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How Much Worldbuilding is Enough?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Mindfire, Apr 5, 2013.

  1. I have always found it useful to spend a few hours world building. I like to have more information than I could possibly use in a story. If I find myself getting bored, or sometimes if I'm getting too involved, I stop and start writing. Often the best ideas, and the most creative and original ones, I've had come from making them up as I write.

    I like to have a general framework when I write, but the real detail comes out when I actually sit down and write. This works for me and I can't imagine it any way. I usually also have a separate notebook to keep track of details for consistency within the story: kingdoms, laws, religions, magic, etc. are all kept in the notebook

    Any amount of world building can be enough for you, it depends on your preferences. Don't let other people try and give you a 'perfect method'. Just keep learning about yourself through your work.
     
  2. cadaha

    cadaha Acolyte

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    I tend to have a concept of a general world shape. I know where each race lives (originates from), I know where the major capital cities are and how each government works in broad terms.

    I have an outline of my story (major scenes I want to include) then I start to tell the story. I find that in the telling of the story that details come out and questions pop up in my head which fleshes out my world as I go. As my story evolves so do the world's details.

    As each detail is added it also goes in my notebook to prevent loss of detail later or even incorrect data being written into the story. If there is a golden tower in such and such a city it had better not be ivory further down the line etc. But the fact that it is initially Golden may not be worked out until I get to the city.

    I love discovering the world my characters are in just as an explorer loves discovering facts about newly visited countries. They may know where it is and the basic make up but there are always fascinating discoveries to be made which is the whole reason behind exploration. :)
     
  3. Nobby

    Nobby Sage

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    Damn you, you made me smile!

    That's sort of like having a character walk into a blacksmith's and say, "I hear you get your ore from the forgotten lands of Gnurgh, but I'm not sure that Gnurghish plate is better than Flurbish, which is to say that the Gnurghish has a lower something content but is considerably less spangly than Flurbish, given that they both are provided by the guild of shovellers in F'nak"

    [deep breath]

    And then going into excruciating detail into both the Gnurghish and Flurbish economies and having a love hate relationship with the guild of shovellers, who subcontract to Fred's accessories Inc.

    My opinion is "Oi you, I'm writing a story here, not a concise history of everything everywhere."

    I really shouldn't comment when I'm tired!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 9, 2013
  4. Sorrow

    Sorrow Acolyte

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    For me, world building is as important in creating my story as turning my netbook on. It is also self-indulgent, and the only person who is ever going to see all of the intricate details are yours truly. But like many of the members above, I do it for my love of the world I am creating, and to explore my world fully before anyone else gets to visit :) However, I am the kind of person who did every quest in Wow before moving to the next area, and who, if given the chance, would love to be GM in a D&D game (I say given a chance because I have wanted to play for a while now, however my friends are conveniently busy when I try to organise a game :mad:). So really, I think it just depends on your personality. There is no right or wrong, just do what makes you happy and helps you to tell the story the way you want your readers to read it. Some people just use basic outlines, then off they go, free writing the story and amending through drafts to perfect their art. Others, like me, need to create the whole world and its history before committing to the story. There is an excellent podcast, Writing Excuses (I cannot remember the name of the episode, sorry) in which you hear both sides of planning a story, and is worth a listen.

    However you tell your story, remember there can always be another draft :)
     
  5. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    Actually, this sounded like good use of world-building if it stopped at just a line or so. This is the kind of thing that's great to add after a specific thing is introduced, just taking that moment to give it a sense of depth and then move on. (Or people could keep going if pacing called for someone to be babbling while someone else noticed something.)
     
  6. Addison

    Addison Auror

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    I've found a fine line between world building and world creating. And yes there is a difference in this case. World building is you finding the building blocks of your story. Where is it set, what time period, what races, what's the area like etc. World creating is when you're going into every little detail, history and mythology of your races, names of settings that won't be used in your story, the trade economy and that type of stuff, that's world creating. A fancy term used to show the person is obsessing with the world as a possible form of procrastination.

    So if you find yourself figuring out all the materials used to make wands, the process and all that. Then you're going too far. Just lay out A -Z, flat. Not A1, A2, A3 etc.
     
  7. Highstone

    Highstone New Member

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    I think it's not about the amount of detail you write down when you're creating historical events, places, people etc. but that it's more a case of learning, as a writer, what the most important things are and how to correctly place fragments from your notes in your story.

    For example, when a character in your story enters a new city, don't start dumping every little detail on your readers as soon as your character steps through the main gate. I don't think many people will be interested enough to know what street connects to what street, how many bakers live around that square and what the history is of that particular row of cobblestones. Unless, of course, any of these things are necessary to tell your story. Still, you should try to write it in smaller chunks or have it molded into your story. If you really want to write about the suffering of a city's fishermen, have one of your characters meet a fisherman who has been suffering under the war (or something else) and have them engage in a conversation. It will help to construct the general situation of the city and it will develop your character as well.

    In the end, one of the most important things that I've learned is to not underestimate your reader's imagination. Most of the time, a short description is more than enough to have someone's imagination start rolling.
     
  8. HabeasCorpus

    HabeasCorpus Minstrel

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    Not that I've ever had to deal with them, but when the fanboys and fangirls come a calling with their incessant questions about this and that, refer them to the principle we all learned about in high school when reading Shakespeare... reasonable suspension of disbelief. It's an amazing concept that truly allows us all to really dive into and enjoy a story. Practice it.
     
  9. I feel like you might be missing the point, or perhaps I misunderstood. I'd like to politely point out that a reasonable suspension of disbelief is an absolute requirement for a reader of fantasy; without it, the magical situations obviously wouldn't have any effect. I feel that its our job to maintain this suspension through internal consistency. Nothing draws me out of a story quicker, or feels cheaper, than the author breaking the rules of an imagined world.
     
  10. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

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    Enough is when all the pertinent questions are answered.
    World building is unending and can be addictive.

    When I can't write, I world build. You finish the item alot faster and you might even use it in the book later on or even in a totally different story. You can get as precise as you want or (as generic), you can have fun, and it keeps the creative juices flowing.
     
  11. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    I STILL find it annoying I had to pause in the midst of writing my story to compose a geneology.

    A geneology?

    For Sword and Sorcery?

    Like anybody would notice?

    But, the MC's family has a long history of engaging in imperial politics much of which echoes down to the time of the story, and as the writer, I HAD to know 'who was who' in the imperial family.

    At some point, I'm going to have to do another geneology for the MC's family.
     
  12. Addison

    Addison Auror

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    I've recently written family histories for each of my characters. Including side characters, and a few settings. It really helped. Not just to avoid future writer's block but to generate ideas, get a fuller picture.

    This also works if you're not sure about character descriptions. For example start a description with, "(Character name) is hurrying down the sidewalk to starbucks (or the tavern, whichever fits the setting) Inside he/she takes a seat, swiping their hood revealing messy (hair color and type). They bunch the collar under their (shape) jaw."

    Or you could picture two characters together and see what comes up for which.
     
  13. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    I've done a bit of that and don't have an issue with it.

    With the geneology, though...well exactly one member of the imperial family appears directly in the story, and thats basically a cameo by a minor cousin. Some of the characters talk about the imperial family now and again, and there is the small matter of a past emperor who killed or exiled most of the MC's family seventy years back...but they're in the story by way of indirect influence.
     
  14. Addison

    Addison Auror

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    Each writer has a process unique to them as their voice and style. They just have to find it.
     
  15. Nobby

    Nobby Sage

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    But, surely, if You have to read back to your notes, it's too much for a reader to handle.
     
  16. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    Not at all. If the reader has to check his notes, then you're boned.
     
  17. Nobby

    Nobby Sage

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    Do you read in some odd way that involves note taking ;)
     
  18. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    That's the point he's making. If it gets to the point where your reader has to take notes, you've gone too far.
     
    Malik likes this.
  19. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    If I'm reading anything that requires note-taking, I'm usually getting paid for it.
     
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