Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Worlds Without End

I know I've been a little behind with the blog lately. I have no excuse. Not a good one anyway. I could blame it on the time of year or my oh-so-busy schedule, but that's all bull. Mostly, I just haven’t been feeling inspired lately. And that's a problem.

I have every intention of finishing my current story. Whether I have the willpower to do it in the next couple days is another matter. I want to, so maybe I'll just have to force myself to work on it.

Then there is the issue of Camp NaNo, which begins on Friday. Last week I talked about a potential plot. The issue that I have with that particular idea: World Building. It's not something I'm good at. At all. So of course I'm going to talk about it like I have some kind of authority.

World building is, to me, a huge task. You can't just say, "This story takes place in Seattle in 2002." You have to be like, "In this world, the economy is like this because of a conflict that took place 400 years ago. This is how their government is set up. They have three suns and the pomdeter is the staple foodstuff of the common people. It's basically a potato." Because there's always potatoes.

Now, you might say that you still need all of that even when you're using an established world. And you do. All worlds have a backstory. But you don't have to make it up, and you probably don't have to explain it. You say "Seattle" and people know what you mean.

Even if you go to all the trouble of inventing a world and its geography and economy and society, you still have to somehow explain all this. And that is hard as hell. You're basically stuck doing a giant wall of exposition explaining the world before you can even get started on the story itself. And that's lame. You want to draw your readers in, not put them to sleep. I'm more a fan of revealing details bit by bit during the actual plot. If you have the sort of story where some ordinary person is transported to a magical fantasy kingdom, then they act as an audience surrogate, and other characters have to explain this new world to them. I've used this a few times myself. But that's not always an option, like in cases of straight up fantasy where all the action happens in another world.

Basically, when it comes to fantasy worlds, there are three versions of the "secondary world" (the "primary" being ours).

  1. Primary world doesn’t exist (Discworld)
  2. Secondary world entered through a portal (Alice in Wonderland)
  3. World-within a world (Harry Potter)

In types 2 and 3, you can have an audience surrogate newcomer. In type 1, not so much. And that is where the trouble lies for me.

I'm notoriously bad at describing things. Even if I do have a world built and I can picture the whole thing, it never comes out on the paper. So I'm a little hesitant to jump into a fantasy world with so little preparation. Or maybe this is just the challenge I need. We'll see. Stay tuned.

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