September 20th, 2007
Next Thing To Work On

Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while know that a couple of years ago I struggled with understanding plots. I’ve since figured out how to plot, even if I can’t describe the steps taken. Now I find myself tackling a new issue. That issue is world-building. My dh said that much of my problem comes from not truly understanding what these terms mean (ie plot/world-building/etc.). And I think he’s probably right.

I’ve read a ton of articles about world-building. Each one was good in its own right, but rarely did I understand what the authors meant. Dh started me on the road to understanding by using Harry Potter as an example. He said that things that make a world special are the normal items (going to school) mixed in with the unusual (Hogwarts). (ie flavored beans, owl mail delivery, chocolate for healing, real-time maps) I get that. It makes sense to me.

Anna Genoese took that lesson a step further. She told me during edits that I needed to get all the things I was seeing in my head out onto the paper. It wasn’t until she said that, that I realized that was what I’d been doing. Perhaps I’d been world-building all along and didn’t know it because most of it was in my head filling in the gaps that were on the pages.

Like plotting, I still struggle with world-building. I do think I’m getting better at building worlds. Goodness knows my plots are getting downright complicated. I figure it’ll probably take me a few more months to get a real hang of world-building.

Have you ever read anything on world-building that gave you an Aha moment? (I’ve read all of Holly Lisle’s articles and the links on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s of America site. I have also read Stephen Gillett’s World-building book and Orson Scott Card’s How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy.) If you’ve mastered world-building, what are you currently working on?

12 comments to “Next Thing To Work On”

  1. Before I got published, I had very strong ideas on what constituted world-building. Then, of course, as you trudge the road to publication, you learn to take out the immense info-dumps, delete all extraneous scenes, de-lingo-fy all dialogue. What you’re left with seems a pale shadow of what’s in your head/notes. Yet, a couple of reviewers have commended me on my w-b skills. How can this be? I thought to myself.

    Tracking backwards, I’ve come to the conclusion that good world-building means consistent manifestations of a bigger background vision, with little/no lingo. I think that’s what really bites readers…a writer who sets up one vision (which means a character can’t, oh I don’t know, make cream puffs appear out of thin air) then, two books down the track, violates it (the same character makes cream puffs appear out of thin air).

    In my mind, a lot of writers make the mistake of wanting to show ALL the work they’ve gone through to build the world. Really, I’m coming to realise, it’s only the consistent idiosyncratic manifestations of that world, and how they affect the characters (progression, delay, etc.) that’s important.

  2. Kaz, An info dump in my books is a rare sight indeed. *ggg* I have to remember to add description half the time. LOL!

  3. I agree with Kaz. Like most authors, published or unpublished, I write what I like to read. Dump me into your created universe, and dont bore me with any details not related to your fast moving plot. Reveal what you need to through your character interaction; and no, I dont want to stop and smell the extraterrestrial flowers. Ive read Sci-Fi books where the author has buried me in vast panoramas of detail that must have really seemed necessary at the keyboard; but when the final product reached me, I was not impressed. I wrote a Sci-Fi book where I wrote the world building exactly as I like to read it. I couldnt sell it to an agent; but hey, you asked. 🙂 Remember, when youre world building, Jordan, itll be you reading through your work adnauseam. No matter what all the expert world builders are advising in their articles, theyre not the ones who have to edit it. 🙂

  4. Lol, I have no problems to sneak in the right amount of description/worldbuilding, and I can weave complicated plots, but I suck at characterization.

  5. Bernard, I like books that move too. It’s a fine line to walk between too much info and not enough. Right now, I’m way too far into the ‘not enough’ category. *g*

  6. Gabriele, Most of my stories are character driven stories, so I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum. 😉

  7. The thing I’ve struggled with the most is character motivation and character arc. Nothing like writing in a genre that relies heavily on both to force you to learn. *g*

  8. Charli, LOL! True. Very true. *ggg*

  9. Haven’t mastered anything yet–lmao!–but there is one thing I’ve picked up on through various sci-fi books and movies which I hope to use very soon: The characters must be at ease in their alien environment. I must keep in mind that their world is only alien to ME, not them, so no flashing red lights or blaring horns when they can tell the eye of dervish (or whatever) they’re dining on isn’t fresh because they’re bloodshot, or the wonders of their new ultrasonic ray guns as opposed to the old metal jobs. They’re living in their now, and these things are commonplace and comfortable to them, and that draws me into a world faster than anything. Just a thought.

  10. Mostly I have problems with telling the story. Basically because I see it as a movie in my head. I watch as the “camera” moves around in different angles taking in the scene in a certain way. Also how it captures the characters. One of the things about movies is that you can get more than one POV in a scene. So it’s a painful struggle to put what I see in words since everything has to be seen through one of the character’s eyes, one POV.

  11. Raine, LOL! Actually, that’s extremely observant. Thanks! 🙂

  12. Tempest, You could always write in the omniscient pov. That would take care of that problem. 😉