Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by KhalieLa, Jul 31, 2016.
Anyone else feel like they went overboard with their world building?
Uhm. *raises my hand*
I hope I am allowed to comment, though I write contemporary military scifi
Every fucking time I start with a new scene I plow through my own version of 'what was I thinking'. I am at the very start of my very own mess, but the timeline and amount of complex characters (which implies complex storyline) looms like some monstrosity - ready to pounce and grind me to mincemeat.
I have to remind myself at every word that I WILL NOT despair - but go slowly, one word upon a time. Somewhen I will get to the end, without ending up in an asylum first
For my futuristic sci-fi I put in about 900 years of worldbuilding to get from the more-or-less present day to the approximate start of the story. Then I backtracked to explore not only the history but the evolutionary development of this one alien race (like, from what their agricultural revolution was like to at what point they lost the ability to fly), all the way up to their space age, only the last %20 or so of which is actually necessary for the story.
With another race I've delved heavily into their religious beliefs - to what extent they believe, what exactly they believe (it's an Abrahamic sort of thing where they all had the same original source material but after years it's become several different sects), how it effects their communities. It effects their names, how they raise their children, whether or not they engage in commerce with other sects, what kind of clothing they wear, what kind of houses they build, and each group tends to believe just a little differently. I've also put a lot of thought into the ecology of their planet and created a good handful of animals, considering which ones they've domesticated and which ones predate on them, etc. Plus I'm in the process of developing a conlang for them (why, Izzy, why). Oh, and there's this outlier group that shares a lot of cultural similarities with them but doesn't live on the same planet; I have a lot of work to do on them, yet.
The overall story takes place over about a hundred years and there are about eighty named characters and twelve species including humans (plus robots!), three different wars to figure out the exact universal sociopolitical circumstances of, and it's undergone so many structural changes that at this point I have no idea how many books it's going to span. It's entirely too many though, that's for sure.
Worldbuilding seems to be one of the most absorbing things for fantasy/sci fi writers to engage in, and if it's written well, it's one of the things readers of such kinds of stories (which occasionally includes me) revel in.
However, what a writer needs to keep in mind is that they are writing a story, not a history. The characters have to grip the heart and imagination of the readers, and their individual stories need to be what drives the book(s.) The backstory/worldbuilding is just that ...backstory and worldbuilding. If that takes over, you'll end up with The Silmarillion (which was never meant to be published by the author) rather than The Lord of the Rings.
So follow your characters, make their individual stories un-putdownable, and fill in the background details as needed. How do each of these characters fit into the world they live in, and what do they engage with when they visit other countries/planets, etc? That's what's best to concentrate on, from a story point of view.
I've heard it said that an epic fantasy/sci fi story is like an iceberg. About 95% of it is beneath the surface and you don't see it. However, this structure supports the bit you do see. That structure must be solid in the writer's mind, so the writer can pull up the pertinent details as needed and avoid plot holes. But that's it. A reader is like a cardiac patient who doesn't need to know how to do heart surgery. They just turn up for their operation, and it happens.
@Lifeline and @jannert
World building . . . My office looks like a war room. I have a 4'X5' black and white wall map above the conference table. I literally crawl onto the table to write stuff on the map. Then there are four others maps that get rolled out from time to time when I need information or have to consider how I'm going to move my chess pieces around. I can totally relate to that iceberg analogy. So much world building is done specifically so the reader won't notice oddities, incongruities, etc. The point of dotting your i's and crossing your t's is to provide a seamless story.
The good news: I met with my copy editor today. She said she had to go back and read several sections twice just because the story pulled her along and she often found that she had quit editing and was just caught up in the story. Then she said that she read the thing from beginning to end again this weekend, so she could just enjoy it with out having to edit. She's eager for the next book, but I told her that one won't make it though critique until February.
That's fantastic news, that your novel is nearing completion, and that it looks like a success.
I love the 'war room' image! You should see my office. I started writing my historical novels back in 1996, when there wasn't much directly available on the internet, so I had to order books, papers, magazines, reprints, etc, to get my research in place. As my husband said, walking into the room one day ..."Did I misunderstand you? I thought you were writing a book. Instead, you're buying them."
I have two period maps on my wall, and four cork boards covered in setting-related pictures and a few other tidbits as well. Two full bookcases in the office and one in the hallway, all containing mostly research-related material. And another case containing files and notebooks and stacks of magazines from The Montana Historical Society. A box full of microfilmed magazines from the era that I have to go the the library to actually read.
All this to produce a novel (and potentially a couple of sequels.) Madness. But I feel the story is grounded in reality as much as possible. And damn, doing research is fun. As is world-building, which I do with my research. If it wasn't fun, I wouldn't do it.
Spent a lot of time using Google earth to walk around some of my sites at ground level. Yes, it is a different kind of world-building
World building is one of the things I enjoy doing most while working on a story. I often find that my stories fell a little short in realism because I didn't take the time to consider everything necessary to make my story seamless and comprehensible. When I decided to write my fantasy story I didn't want to use anything like orcs, elves, dwarfs, dragons etc. So I had to make my own races, religions, lore, magic system, biospheres, with unique plant and animal life, all fitting to the description of the world I pictured.
I have 6 alliances comprised of 23 religions and 25 races. Each alliance is comprised of anywhere between 3-5 religions of similar origin, often the same concepts twisted to fit different goals within their society. Each religion has it's own culture that's formed through their personal magics and history. Each one is also usually comprised of mostly one or two races. Some alliances are deeply segregated, leading to 'superior' races that ruled over weaker races within the same alliance. I haven't completely figured out languages, but it will probably be about 12+ languages. with different dialects across large regions. These religions and alliances have existed for so long that followers of any one religion have evolved over the generations, giving them their own unique physical features within that religion. The history of this fantasy world spans about 150 million years. But the story really only takes place over a few hundred years and several books. Exactly how many, I'm not sure at this point. I'm still coming up with new animals/plants and I'll probably never stop trying to fill up the ecosystems of my world with odd and unique, but deadly life. W00t for world building!
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