This has been a busy month. My daughter got married, school started, and it took me forever to find my motivation to compose this post. Does that happen to you sometimes? You just simply don’t feel like it? It isn’t the topic. I love building worlds. It is among my top favorite things about writing!
To me, world building is in the details. The small things that are mentioned casually. For example; if my main character is a slob and he’s lost his keys, I would show him flinging empty take-out containers and candy wrappers aside looking for them in order to give the reader the visual of his messy setting—his world. If he was a slob in the future, I might have him bark a command to his smart room asking where he last tossed his keys. Small details sprinkled throughout the text creates the world stealthily so the reader doesn’t even see the image form in their head.
Fantasy and Science Fiction often require a bit more of an in-your-face presentation, especially in the beginning, in order to set the reader solidly inside the strange new world from the get-go. In my [currently unavailable] middle grade novel, Beware of the White, I built a whole underground world. It was so much fun to imagine what types of species might live underground and how they would adapt to their circumstances. There are neon beings—like the fish that live way, way deep down in the ocean—who light up. There are water beings that thrive on the pollutions and toxins in water, who have naturally become part of the filtration system. But a huge amount of the world building had to be edited out of the final version of the book. Though it was important for me, the author, to have a thorough understanding of Concord, it was yawn inducing for the reader. I introduced Concord’s otherworldliness as Terra entered the city, but then, after that, I sprinkled the details throughout.
Other worlds are more like ours, so the differences can be unfurled slowly. In my speculative fiction series, Super Villain Academy, we have people living in a contemporary setting. Everything seems normal until they start wielding super powers. Same with my middle grade fantasy series, The Weaver Tales. That is set in a quaint mountain village – where everybody speaks in story. It’s very light on fantasy, so the world didn’t have to be built, so much as the setting had to be defined. But since a gnome-elf shows up to grant a wish, there is some world building that had to be done. For a reader to accept the unusual in stride – for a blue skinned gnome-elf to suddenly appear at a wishing well, or for a teenaged boy to leap over a six foot fence and shoot fire from his palm - the world has to be built around it or your reader will just stop reading.
Other than Hogwarts – what are some of your favorite literary worlds?