June 24, 2013

Writing Tip: The Importance of Building Worlds

[A Guestpost and Image by Ben Galley]

If you’ve ever tried to write a book, you’ll have done some world-building. Whether by design, necessity, or accident, it’s essential to any novel, no matter what the genre

By definition, world-building is the act of creating a world or setting for a novel and its plot. It’s a very important task indeed. Why? Well, if you’re thinking that world-building simply refers to dreaming up the physical attributes of a room, or a city, or deciding what colour the sky should be, then think again. World-building is so much more than that. It can define characters, give life to a plot, and basically underpin every scene of a book.

But how? To answer that question, think about how your world affects you. Certain aspects of a world might pass you by unnoticed, but how would your life be affected if gravity worked sideways, or if we had three suns, or if trees could talk? How would these aspects affect you? Think of how a blizzard could affect your day, or then think what would happen should the world be plunged into an ice age. Elements such as these effect you, whether in part or whole, and therefore affect your character, and your story.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. When you start think about all the different aspects of your own world, and how changing even little things can have large consequences, you realise how complex and how important world-building can be. I certainly did when I started writing! For instance:
Worlds have animals.
Worlds have weather.
Worlds have landscapes.
Worlds have seasons.
Worlds have history.
Worlds have rules.
Worlds have people.
Worlds have politics.
Worlds have cultures.

When I first began to build the world of Emaneska, I didn't think of half of the above. World-building for me was a stumbling, stop-start process, building bits as I go. That’s how I discovered the other half - accidentally. And also naturally too. I was forced to face different aspects as and when they reared their heads. Here’s an example: while writing an early section of The Written, a question was raised - was Farden, my main character, religious or not? In answering that one question, I decided that I needed to create a whole religion and belief system.

How did I go about that? With difficulty. A religion isn’t just a belief, or a load of myths, I realised that it can motivate or restrict your characters in different ways. Does a character’s belief affect his or her actions? Does it affect their personality? I found that yet, it did.

It just unravelled from there. I realised that a pantheon of gods had to be created, and had to give them a culture and identity, which for Emaneska meant borrowing from the Nordic mythology. More questions popped up. Do my characters fear death, because of an afterlife? How hard would they fight for a god, or for their belief? What does belief demand from them? Question after question arose. Gods were born. A creation myth was added. Emaneska’s history grew, century by century. Characters grew deeper and deeper.

All of these questions led to some serious plot changes, and also had incredible knock-on effects to the entire layout of the trilogy. (Actually my series is a 'trilogy' of four books. The Written, Pale Kings, and Dead Stars Parts One and Two.)

Religion wasn’t the only thing I had to tackle. Trying to describe what my characters wore, from beggars to kings, made me expand even more upon the Nordic influences in Emaneska. Working on how my countries were ruled and interacted led me to create whole social structures. Figuring out where each race had come from, or what was individual about each one helped me pump a huge amount of culture into the world. Different cultures then led to dialects, politics, and more plot changes. More aspects followed, like music, magic, 

Characters are also affected by world-building. The back-story of a character may depend on the world they inhabit. Things like war or natural disaster could have big implications for  a character and their role in the plot. For me, how magic existed in my world dictated the how the plot unravelled, and how my characters behaved, especially Farden, whose life revolves around magic. The effect of all this accidental, natural world-building? A truly richer, and therefore more engaging, world, and a better plot and characters too.

But what if I’d thought of these aspects before diving straight into the story? Could have I made the world even richer and deeper? Perhaps, but I also think that the way in which I built Emaneska, piece by piece, was natural and perfect for the reader. The world is revealed a bit at a time at exactly the right moments, rather than drowning the reader in too much detail too soon. However, I’ve now learnt that dreaming up all that I can possibly can before I start writing can lead to even better world-building, as I did with the later books like Pale Kings and Dead Stars 1 & 2, books 1, 2, and 3 of the Series. From now on I’ll be ironing out all the fine details before I start writing.

This is why world-building is very important. It affects every aspect of your book. Like a pillar holding up the roof of a building, without it, a book can easily fall apart. Especially if this book is of the fantasy genre - a genre which depends so much on the escape from reality, on rich, strange and extraordinary worlds. This is why I urge everybody who writes to really think about the world their characters and plot live in, as early on as possible. World-building can make or break your story.

Good luck, and get building!

Visit Ben Galleys Homepage if you liked this post to find out more about the author and his fantasy trilogy Emaneska. www.bengalley.com

1 Kommentare:

  1. Thanks for sharing tips on writting, a tips like this can really help a lot to boost our mind.