1. Something Blue

    Something Blue New Member

    Jul 8, 2013
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    How Big Should a Fantasy World Be?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Something Blue, Nov 6, 2013.

    I'm having trouble deciding on the size of my fantasy world and I've hit a few problems whilst writing.

    Namely it's the realisation that, realistically, my characters are going to take a week to walk from A to B. Obviously, I'm not going to write about every bit of it but I feel at times it slows the pace down. Like when characters say "we should arrive there within the week", I just feel like "meh". I can't explain, it just doesn't feel right. Every time I write 'a [insert time period here] the convoy arrived at X', I feel like a bit of an idiot.

    I can't really explain it, to be honest, but I feel that my characters shouldn't spend the vast majority of their time simply getting from A to B to C to D, even if I don't write about them doing so. I'm writing about part of the journey but that's usually only because there's something important (an event or conversation) that happens during the journey. It's still a very small part of it.

    That said though, Middle Earth is pretty big and LotR didn't do so badly. And, of course, I don't want my world to be small and boring. It's an ecosystem. There's forests, lakes, mountains, a desert and more besides. Gah, like I said, I can't really explain my problem.

    Currently, I imagine my world to be roughly the same area as Russia. Russia's a fairly big place but the people that travel about Russia have other methods than foot or horseback, which are the only things my characters really use (until they find a magical teleporty thing - but that's another story). Maybe it's too big, bearing these things in mind.

    To give some background to it, my world is like Middle Earth, I guess. It's not a 'world' per-se, it's really a country, a large island country (or continent really, I suppose you would say) that one would presume would be part of a planet - not that I ever touch upon anywhere else besides this continent.

    I know there's no 'one size fits all', but how big would you a recommend a fantasy world to be and do you think lots of travelling, even if only implied and not actually written about, slows down the novel or takes something away from it?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. Thornesque

    Thornesque Senior Member

    Jul 31, 2012
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    Michigan, USA
    I can't see how, if you're not writing about every last footstep that the characters are taking, it would be a problem. But there are ways besides narrating to the reader, "They had been travelling for three days." Rather, it could be slipped in more casually. "After three days on the road together, tempers were beginning to run high." Or have a character announce it.

    "My feet hurt," unnamed-character-1 announced.
    "Well, suck it up," unnamed-character-2 responded. "We've still got five days left on the road, and I don't want to spend them listening to your incesent whining!"

    Find more creative ways to portray time, when it becomes necessary to do so.

    So long as you stick only to the details that are necessary/interesting, you should do fine. It's not about making your world smaller - it's about finding a way to make the travelling work.
  3. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
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    Massachusetts, USA
    It should be just large enough to contain your story. That doesn't mean you can't imply a larger world, but only flesh out enough of it to tell the tale.
  4. Albirich

    Albirich Active Member

    Oct 31, 2013
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    I have created an entire world with three.? No four continents, I think. My story happens in only one of them, but one of the characters leave for another continent, then another secret character goes to another.

    Create as much as you want is my advice, I fleshed out my world with interesting people all across the world, but probably over 60% of them wont ever show. But I think it is good to have. I have created 4 continents, nine or ten religions that are in detail.

    Since you are having one country you could really sprinkle it up with rivers, roads, ruins, cities, mountains, lakes, caves, hills, whatever you want in truth. But don't expect your character to know every single place either.
    And you could have some myths (true or false) and folklores or something like that.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2013
  5. Howling Storm

    Howling Storm New Member

    May 8, 2013
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    If it helps, traveling can be a good time to introduce your character's or your world's backstory and history, if there is any such information worthy of note. Your character(s) may take the time to reflect on things, those reflections provoked by some even that happened before the journey began, or even during the journey or something they believe may happen afterward.
    You might also describe how the land around them differs as they move from place to place.
    "X days into the journey, Character A realized that the rolling hills had begun to give way to gentler, wider curves, and Character A knew that he was nearing his destination."
    It's a rough example, but you get the idea. It can give a reader some idea of how far the character has gone, and it can also be used to describe some of the physical details of your world.
    Hope this helps.
  6. A.M.P.

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Contributor

    Sep 30, 2013
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    A Place with no History
    How does it matter how big it is?
    You've got your story and your characters travel from X to Y to Z.
    Any bigger and the reader won't even know about it since you didn't write about it.

    Basically, any lull in story can be skimmed over.
    Like "Three days later," or "It was more days that he wished to remember but he finally made it."
  7. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Mar 9, 2010
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    I'm focusing on why you dislike the travel. If I consider why I might dislike it, my main thought is that if that travel happens at certain critical times, and it's boring enough to skip past, then both the writer and reader might "miss" important things.

    If the characters meet for the first time and promptly go on a journey, for example, then we miss their important early days of acquaintance. If they undergo a life-changing or traumatizing experience and, again, promptly go on a journey, then we miss their process of adjusting to and reacting to that experience.

    If that is the problem, then there might be ways to work past it. For example, the characters might meet, and then for some reason they might not be together when they travel to the next destination--so we don't get to the getting-to-know-you phase until they get there. The traumatic experience might be accompanied by an injury, so that instead of promptly hopping on their horses the characters hang out while the injured one heals, and while they're hanging out deal with some plot element that stalks them. Or something.

    But that's just why it would bother me. I don't know about you.
  8. Nilfiry

    Nilfiry Senior Member

    Aug 4, 2008
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    Eternal Stream
    Your fantasy world should be as big as necessary for the story. The distance between each key location does not really matter because if nothing happens while your characters spend three weeks traveling from point A to point B, then you can just time skip that.
  9. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Contributor Contributor

    Nov 30, 2006
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    Ohio, USA
    If it's boring and nothing of note happens or is learned, the trip can be skipped over, and start a new chapter or a new section within a chapter. The time elapsed can be alluded to in any manner of fashions, from having to have a horse re-shod or a worn wagon wheel replaced, or boots worn out...or whatever. Maybe through dialogue around a campsite, while cooking a meal or crossing a river, can be used to relay some aspect of the story or conflict during the course of the journey.

    Looking at how other authors managed it, like you did for Tolkien, is a good start. Check out a few more of your favorite authors and see how they dealt with travel, then apply what you learned to your own writing style and story being told.

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