Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Writer's Tips: World Building

World building is like a dragon. It’s fun of course. I mean, who doesn’t love dragons? They’re pretty much the most awesome thing that doesn’t exist. You know what has never made a story worse? The dramatic reveal of dragons. Just ask these two shows:

But dragons aren’t all fun and games. They’re huge, for one thing. They cause a ruckus and the burn down houses and armies. They’re really hard to control. And you have to do it just right or you could end up crispy bacon.

World building is the same way. If you have a fantasy novel, your world is huge but you have to control what information the reader gets and how and when they get it. And if you reveal too much or don’t reveal enough, the world will start blowing fiery plot holes in your novel.

Training dragons isn’t easy. And neither is world building. So here are a few tips to make it a little easier.

1) Make sure YOU know your world. 
Before you start writing the first draft, make sure you have a handle on what your world. Everything about your world. Even if it doesn’t come into the story, it might subtly effect how you write in a good way. It could affect word use or character development without ever having to be explicitly stated. If you  know the world, it could lead to some excellent showing instead of telling. And that’s exactly what you want.

2) Link your story to your world building
So how does your world then effect your story? The hard part of world building is finding the elements that relate to the plot and connecting them. You have to strike just the right balance of information and plot to make it seem believable and subtle. Sometimes you’ll be tempted to talk about parts of world that don’t really matter to the plot. Restrain yourself from this. Too much world building that isn’t plot related will slow down your story and make it a difficult read.

3) Avoid info dumps
Everyone knows this one. Info dumps are the poison of pacing, often slowing a story to a dead halt just to talk about something the writer thinks is cool and important. It might very well be cool and important. But it needs to be spread evenly throughout the story. That way the reader can digest your world slowly and not feel like they’re taking a history class on it.

4) Add in passing details
Passing details are good. Short little elements that can be expressed in a sentence. They might not have a ton to do with the story but they can help flesh out the setting and world without distracting too much from the plot. Little details give the world an extra level of realism.

5) Cut the ones that slow down the story
But the moment the details start slowing things down or feel too random: cut them out. Your story doesn’t need them to shine.

And that’s the gist of world building. It’s difficult, I know, but owe so rewarding. A great example of an amazing world builder is Brandon Sanderson. All of his stuff is incredible so check it out if for some reason you haven’t already.

Like I said, it’s a dragon, but dragons make everything better in the end.

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