I've just started writing prose again after a fair lay off and I was curious what elements other members believe are necessary when world building within a fantasy setting and what do you like to see in such a world?
May 22nd, 2007, 12:31 PM
Unique and/or bizarre geography, terrain, architecture or flora and fauna.
Well portrayed governements (don't have to be good or evil, but well understood by the writer. This reflects itself in thw riting.)
Religions. Not just the god, gods, or spirits, but how the people worship or reflect their beliefs.
Culture. Unusual laws and punishments that add a different twist to the plot. Important festivals/ceremonies that again can influence the story in some way. And any other bits a writer can think of without bogging down the story.
Economy. There are many kids, especially in different races/regions. Perhaps in a desert realm, water is money. And controlling a water source means controlling the people. Or, like in Waterworld, dirt is the 'coin' of choice. Do the poorer regions that have little to no money use a barter system? Subside purely on what nature provides?
How does magic affect the world? The more common it is, the more it should be seen in the everyday lives of the people.
Umm, can't think of anything else, atm.
May 22nd, 2007, 04:28 PM
Its important to have a history. It doesn't have to be written out, but as long as you understand the history of the world it makes everything else much clearer.
It defines the world. The people, the culture, so much is shaped by it.
When I started my WIP it took a loooong time to develop the history, but once I did the writing became easier. Old hatreds, fears, hopes, curse words, legends, ruins, and etc all made sense. I didn't have to try to force characters to do things because that history shaped how they felt about things and in turn how they acted towards them.
I'm also considering writing stories about that earlier time once I finish what I'm currently doing. lol
May 22nd, 2007, 05:24 PM
I agree with the above points made already. Another good point that I tend to like myself is to find a way to make things 'work'. By this I mean not relying solely on the hocus pocus effects too heavily. You can make it so that it reflects the real world, just with several unique differences in the natural and even spiritual makings of it. This way, things might come off in a more believable fashion if you want it to. I'm a stickler for this in my own work, but it's a thought that can be applied to others' work if you want.
May 22nd, 2007, 06:03 PM
I have to say dazzlinkat definitely listed the key elements, and I agree with arinth about history. It's crucial! Plus, it can be really fun to play with. For me, it's frequently at least as fun as writing the story itself, although I love history in general as a topic of study.
Oh and that's exactly what I'm working on right now . . . Huh . . .
May 22nd, 2007, 08:37 PM
I personally don't think the world building itself is as important as how the writer conveys this to the reader. One of my favorite examples to illustrate is Greg Keyes - in his Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone he lets the world come alive through the eyes of the characters. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the world he's created in those novels has a great amount of detail - history, human/nonhuman characters, religion, magic, etc.
Erikson does this pretty well, though he does at times show his world through exposition. He makes it work well, though.
May 22nd, 2007, 09:10 PM
At the bare minimum, create only what's necessary to tell your story. Now, feel free to go beyond that, but avoid letting irrelevant bits derail the narrative. For instance, if you're writing a story about the Crimean War, don't go into a lengthy discussion of Jayavarman II, founder of the Khmer Empire, the first devaraja. While that is interesting and shows that there's a wider world beyond the artillery-pocked redoubt where we find our heroes, it has jack to do with the story.
Beyond irrelevance, rattling on too long on a topic is another pitfall of an extensively developed background. Tell the reader as much as the need to go forward, but be sparing when you go beyond that.
I say this as someone whose peripheral materials outweigh the actual stories by a wide margin. Different people want different levels of detail. Make your world come alive without bogging us down. That should be the goal.
As I don't know exactly how you're wired, kater, I'm going to recommend the more minimalistic approach for starters. Just create what's immediately relevant to the story. If you want more to go on, you can always expand it later.
May 23rd, 2007, 05:28 PM
I think Mr Carmack has offered some good advice there. ;)
The story has to come first. It doesn't matter how interesting the world is, if the story is dull then your efforts will be for nothing.
An example of a detailed world with a weak story (although I've not read his books personally) might be Russell Kirkpatrick. Some reviews I read suggested his book Across the Face of the World was notable for its hugely detailed world yet rather pedestrian storyline.
Focus more on the story, and hopefully the world will flesh itself out with time. Of course, you need to have a certain amount of the world realised in order to work out the storyline...
May 23rd, 2007, 05:55 PM
Thanks guys :) , I didn't perhaps define the topic as I should have. I'm not looking for writing advice per se - the basics of a hook, easy introduction, clear story progression I think I have, it's more what you look to do in world building, what elements you like to see and thus use - do you like big, complex multiple-pov storylines or character driven journeys without the expansive scope. I read all of Erikson's seven books in under a month in April and got quite hooked on this huge, deep world that is so fully realised. So I've started playing around but I'm looking to find my own balance between scope and keeping it relevant and personal. I try and create dense (:D ) worlds whatever story type, even short stories, it's a question of how much you can let in to the story and how that alters the scale.
May 23rd, 2007, 06:41 PM
Thanks guys :) do you like big, complex multiple-pov storylines or character driven journeys without the expansive scope.
I like both.
Again, it comes back to the story. I'm not overly bothered as to whether the story involves a cast of hundreds (A Song of Ice and Fire) or whether it involves only a handful of characters.
I must say I enjoy epics, which are like tapestries of events and plotlines, but am also partial to novels that focus on one or two characters and really let you get under their skin maybe in a way you couldn't do with a more vast story.
Overall, I'm happy to read anything, epic or otherwise, as long as it has engaging characters. Ultimately, most authors write the sort of story they would like to read, so perhaps you have to ask yourself the question: what do you prefer? ;)