Wednesday, August 15, 2012
World Building: It's your world, don't screw it up
First, I think we have to figure out if we’re more plotter or pantser. If you plot more, and like to have things laid out before you dive in, then setting aside world building time might be a good idea. Many plotters have full world bibles laid out (more common with SF/F since these worlds are most unlike ours, and having few if any common references.).
Pantsers (at least me ;)) are more likely to integrate their world building along with their first drafts. It’s pretty much as new to me as it is to the reader ;). I obviously have an idea (for example: “This is an alternative world-circa late 1800’s, the fae invaded Earth through a portal 15 years earlier and the war is still going on.”). Now that idea of a world does give a general feeling, but obviously there’s not a lot there to hang onto. I could think of 10 different directions that could go (other than the one my current story does) just off the top of my head.
To start your attack on the world building concept- look at your own style. Also look at what level of world building you like to read. A conscious examination of the types and levels of world building in your favorite books can help you build a better understanding of the process. Don’t worry about matching other authors though! Some folks love TONS of heavy and nuanced world building, others like a more fast and light approach- there are readers for both. Just make sure your style is consistent.
What ALL writers need to keep in mind is just how much information does the reader REALLY need to feel at home in your story? NOT how much world building do YOU need to write the story. These two should be very different. You need to know minute details that the reader really doesn’t need nor want. Sadly, many newer writers (and even published ones) don’t get this and get so caught up in their Very Cool World (or VCW for short) that they want to share all of it with the reader. I just finished a book in which it was clear the author was just tickled pink with his/her world. At first the excessive world building was charming, then it got repetitive, then old and annoying. I began to care less and less about the character because the author was far too focused on his/her “VCW”. The world was cool- but I didn’t need new reminders of it when I had already “bought in” to it. I was there, I just needed a great story. Don't chase off a reader who has already agreed with your world building and buys into it.