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How much worldbuilding is enough?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Dwarven Gold, Jun 8, 2011.

  1. Dwarven Gold

    Dwarven Gold Minstrel

    I spend too much time worldbuilding. There is always more to do. Another map needs drawn and another culture needs developed.

    At what point should the worldbuilding be put aside, and the story be written? How do you know?
  2. Hans

    Hans Sage

    Depends on what you want to do with that world. For just one short story you could just grab a standard Elf/Dwarf/Orc world from the shelf and never bother about it.
    The other extreme would be if you are really into worldbuilding. Storys in this case are to illustrate the world. Then there is no such thing as "to much worldbuilding".

    Most writer will be somewhere in between. I tend very strong towards the second extreme.
  3. BeigePalladin

    BeigePalladin Sage

    when you feel you can write something without it being inconsistant...

    or none at all, and just wing it on the way :D it worked for Tolkien.

    or when you have the entire world planed to the same level of depth, especially history, of our world - with conspiricy theories and everything
  4. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    I believe you should have a solid grasp of the basics of the world--the lands, main cities, cultures, governments/rulers, magic, flora and fauna, basic history, etc. I don't believe you can create and decide ahead of time for every contingency that might occur in the novel.

    What this does, however (as indicated by BeigePaladin) is allow you to be consistent. Ninety percent of what you devise and create will not grace the pages of your novel, but having a solid backdrop for the world will make it feel more authentic (if that's the right word) to the reader.

    Don't get tied up in months and even years of world building, especially if the goal is to write a novel (or two...or more) based on the world being created. What's the point? It defeats the goal.

    How do you know when when to put the world building aside and start writing? Probably when you're sitting there, world building and start asking yourself that question.
  5. Derin

    Derin Troubadour

    I don't think there can be too much worldbuilding unless you're on a time limit, but there can be too much exposure to the world in the story. I always find myself trying to explain as many details as possible in the story, often to the detriment of the plot.

    If you like worldbuilding, great. The more you build, the more consistent the world will be, and the more stories you can write in it.
  6. myrddin173

    myrddin173 Maester

    It depends on what you are planning on writing. If you plan on writing a one-shot and know it will remain a one-shot you do not need to worldbuild as much if you have a 12 book epic planned. That's not to say you can't worldbuild more than you need to, just don't include it all as most of the book would be an infodump but you could allude to things that are not necessarily going to be revealed in the book, giving the impression of a much larger world than what is being revealed. Of course if you enjoy the process of worldbuilding do it as much as you want but remember the purpose of it, you are building a world to write stories in.
  7. The Realm Wanderer

    The Realm Wanderer Troubadour

    I think you should "worldbuild" as much as you desire. In fact, often I get more pleasure out of planning the novel and thinking up all of the great possibilities of the world than I do out of actually writing the thing :) However, don't fall into the trap of bombarding your readers with information that could just as well be left out.
  8. I grew up playing god - well at least in as much as I would sit, like most of you, and invent my own fantasy worlds and races, cultures and magics. I might do this for gaming or just for fun. But, when it came to acutally sitting down and writing my novel, all inventions stayed in my head; I let the world develop itself. I had some ideas, but didn't really know the HOWs or WHATs until my characters changed locales. It was a bit risky, but worked for me. In the sequel novel, I find myself doing more planning and organizing. Now, everything has to fit with Book 1 and has to be cross-referenced.
  9. Digital_Fey

    Digital_Fey Troubadour

    How much is too much? In my opinion, when you can't write a line of dialogue without referring to some obscure culture/land/tradition that your characters are never actually going to encounter for themselves, then you might be over-doing it :p That's a pretty extreme example, I know, but that's the feeling I sometimes get from fantasy books - that they've spread the net too wide, created a world that's far too big and detailed for the size of the story itself. Obviously there's no limit to the amount of world-building you can do for your own enjoyment, and every additional piece of information can only enhance your understanding of the place you've created, but there's no need to transmit all of that to the poor reader.
    Kevin Zagar likes this.
  10. (Echoing DF somewhat) Once an author reaches the point of shuffling the reader round various locales just to prove how imaginative they are, that's enough. While character is defined by setting, there's always the danger of going overboard. Many places in fantasy fiction aren't worth visiting because the author hasn't the wit to make them interesting; others aren't worth visiting because they don't actually matter. It's all well and good creating a living, breathing world, but if none of it has any relevance to the protagonist it's wasted. Stories are about people, not things. Once travel becomes key to understanding a character my interest wanes considerably.
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2011
  11. J. Rosemary Moss

    J. Rosemary Moss Scribe

    Well put. I love world-building, and my writing partner and I are putting a 'bible' together for our world--but I don't want to inflict every last detail on our readers! I think we need to know the world inside-out; they don't.
  12. Hans

    Hans Sage

    Sometimes the readers want to know every detail of the world. Think of Star Wars Expanded Universe and the like. Also a lot of things known about Middle Earth are in no way related to The Hobbit or Lord Of The Rings.
  13. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Auror

    I need exactly the amount of worldbuilding to tell my story. How much that is varies. If I am writing a series, that is likely quite a lot. If I am writing a story about five dudes in a city, that is likely very little. I don't think you need to do any worldbuilding to write fantasy, truthfully. I think most modern fantasy is built on it, but go read a bit of Victorian fantasy and look for any sort of consistency in naming patterns, species, flora/fauna, etc. At best, the author wrote "Xland is north of Yland", but they weren't drawing maps or anything. And then you have Tolkien, who basically wrote a story for the sake of showcasing his worldbuilding. I don't really like him for that, even though his worldbuilding is impressive. I just don't think of him as a great writer so much as a creative and talented man. Figure out what you need to know, maybe elaborate on what you want to know, and you're fine. There is no definitive answer, though, as every story will require something different.
  14. J. Rosemary Moss

    J. Rosemary Moss Scribe

    True, but you can give these readers the extra information they crave without clogging up your story. I think it's a grand idea for fantasy authors to host a website with all the nitty details of their world, or even to publish an atlas and such if the demand is high enough. But I don't think every last detail belongs in the story itself.
  15. CicadaGrrl

    CicadaGrrl Troubadour

    For me, I do world building somewhat late in my process. I have to create characters and plot. If you create a character's life in deep depth, you begin to get an idea of what you are going to need in your story. Will you need to discuss the exact method of government in the imperialistic home of your conquered country? I don't know. Does it ever come into your character's world? Does she give a damn?

    Do you need to describe child rearing practices? How does it affect your characters and plot? In just designing your characters and plot, you will realize how much what in the world will affect them. That said, the better to overload, and then use sparingly in your actual story, than to overload and let your joy at world building eclipse your story with gobbletygook.

    Then again, I'm a character girl. That's where I spend extreme amounts of time. And probably obscene amounts of time as well.
  16. Waltershores

    Waltershores Dreamer

    I think once there are some landmarks for the journey that your characters take and locations of races and/or creatures you can start the writing process. However to get truly immersed into your world you should probably go over religions, cultures, foods, animals, etc. In my opinion world building is important, but you don't need to go crazy with it to write a good story.

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