World building is mentally exhausting. I haven’t spent much time blogging about craft books lately, but I have been making my way through The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction by Philip Athans. I am almost half way through. The book is filled with your standard, practical (if not somewhat generic) novel writing advice with a fantasy bent, but it also tackles the topic of world building in some detail. Frankly, the work building information was my reason for picking up the book. There is no groundbreaking world building process set forth in this book, but the author does provide a comprehensive list of all of the considerations that we, as writers, should be taking into account as we create the setting for our novels (as well as characters, flora and fauna, political systems, religions, etc.), and there are a ton.
As the author has aptly pointed out, not all of these considerations are pertinent to every story, but because my series starts out narrow in scope and broadens significantly over the series, I will have to consider all of the questions at some point in the process of writing, and the more I can subtly weave into my first novel (as appropriate), the richer the world will seem and more natural as additional details emerge.
It is a lot to hold in my brain, but not all of it is ready to touch paper yet. At least I am assaulted by stunning visuals in my head instead of a barren landscape. Still, capturing it in words, collating it, and presenting it to my audience in a natural way are all challenges that I will have to face. I don’t know how George R.R. Martin does it! I can see why he gets so bogged down in the details. He has created such a rich world with numerous peoples and cultures that he wants to fully explore every nook and cranny of his world. I can’t fault him for that, but I do use him as an example of an author who has prioritized his realm over his characters and possibly his story (that remains to be seen… after all, winter is still coming!). It doesn’t keep me from buying and reading his books though!
As for me, I am still very early in my own world building, and naming people, places, and objects is always the hardest for me. I had a cat for ten years that went unnamed the whole time. Naming is always a difficult process. I think half of my characters are currently nameless, along with the Order and most of the objects, as well as the realm itself. It is a travesty. Maybe I need a book on naming conventions or maybe I need to take Ronald Chevalier’s class from the movie Gentlemen Broncos. I will leave you with that thought, dear Nebekoronius…
About the Photograph: taken on the Big Island of Hawaii in August, 2009.