CAN-WE-BUILD-IT (It being an original and exciting setting for a fantasy book)? YES-WE-CAN!
World Building can be as tricky as it is fun, and the approach can be different for every author. I don’t claim to have it all figured out, but here are five things that have helped me in creating effective settings for my stories.
#1. Your world has to have a layer of familiarity to it
There is a fine balance that an author has to strike between the old and the new, the alien and the familiar. Too familiar and your world is boring and unoriginal. Too weird and it’s a distraction from the story, and a turn off to the reader. So pick an element that will be familiar to your readers and incorporate it into your setting. A great example of this would be Avatar The Last Air bender (the cartoon, not the awful movie). Although the world clearly is fictional, it has a very strong Asian motif. Even their bending moves are derived from real Kung Fu.
#2. Don’t let your setting upstage your story
I like to think of the setting as a stage for a play. It needs to be beautiful and detailed, but you don’t want it to be so flashy and filled with moving parts that it distracts the audience from the performances of the actors. This can happen if you put too much emphasis on your world. This may be fantasy author heresy, but Tolkien had a problem with this in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He often emphasized the details and history of Middle Earth to the detriment of his characters and plot (please don’t send me hate mail, I promise I do love J.R.R.).
#3. Consistency! Consistency! Consistency!
This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to lose track of details when you’re writing a novel over a long period of time. Unless it’s your full time gig, it will probably take a while for you to finish your manuscript. This can make it easy to forget details of your world or even your plot. For example: I had a beta reader point out in one of my manuscripts that I kept switching between leagues and miles in measuring distance. Keeping organized and accessible notes is the key to preventing this.
#4. Use maps to map your story
I started world building by making maps. You don’t need to be an expert cartographer to do this. Use a crayon and a napkin if you have to, but it helps to get a visual overview of your setting. And the details of location and topography can inspire new plot lines and help you chart the course of your characters’ journey.
#5. Let your readers discover your world
Make certain that you weave a certain amount of discovery into your story. Not all characters know everything about the world they live in. Make sure to mark how much a character should know, and be consistent. Sometimes it is helpful for characters to have false ideas about the world. In any case, let the reader discover your world through the eyes of your characters by parceling out information in a way that feels realistic and organic. Avoid info dumps.
I hope these pointers help. Don’t forget to check out my new novel, The Lure of Fools, published by Curiosity Quills Press. Thanks!
- Jason King
Adventure is the lure of fools, and excitement glamour to the gullible. The siren song of the world is as music to the wanderer’s feet, but that dance leads only to the soul-less grave.” So Jekaran’s uncle has warned him. But that doesn’t stop him from leaping at the exhilarating chance to single-handedly rescue a beautiful woman from a gang of lecherous thieves.
But the bored farm boy quickly finds that he is no match for the group of angry street thugs, and only escapes death by bonding a magical sword that grants him the strength and skill of a master swordsman. Unfortunately, a peasant wielding such magic is forbidden and punishable by death.
Thus Jekaran finds himself a fugitive with his fate tied to that of the exotic and mysterious, Kairah; a fey woman who must deliver a dire warning to the king that, if heeded, could prevent the very extinction of humanity.
Find more at Jason King's website