If you’re confused as to why there’s a waffle on this blog post–don’t worry, I have a [mostly] reasonable explanation. :p First of all, who doesn’t like waffles? Plus, pictures help the blog posts look prettier, and I couldn’t think of a better picture for this one.
More than that, though, it’s partly because of a silly little thing I decided on Tuesday, to post a series of writing advice from everyday life–code-named WAFELs. It’s just a goofy way of saying today I’m going to talk about something in everyday life that’s taught me how to be a better writer…and it may be different than you’d expect.
By ‘from everyday life’, I simply mean that these posts will be more like things I’ve learned from real life rather than what I’ve learned from books and other people. Some of it you could probably still find in a writing book or blog somewhere, haha, but it’s just my own personal lessons and stories when it comes to writing. And today’s has to do with a topic I’ve been working with lately: worldbuilding.
If you’re a fantasy writer, you probably know where I’m going with this. What fantasy writer doesn’t envision creating an exciting and beautifully creative world to place all their wonderful stories in? I love looking at all the beautiful maps in fantasy books and marveling over the creative worlds and people and languages and, well, everything. :p
But, when it comes to actually making our own fantasy worlds, I think too many of us try to go too over-the-top. Hey, Tolkien created a whole set of languages for his world and everyone adores his books; why wouldn’t we try to do the same? The only problem with that is…none of us are Tolkien. Middle Earth is not just a template we can use and change around to create just as amazing of a fantasy world. And that’s okay, because we can still make incredibly unique, made-up worlds. Sometimes, though, you just have to take a step back and stop trying to make it quite so grand. I don’t know about you, but I’ve toyed around with a lot of ideas for my fantasy world–the wilder, the better! And all those ideas were starting to make my world look like an extremely foreign planet of some sort…
I guess what I’m trying to say is it is okay to have your world adhere to some standards of real life. 365 days in a year, one sun, green grass and blue skies…believe it or not, it’s better if you leave something familiar in your world. You may want to go all out with crazy new ideas for geography and how many moons the fantasy world has and such, but just remember this: the reader will only know the parts of this that you tell them. So unless you’re planning on writing the entire book about the cycles of your world’s moons and why the grass is purple, there will be only so much you can slip in without weighing down the story. A series can get by with more worldbuilding detail, but you still should be careful not to overwhelm the reader.
One more thing: you don’t want to completely disorient your readers. They will most likely assume, unless or until you tell them otherwise, that your world operates on the same basic principles as our own. Any new information will be surprising–which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you don’t want to leave them feeling confused about how the world works because nothing is familiar. Familiarity is a good thing; it gives us a base upon which to build the more imaginative ideas. It’s perfectly fine and wonderful even to get extremely creative with your worldbuilding, but you just need to keep in mind both your own workload and the reader’s mind when planning your world. After all, every new detail is another thing you have to slip into the story without it seeming like an infodump.
And some things are easier to mention than others. Purple grass instead of the usual green is a matter of a few words; an entire new calendar and the rotations of heavenly bodies will take a bit more work. It’s lots of fun to create a world of “what-if”s, but it’s also lots of work to keep up with! (Trust me, I know. That’s the point of these posts, so you can learn from my mistakes, haha. 😉
So…what’s your thoughts on worldbuilding, and if you’ve made one, what’s your fantasy world like?