How much detail should one go into, and what aspects should be covered?
I am in the planning stages of a 12-part space opera, and I have to create nine planets from scratch. I'm on to my fourth at the moment, but am unsure whether I have done the previous three properly. Please help.
February 2nd, 2002, 10:33 PM
Go into just enought depth to be able to write your stories. Anything more is a waste of your time, unless you are inventing the background for other reasons.
For instance, J.R.R. Tolkien was more interested in creating an entire mythology than he was in writing novels. Unless you feel the same way, you don't need to go into that kind of excessive detail.
My own personal rule of thumb is:
If it doesn't feature in the story then the reader will never know about it. If the reader will never know about it, don't invent it.
[This message has been edited by LeMort (edited February 03, 2002).]
February 2nd, 2002, 11:57 PM
I think w/ a planet, you can only give a thumbnail sketch - type of geographical make-up, range of climates, dominant civilisations etc. Give the reader a feel for what it's generally like, then paint what details you need when scenes are actually set on that planet.
February 3rd, 2002, 12:12 AM
Invent as you "travel" in your story. E.g., when your characters visit city X in Planet H, only then you need to discribe it in detail. At least that's the way I'm handling world-creation, and I am interested in my world as much as my story. But, of course, there is no one right way to create a world or to write. <shrug>
February 4th, 2002, 05:33 AM
The comments so far seem to be right on the mark. The needs of the scenario, the planets, are exactly what your story requires, no more and no less. If it is important for your readers to understand that the gravity, atmosphere, mineral content, rings, belts of anomalies are critical to the comprehension of your tale, then you must pay attention to them. If not, you are muddying the waters and confusing the issue.
February 4th, 2002, 06:17 AM
Seems I must disagree, at least in part.
Detail is a personal preference, for readers as well as authors.
If you want a detailed rich, epic type of story, then feel free to create as much detail as you can. Just remember that only 5 % (or possibly less) of that detail actually makes it into the book. Mostly that detail will influence you as you write. It can help you create a many faceted story.
If you want a simple story, then use very little detail. “Simple” is not a negative term. Many readers prefer this type of story. It’s quickly read and often very entertaining. I would classify some of my favorite stories as this type.
Personally, I prefer details. As a reader I enjoy both, but as a writer I enjoy creating as much detail as my imagination will allow. Those details help me creating multiple levels to my stories, undercurrents and subplots, something I want my stories to possess.
February 4th, 2002, 10:38 AM
The bottom line is this:
Everythign you create will not be published. But if everything you create helps YOU add depth and realism to your story, it has served its purpose. The greatest of writers will tell you to have a plan. Don't just sit down and write with no idea of wher ethe story is going or how. In our genre, that becomes more important since the actual PLACES that characters visit are fictional as well.
Fleshing out these backgrounds can help you add color and life to a story. You don't need to publish the background info on every planet you create, but you can use it YOURSELF as a reference in writing. Allude to major events or places in your writing that are in your background. If your writing is strong enough, it won't be out of place, and will make the story seem much less contrived and much less "hokey."
How much of it do you need to do?
That's up to you. How fleshed out do you want your world? DO you want your readers asking questions of themselves in regards to the background? Do you want them to focus only on the characters at hand? Do you want a sense of history and depth behind each place they visit?
Think about DUNE for a moment. Imagine how much world creation was put into that story. Yet Herbert didn't add an encyclopedia to the back with a timeline of what happened and when, or of people and places in the book, but you can tell by reading the novel that he already had all of his world worked out before he wrote the story. THAT is world creation. It doesn't mean tomes upon tomes of history writings- although you may choose to do that- it means creating a fleshing out a setting. You decide how much your story needs based upon YOUR story, not upon what the contributors to an internet message board 'prefer' in general.
February 4th, 2002, 11:44 AM
Actually, Herbert has 20 appendix pages of info for the Planet Dune, at the end of his book (the fist one of Dune), and then another 20 of the lexicon of Imperial Terminology. But, in general, he has only created the Planet of Arrakis in detail (ecology and society mostly, not many places), not any others planets. Because that is the planet upon which he is going to tell his story.
February 4th, 2002, 03:53 PM
I think the real question is not how detailed to make your world or worlds, but moderating how much of that detail actually goes into the story. I have nothing against detailed worlds, and as the author, it'd probably be good for you to know things that reader may never need to, if for nothing more than the sake of avoiding plot holes. But sometimes when we create a world and put so much thought into what makes it all tick, we tend to add too much of it into the story, and end up making the story drag for the reader. It's an easy mistake to make. But too little wouldn't be good either. The key, as with almost everything, is finding the level of detail to add for the type of story your trying to write.