun but takes a lot of imagination. You have quite a talent.

I'm not able to create a new world unique and all its own, but I have taken a universe of sorts and superimposed it over our existing world for my next two books.

This way I can have fun and be creative and do some crazy things without having to create an entirely new world.

Best wishes for your success.

N A Sharpe said...

Hi Enid,
I also love the exhilaration of creating new worlds for my characters. Just as writers must create multi-dimensional characters, the worlds we create must also have depth. We must share the details of our worlds with the readers, being careful of informational overloads that distract the readers from the storyline. It is a fine line making sure we are sharing enough details without overwhelming the story with details that don't relate to this particular story. I tend to overwrite and have to go back to edit some of the details.

I love the creativity the new worlds inspire too. It opens many opportunities for the ways our characters interact. Great concept.

Thanks for stopping by!

Template by