Jump to content

Welcome to Christian Writers!

We are a friendly community built around Christian writing, publishing, reading and fellowship. Register or sign in today to join in the fun!
Zee

World Building

Recommended Posts

So far, I’ve published two books, and I’m getting positive reviews for both of them, but more than one has also said that my world-building is weak.

 

As I thought about it, I realized I didn’t really have a clear grasp of the concept, which is probably why I haven’t been doing it very well. (The good news is, I have four more books to shore up any weakness I have in this realm before the series is over.)

 

So tell me what you know...what exactly is world-building? How is it done well? How does it differ from simple backstory and description?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good question. I don't build new worlds, although this one could certainly use some work. I will be reading to see what comes up. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My first attempt at worldbuilding was on my novel that’s gathering dust right now. 😕 I tried filling out several worldbuilding questionnaires I found online and added some things I figured out as I went along. I probably could do it more extensively than I have, but I discovered I can get bogged down in answering questions rather than writing. 
The questions were a great start as I had no idea how to begin. After using them for a few books, I could probably figure out a way to do it on my own. If I were you, I’d start with the questions. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmmm, do you have a link to where you found the questions?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm going to post a Youtube link to the prologue for the first Lord of the Rings movie. JRR Tolkien wrote the books during the mid 20th century is considered the king of worldbuilding (he was also a Believer!). This "prologue" that happens at the beginning of the first movie is an "infodump" that wouldn't work in the books (the reader learns the information over time), but you can see the depth of world that exists here. There is backstory, like you said, but there are also:

 

different cultures/races with different traits 

different languages

political alliances

intrigue

important artifacts (the Ring and the Sword That Was Broken)

a large and well-filled out map with different countries/cultures (where we will travel during the movies)

people who are "big players" in world events

people who initially seem insignificant 

 

I don't know what type of worldbuilding you are trying to accomplish, but while these are fantasy people and places in this case, I believe that making sure a story has many of these sorts of things is good worldbuilding regardless of genre.

 

(Warning for PG-13 fantasy battle imagery)

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Zee,

World-building typically refers to the creation and building up of a fictional place; anything from a city to a universe. I usually think of it in relation to fantasy novels where by definition, you have to create and build out a world for the story. But, it could also apply to a more conventional work (e.g.  look up Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County) .

 

In either case, it would mean adding enough background to the story so the reader sees it taking place in a "real" locale. What aspects of the city, state, world does the author need to provide so that reader perceives that the characters are moving about in a real place?

 

If your story is set in a real locale, the same basic rules apply - give enough information so the reader "sees" the place.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, RADerdeyn said:

World-building typically refers to the creation and building up of a fictional place; anything from a city to a universe.... it would mean adding enough background to the story so the reader sees it taking place in a "real" locale.

 

Yes and yes!

 

And it also means that you establish what I call "the ground rules." For example, if it's a cold climate, then all the details need to reflect this. So your characters won't go wandering outside without a coat, or plan an outdoor pool party, and storms would feature snow instead of rain.  

 

You'd be surprised how many writers set up their world and then break the rules. Readers quickly notice this, which is not a good thing. The rare exception (I suppose) is in the world of Harry Potter, where magic seems to override everything. 😒      

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Zee said:

So far, I’ve published two books, and I’m getting positive reviews for both of them, but more than one has also said that my world-building is weak.

 

As I thought about it, I realized I didn’t really have a clear grasp of the concept, which is probably why I haven’t been doing it very well. (The good news is, I have four more books to shore up any weakness I have in this realm before the series is over.)

 

So tell me what you know...what exactly is world-building? How is it done well? How does it differ from simple backstory and description?

 

I wouldn't worry about it.  If you throw in all of the stuff you need for "world building," you'll potentially lose the story.  And sometimes, forcing lore into a conversation between characters comes off as obvious, forced, or awkward.  Sometimes it's better to drop hints, here and there, and let the reader try and put the pieces together.

 

George R. R. Martin is a fantastic "world builder."  His works go into fairly good detail on historical events, cultures, and myths.  But, as a consequence, he has a lot of fans impatiently waiting for the conclusion of various story lines that he's started, and has yet to finish.  This is a direct result of having to pump out 250,000+ words with each installment to his series...it takes FOREVER to write the book.

 

I live by the rule that anything that doesn't drive the story forward has potential to derail the reader. 

 

My suggestion is: place background and lore in your blog or website.  I'm doing a section called "The Academy."  It is a bunch of correspondences between academics in my world that discuss or explain various subjects that I mention in my stories.  It's not stuff that I'd normally put out there to publish as a story or a book, but it provides more information on the historical aspects, legends, and lore.  I think J. K. Rowling does something similar with the Harry Potter stuff.

 

Just a suggestion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, RADerdeyn said:

In either case, it would mean adding enough background to the story so the reader sees it taking place in a "real" locale. What aspects of the city, state, world does the author need to provide so that reader perceives that the characters are moving about in a real place?

 

Thanks! This is a nice clear way of putting it.

11 hours ago, Jeff Potts said:

 

I wouldn't worry about it.  If you throw in all of the stuff you need for "world building," you'll potentially lose the story.  And sometimes, forcing lore into a conversation between characters comes off as obvious, forced, or awkward.  Sometimes it's better to drop hints, here and there, and let the reader try and put the pieces together.

 

Since I'm writing a series, not just one standalone story, I assume I should be able to seed information and backstory throughout the series, and not get too hung up on trying to fit it all into one story...or feeling I need to reiterate all the info with each new installment. While the setting is fictional, it's not a fantasy setting, so making it feel plausible shouldn't be too hard...

 

11 hours ago, Jeff Potts said:

 

George R. R. Martin is a fantastic "world builder."  His works go into fairly good detail on historical events, cultures, and myths.  But, as a consequence, he has a lot of fans impatiently waiting for the conclusion of various story lines that he's started, and has yet to finish.  This is a direct result of having to pump out 250,000+ words with each installment to his series...it takes FOREVER to write the book.

 

Yikes.

11 hours ago, Jeff Potts said:

 

I live by the rule that anything that doesn't drive the story forward has potential to derail the reader. 

 

That happens to be the rule I live (or at least write) by too. I probably should have clarified that I'm doing a series of short Romance/Suspense novels, so things move pretty fast, and I'm more focused on characters than background. What I want to avoid is the sense that these characters, as interesting and engaging as they may be, are living life against a blank background.

 

11 hours ago, Jeff Potts said:

 

My suggestion is: place background and lore in your blog or website.  I'm doing a section called "The Academy."  It is a bunch of correspondences between academics in my world that discuss or explain various subjects that I mention in my stories.

 

Interesting idea! Maybe I'll do that...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From what i have read of your work Zee, you have built a plausible world It is familiar enough for people to identify with their own environment and yet, you have placed your characters in a war-torn city. Something that not everyone will have experienced and in a culture different from many European countries.

 

Of the two books I have read your world is consistent so you don't need to put much backstory into either one other than your m/c's.  

 

There is a fine balance dropping in information that the reader needs if they have not read the previous novel to know.  But it doesn't have to be extensive. A remark or sentence can often do the job.  

 

i wouldn't worry too much about having all the backstory in each one. In fact it could grab the reader's interest to go and read the previous book.  That happens quite a lot.

 

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, I'm not planning to rewrite anything already published...I'm just considering how to improve as I go ahead, especially with my current WIP.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I love worldbuilding. So far in my books, I have have constructed three worlds. Part of what drives me is to address the weaknesses I see in fiction that does it poorly. In A Most Refined Dragon, I decided to design a unique judicial system, election process, coinage, technology, and style of asymmetrical warfare.

 

 - The Judicial System was jointly run by dragons and humans, hence had interesting procedures.

 - The coins were sliced from the horns of unicorns, hence called unicoins. These coins were sentient (though gullible and tempermental), and disliked greedy people and thieves. They had the capacity to roll away to avoid unworthy possessors. I called it ethical currency. (Bet you never saw that in a novel!)

 - The warfare was being waged against ravaging herds of dinosaurs, but the dragons are vegetarian environmentalists, so do not let humans kill them except in self defense. To herd pterodactlys, dragons tie long ribbon to their tails and thrash it back and forth to keep those dinos in line.

 - The election was the election of a new dragon king. Dragons play interesting musical instruments (which I also thought up).

 - Dragons like to have their nails done. Nail trimmings from dragons are useful as drill bits or knives, so the humans running the nail salons make a killing.

 - For technology, I decided that fire breathing dragons are good at glass blowing and metallurgy. Their nails change color to match the temperature, which is useful when working various alloys.

 - I designed a board game played by humans where the pieces are unicoins (who might not cooperate with their owner). I also designed a game played by the dragons resembling badminton, flapping their wings instead of using a raquet and using an utterfly as the birdie. Dragons hate utterflies. They are like butterflies, only telepathic, mindcontrolling insects typically raised by teenage girls and used as love charms to hypnotize boys, and occasionally bewitching a dragon by mistake.

 - I also designed a unique wedding ceremony. The bride tosses a bouquet, but it is filled with utterflies, who will flit off and snag a guy for the maid who catches it. 

 

That is just a fraction of what I came up with. I tried to put a different spin on every major ritual of society, not just create new creatures, plants, and place names. My world had humans, but they have been cut off from earth for a long time. Their world was not another take on Medieval Europe.

 

I also had to think about dragon culture. In their city, I wondered, how do dragon moms deal with baby dragons pooping in the cave? They blast it with flame to disinfect, then take the hard residue and put in the flower box. The whole book was like that. Think of what people would do in our world, think about what is different or could be different, and change it. For everything. Like when dragons started to copy women and start experimenting with perfume, with humorous results. Or take writing. Dragons use boards covered in a hard resin. They carve letters in it with their claws. To erase, they melt the resin with flame and blow. Practical, particular, and different. Or take diseases. If the flame producing sac within a dragon ruptures due to an illness called the smoulders, their own flames burn them up inside. 

 

It may sound like a lot of work, but it is so much fun. (Not so much fun for the farmers who tried to domesticate the dinosaurs for farming, though.) 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's pretty cool. You have a great imagination!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.