Monday, October 31
World Under Construction
World building sucks.
That's right, I said it. It's fantastic when done well, horrible when done anything but well, and doing it well is harder than a witch selling wrinkle cream. (It's Halloween, give me a break.)
World building can be as simple as adding a few elements into the real world that we are already familiar with, to creating an entirely new world from scratch. With my current WIP I find myself somewhere in the middle, and it really hard. Not coming up with the world itself, anyone can do that. The hard part is portraying it in a way that is true to what I envision, but also something that people would actually want to read. In my case--as it is with most major world building projects--it is for a series, and I am fast realizing that, not only is world building difficult enough on it's own, but it is also a plot killer. I've heard that for every paragraph of world building you add, you have to remove a paragraph of plot. Is that true? Can you have expansive world building and an involved and intricate plot?
Yes, of course... but not really.
I have always noticed that the first book in a series with a large amount of word building is always considerable shorter and simpler in plot then any of the books that follow. I had assumed that was due to the fact that publishers want first books--and in some cases multiple books--in a series to be able to stand on their own in case the sales aren't high enough to justify continuing publication of the series. However, only recently have I realized that that is only part of the reason. The other reason is that a good majority of that first book has to be devoted to world building, not leaving as much room for plot. Sure, you could have a huge information dump in the first chapter or two and lay out your entire world for the reader, then jump head first into the story--but I wouldn't recommend it. Not if you are looking for someone to sign/buy the book, anyway. Ideally, you want to spread your world building, and character building for that matter, out over the course of the book, weaving into your plot. With plot having to share the stage with your world and character creation, obviously, there won't be as much room in your first book for an involved plot, but if you are building your world in an interesting and engaging way, your readers won't care.
Look at the first Harry Potter. It is vastly simpler in over all plot compared to any of the following books, but you don't care because the wizarding universe that is being introduced is so interesting that it makes up for what might be lacking plot-wise.
The good news, is that once that first book is done and you move on to the subsequent books, you can dive straight into plot from chapter on, giving you more than enough time to create as involved a plot as you want. Don't get me wrong, world building should never stop entirely; your world should continue to expand and become more detailed as the series progresses, but after the first book, the major work should be done. Think about it, why do you think that writing fan fiction is so popular? Because it's easy! The hard part is done, and all you have to do is come up with a story! Lets say I go to write a Twilight fan fiction, do I have to introduce the charters? Do I have to set the scene, or build the world? No! All I have to say is Bella, or Alice, or Forks, or any other character, place, or idea from the series, and you immediately have in image in your mind that I did nothing to put there.
Having to be the one who puts the images there without boring or confusing the reader is the trick, and at the moment, it is kicking this writer's keister.