1. Patriot6
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    Patriot6 New Member

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    World Creation and Introduction

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Patriot6, Jul 2, 2011.

    So after two years of planning, scripting, rewriting, scrapping, reviving and finalizing, I think I'm finally ready to write my first fantasy novel! I made it my goal, when creating the world, to stray as far from Tolkien, Howard, and Lewis as I could, creatively, while leaving familiar elements that won't scare readers away. I've got the plot down, the races that inhabit, places and people and so on... so I should get right to work, yeah? Well now that I've created this strange new fantasy world, I have one major problem: how do I introduce it in the actual story?

    To make the question more specific: how do I introduce the people, places, and races without taking the reader out of the story completely? When the main character encounters a race or person that is more than just hair and clothes, how much detail should I go into? What about the culture of the race?
     
  2. Chris Gentry
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    Chris Gentry Member

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    Introduce it casually and introduce stuff when it is relevant. Describe what is needed but let the reader's imagination do it's job.

    If a creature shows up in the story it should have a purpose and it shouldn't just pop up so someone can give a history lesson. And unless a history lesson is relevant to the what is happening don't bother.

    Just Introduce stuff when it is relevant.
     
  3. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Hi there!

    First of all, I want to say congratulations on being prepared to write your own novel at last. It's a great feeling getting it all planned out and finally getting to the good part. Also, I applaud you for wanting to make this world your own. While I love Tolkein, I hate all the unoriginal ripoffs - I think each fantasy world should be the writer's own.

    To answer your question, I'd say the main bit of advice is "show, not tell." Also, slip in bits of information, don't dump it in one big block.

    For instance, let's use character appearance. Don't write out a full paragraph detailing what they look like. Instead, you could slip in one sentence such as "Biting her lip in frustration, she brushed a strand of reddish-brown hair off her sticky forehead" and then, later, "Her steely gray eyes bored into mine." That way, it flows naturally with the story.

    Be careful though, you don't want to convey said info in ways that aren't realistic. For example, "A bit of dirt had gotten stuck in my blue eyes" reads weird, because if dirt is in your eyes, you're not going to be thinking about what color they are.

    Same for worlds. Slip in details naturally and readers will piece together the whole image quite well. Less is more.
     
  4. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Start a wiki. Put all the information on it. Make it easily navigable, like TiddlyWiki. Put each chapter of the novel on a separate Tiddly.

    Alternatively, just write the story. I've said it in other threads, I'll say it here: readers aren't idiots. They'll understand something even if it's only mentioned in passing. The first time you mention the name of a town, you do not have to launch into three pages explaining the architecture and people.

    If you're using a race that's extremely different, and has thick fur covering the torso and shoulders and also has six arms, mention it in a natural way; while the character is aware of it. As is said in Mallory's post, mention it in a natural way.

    Again, though, don't just launch into huge descriptions. Only mention what's necessary for the story.

    If she's biting her lip, why would she think about the colour of her hair? So far as I'm concerned, that first example is very far from excellent. The second example, though, is great.
     
  5. Mobhit
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    Mobhit Senior Member

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    Let me Give you an example of how I introduce.

    Maro look at the the king in the eyes. His eyes burned into him red with flame yet he felt the cold. Looking back over his shoulder at Cansal he tried to suppress a chuckle. He looked back down to the king who seemed a little taller then he did before, maybe from craning his neck.

    (I left key elements out of this example for reason I won't go into)

    Maro just met the King of the Kamasas


    Now to introduce their culture, the feast I had written was all I needed, as well as the meeting. Certain Alien elements (to the real world anyway) where pointed out at different intervals by the Cansal (his History and Close Adviser)

    Cansal even noted before the Feast "You think they look Silly wait till you see the feast" and goes on to describe through out all the "wonders" and rituals traditions.

    Keep in mind as I say he goes on, I mean over the course of the Two chapters in "tidbits" of information that very well may or may not be relevant to the story later.

    As Mallory said "Show Don't tell".

    As for the Lands and such Cliche it a bit if you must.

    As the shadows of the night began to fade into the gray of dawn, the mountains surrounding Death's Home became clear. Maro knew it would take a day just to reach the summit.

    That in my opinion should be all you need just to give the full scope of the mountain size.

    Hope that helped a bit!
     
  6. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Let me review that post for you.
    I reiterate my previous posts. Readers are not idiots and will fill in gaps. If you mention mountains, they'll get an idea of how big the mountains are all by themselves without you confusing them with how many days it'd take to get to the top.
     
  7. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I meant if the narrator was watching someone else bite their lip, not if the narrator was biting their own lip while thinking about the color of their own hair. Haha my bad for not clarifying.
     
  8. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    True. I still don't think the colour of the hair is that important there, but *shrug*. From a third person perspective, it's a lot better.
     
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  9. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    I actually prefer a quick, well written sentence about what they look like as they are introduced, over gradually giving info. I think it sounds awkward most of the time, even when published writers do it. It's better to just write something quick in the beginning and be done with it, imho. The trick is making that sound interesting and not make it an info-dump.
     
  10. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    I just finished Prey by Michael Crichton this morning, and I realised that it reminds me of a video game. You know how there are video games where, logically, you should be able to have all these powers/abilities at the start, but you only "unlock" them when you need them?

    That's kind of what it was like. It wasn't that bad, because it was an interesting read, but it only gives you all the information when you need it. I'd rather have no information.

    And that's what most fantasy novels are like, too. We learn all this stuff only when the character needs to know it, and it's tacky. It's like it comes into existence only for the express purpose that the character needs it.
     
  11. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    Have a central theme of your story and use it as a guideline to keep your story in line. Nothing can be worse than writing poorly when you have a good story theme for it. Some themes may include a comming of age, love, hate, redemption, hope, a human being having a bad life, and so forth. Experiment on things as you try to go alone writing a compelling story.
     
  12. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well that's certainly not what I meant he should do! Can't say I've read any novels where it felt like that (but I know the feeling in video games. InFamous 2 did a pretty good job making the power upgrades feel logical though... just thought I'd bring that game up for no rason).

    I was talking about character introduction. When authors drop in little bits of info about what they look like, rather than just say it quickly in the beginning or when that character is introduced, annoys me.
    The key to making a good fantasy world is of course making everything feel alive, but how to do that can be difficult to answer. There dropping in little bits of info about what's happening in the background for example can be a good thing. Though to be honest, I don't read a lot of fantasy like that. It's the urban kind for me.
     
  13. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    I just meant that that sort of thing always feels that way, and then I used the example that most fantasy is like that. It's still annoying with characters like that, though. >.<
     
  14. Mobhit
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    Mobhit Senior Member

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    I did not post this to be Reviewed, If you want to review my work Review my work in a Short story section. Thank you
     
  15. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It is best to simply ignore that kind of nonsense, Mobhit.
     
  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    If you've spent that much time developing the world, then you have far more information on hand than the reader will ever want or need. As others have pointed out, putting across large amounts of information in "infodumps" is a bad idea. Instead, impart bits and pieces throughout the story. One big pitfall in fantasy writing is that people sometimes spend a lot of time developing every detail of the world, its cultures, etc., and since they spent so much time on it they decide the reader is damn well going to hear about it whether she wants to or not :)
     
  17. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    The first part of your inquiry is a big step toward answering the second part. Take a page from those aforementioned authors. You've obviously read their works. Now go back and analyze them. Study how certain characteristics of people and places are introduced into the story. This is not just an info dump. It's more a bit of information here, a bit of description there. Break down the way they insinuate bits and pieces of description throughout so that the reader has a clear idea of what they are 'seeing'.

    If you own the books you are studying and have, heretofore been shy about marking in them now is a good time to get over that. Yes. I know. Mom always scolded, "Don't write in that book!" when you were eight but you are no longer 8 yrs old and you own the books so make them yours! Underline points where the author has offered a bit of description of person or geography or whatever. Don't be afraid to make margin notes about any particularly alluring bit of description. These things will help you to see and understand how and why certain techniques work. Take what you have learned there and put it to work in your own writing.

    And ... good luck!
     
  18. Patriot6
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    Patriot6 New Member

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    Thanks for the wonderful advice guys! Once I've reviewed my notes, I'll get to writing immediately!

    I s'pose I have just one more question: should I make a map of the continent the story primarily takes place on? It might be a good visual aid for readers, but I want your opinions.
     
  19. Ubrechor
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    Ubrechor Active Member

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    I would say that it depends on the voice of the narrator. In some stories, there is a voice that enables you to just explain something in the required amount of detail without it seeming strange. Of course, that's only if your style is like that. Otherwise, I would just try to add in detail where necessary. Possibly you could add in a source of information such as a book or a person (think Hermione or Dumbledore)
     
  20. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Make a map for yourself definitely if it helps. Choose to share it if you think it's awesome, or you have an arty friend make you an awesome one. A novel should be able to carry its own weight in terms of location without a map, if you make it sound you know what you're talking about when you describe places. I've been reading/watching Game of Thrones and okay, the TV show has the map all the time, and the book has one in the front, but I never bothered to consult it too closely, because the place names and descriptions in the book are well-done enough in my opinion that I never once reached for the map to see if I had it right. I've barely studied it - just enough to get the most basic facts that are repeated in the book... Maybe a sense of the size of the place, and that's it. Again, details that were conveyed fine in the story. I actually found myself checking details on the map more when reading Lord of the Rings recently despite having long memorised the map of Middle Earth (poster on my wall and all :p) because the story is much more based on the journey.

    I think if you are giving the reader a cause to check all the time - epic journey fantasies do this more - then you will need a map. If it's less about the travelling, with that only as an incidental part to the main story, then I think it's fine to skip the map. I've read other fantasies without maps and they didn't really make a big deal of it.

    For example from my own writing, I'd not include a map for my big epic - despite vast amounts of travel across the huge country it happened easy as taking an aeroplane because there was no element of journey to the plot - it was a treasure hunt, so the only important things happened at the key locations. On the other hand, my fantasy series set in the "real" world might call for a town and county map, because the locations and the way they link up are much more important, and in the various stories people are always running about between them, and the distances are important, the layout of the valley significant, and generally the setting is used as a whole entity rather than just isolated blobs of plot.


    As for the original post - just as long as you don't start with info dumps, and continue to not have any, you'll be fine. Start with action or at least something happening, even if it's a reasonably tranquil scene. As long as there's something for the eye to follow. Your minute by minute descriptions should do fine. For example back to my epic fantasy, at one point when the main character is flying along near the opening he describes the landscape very briefly in passing, like, literally as pale-y as mentioning there was a desert, and that the king had a port and ships, and then he carried on with the more pressing matters at hand. The main characters flew over that path a half dozen times at least before all the plot relevance of those places had been revealed, and each time I gave more details, and more interactions had been had with the places so there was more of a reference to build off, and I think I did really well with making the setting always within context, so when the characters did go there for reals it was like going to a place the reader was already familiar with, without an info dump. :D
     
  21. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, I don't want to review your work. I wanted to review your potentially bad advice. You agreed with the "Show, don't tell" idea, and then started spouting all that stuff about how you had a character who was there, telling the character all the things that they "needed" to know.
    That, so far as I'm concerned, is not good advice, and has the potential to be very bad advice indeed.

    Because it's totally nonsensical to discourage potentially bad advice, isn't it?

    Esp. the bolded.
    For the record, I do regional maps in GIMP (or I did. Haven't worked on anything in a while).
     
  22. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    No, if you think advice is incorrect, you counter it with advice of your own. Doing a line critique of a post offered as advice and not placed for critique is just a jerk move, and I find it difficult to believe you didn't know that when you did it. Thus the advice to ignore you, which I'll be implementing myself for the remainder of this thread.
     
  23. Mobhit
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    Mobhit Senior Member

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    Please Note, I clearly Stated that all of the Information was handed out in Tidbits over the course of the Chapter! where do you get "infodump" from, Your the one who started spouting off about "infodumps". Cansel has to Explain or the rest of the time there are several things that will not make sense.

    Second: As far as describing Mountains, That is one way of Describing! I say a Day.

    Third: My world is not and Alien world. You are reading out of Context again. I used the World Alien to the meaning of Foreign, Unknown to normal. Dwarves and Elfs and Fairies, to the real Life New York City are out of place Thus they are Alien to the Real World

    Fourth: Please also note, never judge a character you know zero about, all you did was say he was a jerk! So don't judge out of Context.

    I will Henceforth be following by way of Steerspike in the Advice to ignore you.

    As for the Map question I have two continents, and push pin to remember where characters are, but a map helps so I say go for it! Plus IMO they are fun to create
     
  24. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, in one story I am working on I have a character that is essentially a foreigner in the realm he is currently in so other characters often have to explain things to him that would otherwise be common knowledge. This is an easy way for me to explain the world to the reader. I wouldn't recommend having a character that is ignorant unless it fits your story.
     
  25. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    It is pretty difficult having a world-savvy character in a complex new world, which is why so many protagonists are a bit green around the ears, and the coolest character who knows their crap is always more to be idolised and to give advice.

    The best thing is probably to try and strike a medium if you're writing high fantasy with no characters from our world or whatever, is to have a young-ish character who at least thinks they know their way around the world, but just fails at being awesome just enough that whoever's with him has to set him right and remove cultural prejudices and ignorance. Read quite a few where the main character has heard it all before, but usually gets slapped around a lot to begin with for accidentally heeding stories they were told in the cradle rather than common sense.
     

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