Monday, May 10, 2010

World Building

World Building and the Importance of It
World building is one of the key elements in a fantasy novel, movie, or graphic novel.  What if Lord of the Rings actually took place in Narnia?  What if the Inheritance Cycle took place in The Realm?  Both of these examples would flip the story on its back.  Point is, the world of a story can make or break a story.  This goes for both high fantasy and modern fantasy .  Even in modern fantasy you have to portray a world different then their own.  People often read for escape, not to see the things they are seeing in their everyday life.

So what makes a good fantasy world?  Many things and I can’t list all of them.  There are a few major reasons though.  A fantasy world needs to be realistic.  One of the great things about fantasy is that the author is much less limited, but the reader still has to feel that it’s realistic.  One of my all times favorite worlds is Arda-more specifically, Middle Earth.  Tolkien put so much effort into his world that there it felt almost as real as the real world.  The more real the world feels the less distracted the reader-or movie goer-gets from the real world.  If the reader is distracted then they fail to be fully captivated.

In the modern fantasy sub-genre there are the some pitfall, but for the most part it’s the same.  The reader still needs to feel they are there.  Otherwise they book is just a random collection of words and letters.  If I feel that I’m not there, and I don’t have any other reason to continue reading, I won’t.  If I can’t seem to feel like I am really a part of the world, or have something else that pulls me to the story, bad world building is a real turnoff for me.

The world also has to fit your story.  The area you choose in the real world also has to fit your story.  Going back to the first examples, what would it be like for the armies of Gondor to have actually belonged to the city of Cair Paravel?  It would have been completely off.  The setting would feel strange to have such a magnificent and strong force in such an elegant and beautiful city such as Cair Paravel.

            There’s also a fine line between too complicated and too simple a world.  Going back to Middle Earth, I personally think that it is a little too complicated.  However that’s okay for this world, because there are quite a few people who devote their lives to it and others that pay no heed to the complicated details of Middle Earth.  There’s a great balance-you can enjoy Lord of the Rings and/or the Hobbit without getting into the major things, or if you want you can get into the complicated details of the world.  This works for few worlds though, since there are few works which people devote their lives to studying.  If Alagaesia-Inheritance Cycle, Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr-was any more complicated of a world then it currently is I wouldn’t care to go into it anymore.  I’d stay for the story but if the world got more complicated I would just forget about the map and make one up in my head.  Some stories don’t qualify to study enough to understand the complicated details.

            World Building is one of the prime factors in many fantasy tales-while in others the story renders the world less important.  Either way a world, or a part of the real world, needs to be taken as an important element, because it is.  A practical way to start is draw up a few maps.  A world is much more then that though, it’s the people, the history, everything.  We’ll take a look at those in the next post.


  1. Neato.

    As for the complication thing, I see where you're coming from. Honestly, our world is complicated, so fantasies' should be too lol. That's what made middle earth real, all the details of history.

    However, the author should know more about the world than he reveals. So can have a super complicated world with a rich history and all that jazz, but not let your reader in on all the details. Actually, if you do this, I think the world would seem a million times more real.

  2. Exactly. The reader shouldn't know everything about the world though, just like we don't know everything about our world.

  3. Exactly, Keeneye. You nailed it there. Just knowing more than you put in makes it way more realy.

  4. Thanks for this post. I find world-building to be my favorite part of writing.


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