A way with worlds: 44 - The Drought
by Steven Savage of Seventh Sanctum
Page 1 of 3
Last column, I further
explored the issues of writing about your worlds and
communicating them, specifically how some setting-oriented
writers could overload their readers with information about their
world, and why they do this. Letting people in on your world is
one thing - burying them under detail is another.
Personally, I wish this was
a more common problem, because when I read fanfic or original
work, I see a lot less description than I feel I and other
readers need. There is often too little said about the setting
and the elements of it relevant to the story as well as a
lack of good solid description period.
As a person whose read
literature from various ages, I sometimes feel the amount of
description in literature of the last decade or so has decreased.
Maybe it's me, maybe I'm getting old, though I'd at least like to
assume that's not it.
To put it simple,
description is vital in stories. To an extent, a story really
only is description (just of a whole lot of different but related
things). If you don't have description, you don't have as much of
a story. If you don't explain the important whys and hows of your
setting or give a reader a visual cue as to what an important
character looks like, you haven't really given the reader much to
As I've said from the
beginning, your world is your main character. If you don't
describe it enough, if people don't know enough to understand it,
then people don't "get" your main character - and they
won't get your story. They may try, they may think they do - but
they won't. Writing is communication, so if don't communicate,
So, last column we discussed
why people have too much information in their stories, especially
concerning the setting. Now, let's take a look at why there may
be too little . . .
Now, my column is mainly dedicated to building original
worlds - but good world development and handling applies no
matter how much of the world is your creation. And when it comes
to fanfiction, too often description about the world gets the
short end of the stick. Many times I've read a fanfic and
wondered "why is this happening" or "is this
normal?" or "what happened?" usually
followed by "why am I even taking the time to read
Why? Though there are many
fringe reasons, common reasons, but one overwhelming one comes
out again and again in my experience:
Because people assume
readers already know enough.
Don't assume your readers
know enough. They may be fans of the series, true, but that
doesn't mean you can't set the stage, remind people, or do a
different take on things. Doing so helps set moods and helps
explain things that may be going on in your stories.
Also, your knowledge of the
world may be more extensive than the readers. Writing only for a
person of your level of knowledge may leave others out of the
experience of your story.Next Page
Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Steven Savage, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.