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.

Anyone else?


  1. It's even worse for thriller/horror. It is impossible to know when your world is scary enough or thrilling enough, or so scary it is corny, etc. It's enough to drive a man to drink.

    Great post.

    (PS, check your goodreads messages, I sent you a list)

  2. Hi Tom!

    I couldn't even imagine writing horror or thriller! I might be able to pull it off for kids--like little kids, 6 to 10 maybe. Writing if for adults is totally out of the question, mainly because I'm a wussy and to this day can't watch scary movies!

    And yeah, I haven't been on GoodReads for over two weeks, sorry! I'll check it out today.

  3. I'm about 80% done w/my first LIGHT paranormal MS--when I started six months ago, world building was a totally foreign concept to me. I was a contemporary girl (still am, I think) but with the help of an exceptionally talented, world-building friend, I figured out how to do it--sort of. Just when you think you're "done" ... new twists come into play. Suddenly you realize, "Oh yeah, I'll have to explain why it would be strange to date a mortal." or something.

    Anyway, keep rolling with it. I'm sure it will be wonderful!!

  4. Bethany - Ugh! Yes! And the worst part is you have no idea until someone else reads it and tells you! I'm just getting over the middle hump as I call it--that slow going, hard to get past section in the middle of almost every project--and am almost home free. That is until I realize there is something ELSE I didn't remember to explain...

    Thanks for stopping!

  5. So agree! It's so hard to build a character's world! Thank you for sharing!

    Brittany Roshelle

    The Write Stuff