World Building, One Brick at a Time

space city

I’ve been taken to task by readers for not providing enough information about the world I’ve built in my novel. It’s a point well taken and one I struggle with when I force myself to sit down at the keyboard and starting spinning a tale.

Personally, I don’t like a whole lot of “info-dumping” in a novel. Give me the basics, tease me along the way, and I’ll figure it out (or not). It’s a fine line between too much and not enough, but, as for me, I’d prefer the “not enough” to the “too much.” I’ve put down a number of novels because I couldn’t put up with page upon page of narrative (or pointless dialogue) on why the world the characters live in works the way that it works. I got it, move along.

When my youngest son was a teenager he read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and loved it, so I gave him my copy of The Lord of the Rings. He brought it back to me a couple of weeks later and said he gave up. He couldn’t get past page upon page describing how, what and how often a Hobbit eats. And that was Tolkien!

I remembered that when I finally stopped dreaming about writing and actually started writing. I’m far from being an expert in anything, especially writing, but I wanted to give my take on the process of World Building and ask for ideas/arguments/pointless rants on the subject.

As for me, when I imagine the world I’m trying to build, I put the story first and the World Building second. It’s about the story, not the world I’ve imagined it taking place in.

The story comes first.

I remember as a teenager sitting in a dark theatre watching Raiders of the Lost Ark. Those first 10 minutes changed everything about what I expected an action movie to look and feel like. The story grabbed you by the throat and drug you along and you’d better move your feet if you wanted to keep up. I loved it. Still do.

I look for the same thing in a novel. Tell me your story. I’ll jump into the deep end of the pool on whatever you’ve written and you keep me from drowning by throwing me a life preserver of information so I can tread water. Don’t send me a battleship of information overload, because when you do, I’ve lost your story.

I was once part of a novel critique group with other aspiring authors who read the first chapter of my novel and told me if I didn’t give details on the technology I explained on page three by the end of the chapter, then I had lost them. I let them be lost. It wasn’t about the technology, it was about the story.

For me the goal is to provide enough information to keep readers from being confused about the world I’m presenting them. By the end of the book, they should understand how this world works. If they don’t, I’ve failed. If I have more than a couple of paragraphs explaining a particular detail of the world I’ve built, I also consider myself to have failed. But that’s just me.

What do you think? At what point in World Building do you need to part from the story and build your world?

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A Roadmap to the Rages

 

The Rages – Castaway will be published tomorrow, and as the hours tick away there was one item I wanted to provide on my website that I have neglected. It is right next to my “About the Author” button at the top of the page and is called “The Seven Realms of Man.”

On this page you’ll find an explanation of the people, places and things that make up The Rages and The Book of the Shepherds. I’ve disclosed no spoilers within, because that would be bad.

I created the page because I’m not particularly fond of page upon page of “info dumping” in a novel. For this novel, if I were to have done so, it would be biblical in proportion. I know some readers enjoy the experience of reading “world building” by authors, but I’m not one of them, so I try to keep it at a minimum in my writing. Two of my sons enjoy the occasional “info dumping” in science fiction and fantasy, but they’re electrical engineers, so I’m not sure they’re entirely human anyway.

I have done some “world building” or “info dumping” in The Rages because it’s a fairly complicated place and I didn’t want to keep everyone in the dark. But I’ve always preferred that an author give me a little tease and let me figure it out as they guide me along the path. I’ve tried my best to do that with The Rages.

Consider The Seven Realms of Man a road map for those who like the information up front, versus a tease. I’ll add to it from time to time, as the journey continues. I hope, in the words of Harley Nearwater, the protagonist of The Rages, that you find it “Int’restin’.”