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A ruthless murder and a stolen shipment of gold.

At school, sixteen-year-old Nikaia Wales endures the taunts of bullies who call her a “half-breed.” At home, she worries about how her family will react if she reveals her growing feelings for the quiet boy next door.

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Nikaia desperately searches for clues to save her father. In her quest to find the killer, she learns about the power of family, friendship, and young love....

Author Topic: World Building: How deep do you go?  (Read 1165 times)  

Offline jaehaerys

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World Building: How deep do you go?
« on: September 11, 2017, 05:48:01 PM »
In planning my epic fantasy saga I've drawn my maps, and now I'm creating spreadsheets loaded with geographical/statistical information. I've already finished fleshing out the magic systems, various religious beliefs, and written most of my world's history and timelines.

But a question sprung to mind today as I was measuring the width/length of my rivers, estimating the average depth and temperatures of all my seas, bays, lakes etc and charting the populations/climate of various regions, towns, cities and figuring out what all the various castles and holds look like...

How far into world building do you go before you've determined it's enough?

I'd spent a week plotting the distances between all of the locations in my fantasy world...we're talking into the hundreds of distinct places plotted on a chart similar to cross-reference charts you'd find on a roadmap - I'd underestimated how long that would take, foolishly. So, all of this to say, I'm not sure if I'm doing too much or if I'm doing just the right amount. How deep do you go when you're world building? Thanks in advance for your input.


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Re: World Building: How deep do you go?
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2017, 05:50:47 PM »
As far as the story demands. No further. All this story-bible-ing is a rabbithole that takes you away from writing the actual book.

Offline Lorri Moulton

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Re: World Building: How deep do you go?
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2017, 05:56:14 PM »
How much will you use it in your story?  If you plan to talk about the water temperature or distance between towns, it will be nice to have that information easily accessible.

I don't do much world building, but most of my stories have old Victorian houses.  I draw house plans for each one, decide on the facade, the gardens, the distance from town, the direction the front windows face, the light in the afternoon, what the interiors look like, etc.

In one book, the mansion they inherit is a big part of the story and I designed all the secret compartments, hidden rooms and forgotten/walled over back staircase ahead of time.  I like old houses and it makes it much easier not to have to stop and think...where did I say the dining room was on p.47? :)

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Re: World Building: How deep do you go?
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2017, 06:12:06 PM »
All the locations I used are based on real places, so I didn't have to do too much. The werewolf temple in the book is a Masonic temple in real life (lol).

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Re: World Building: How deep do you go?
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2017, 06:49:34 PM »
All the locations I used are based on real places, so I didn't have to do too much. The werewolf temple in the book is a Masonic temple in real life (lol).

Yeah, those hoary old Masons can get vicious when the moon's full.  ;D

Offline KeithWardFiction

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Re: World Building: How deep do you go?
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2017, 07:25:06 PM »
The world just needs to feel real. Enough *relevant* detail to give it substance, but not so much that it takes over the story at any point. I like a few details to fix a place in the reader's mind, but not overwhelm them with non-essentials that don't impact what your characters are doing.

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Offline xprettyguardianx

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Re: World Building: How deep do you go?
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2017, 07:48:55 PM »
I definitely agree that you can't let yourself fall into the trap of world building without ever writing your actual story. Personally I enjoy world building and spend an almost excessive amount of time on it, and research. What kind of lighting was most common in the 1500s? I mean I imagine candles were a thing but what where they made out of? What about torches? Lamps/lanterns? Idk I need to know all of these things and every minutia of the world I have created. I think the writing part happens smoother when you have the details ironed out before hand.

Offline P.J. Post

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Re: World Building: How deep do you go?
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2017, 08:41:39 PM »
As far as the story demands. No further. All this story-bible-ing is a rabbithole that takes you away from writing the actual book.

This. But even then, please...please, don't feel compelled to actually share all of it...or even most of it. Just a wee little bit is totally enough, maybe less. Think background, like the smell of a fairground carnival in late August.

Offline Kal241

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Re: World Building: How deep do you go?
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2017, 08:52:33 PM »


Is this too deep into it?

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Offline Pandorra

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Re: World Building: How deep do you go?
« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2017, 09:07:26 PM »
I don't think you overdid it (matter of fact I can think of a lot you left out already from what you described) but I don't believe you will get all of it in your book without being to wordy if that's your intent.


As for the rest: I find the more detailed I am, the better I write as I go .. without having to stop and think about names, water sources,towns, villages, inns they will stop at, supplies, distances... things that can really slow you down and distract you from the main story when your writing.


Distances are important if your writing of them traveling from one point to another (or even your just dumping them in a town with no travel time, you still need to know how LONG it took them) and its a good idea to have some action/survival-camping/wildlife along the way if your traveling more than a few days.. but you will DEFINITELY get stuck describing the terrain and time frames as you go so don't discount that.
 The more you know now, the less stumbling you'll do when you need to describe it. Just don't forget to scatter it out and try not to 'show' to much at once... and you may have to change some of what you have down if unforeseen scenes hit you along the way.. lol


Best of luck and have fun with it!!! :)
« Last Edit: September 11, 2017, 09:16:40 PM by Pandorra »
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Offline jaehaerys

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Re: World Building: How deep do you go?
« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2017, 09:40:17 PM »
Appreciate all of the responses. To be clear, I'm not creating all of this statistical information and writing the history etc etc because I want to include it in the story. On the contrary, I don't know if much of the reams of information I'm creating will make it into the story at all - I'm not out to bore the reader or try to impress them with the crazy amount of world building I've done, I'm doing it because I feel like the more fleshed out I make this world the more it will show in the storytelling almost through osmosis in the form of tangible narrative confidence.


So, no, of course...I don't want to bore readers with scads of made up almanac info about my world, but I like the idea of having that information there in the rare case I might need it. For example, if one of my characters makes a remark about how long a ride or sail it is to such and such place and its done in a way that furthers that character's arc or lends some tension or drama to a given plot development I feel like it's valuable to have that information at my fingertips.


BUT...


Having said that, I do wonder if writing an encyclopedia's worth of info about my world is excessive, which is why I've asked about that in my OP, and why I'm also wondering if you find that a lot of the time you get by just fine by adding details from your world into your story just off the top of your head? i.e. Do you find it more useful or a better use of your time overall to kind of just 'pants' the world building as you write your story?

Thanks everyone for the input. Cheers.


Offline Pandorra

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Re: World Building: How deep do you go?
« Reply #11 on: September 11, 2017, 10:13:19 PM »
Jae, I am in the middle of a complicated epic fantasy I didn't plan out as well as you did .. lol .. I wish I had!


I love it, I'm having the time of my life, I can sit and write 15k words in a night and a day but then stop... whats the name of that town? Who lives there.. damn I didn't set out what I am using for currency or how I am describing my moons/monthly phases.. I was on a roll .. now I need 3 days to start a descriptive of the big city in my main story-line, WHY didn't I have that before? three days and I lose my rhythm and its taking forever to write the way I want it and though I am a pantser, I like to WRITE, not plot in the middle of a good creative spell...


My map I made as I went, it was essential but no I thought I was going to do without it for now, I had to have the map.. the details...the distances..my first town.. the waterways and water-sources I had to stop at as we ended up walking instead of riding to the city... the distance was the same but the time changed with the method of getting there.. how trade was established on the rivers suddenly was a major thing I needed and had to plot mid-story. The temperatures matter, can they swim? Or just rinse off as they are traveling? Whats the main source of the water? A spring, the ocean, the mtn runoff?


Rolling eyes, I AM having fun.. but details matter and if I had been half as thorough as you I would be done by now.. try doing all that planning MID book? No, you haven't done to much for an epic! lol


You'll still do some 'pantsing' along the way but it won't be nearly as much with the preparations you made.
« Last Edit: September 11, 2017, 10:32:31 PM by Pandorra »
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Offline JRTomlin

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Re: World Building: How deep do you go?
« Reply #12 on: September 11, 2017, 11:36:16 PM »
In planning my epic fantasy saga I've drawn my maps, and now I'm creating spreadsheets loaded with geographical/statistical information. I've already finished fleshing out the magic systems, various religious beliefs, and written most of my world's history and timelines.

But a question sprung to mind today as I was measuring the width/length of my rivers, estimating the average depth and temperatures of all my seas, bays, lakes etc and charting the populations/climate of various regions, towns, cities and figuring out what all the various castles and holds look like...

How far into world building do you go before you've determined it's enough?

I'd spent a week plotting the distances between all of the locations in my fantasy world...we're talking into the hundreds of distinct places plotted on a chart similar to cross-reference charts you'd find on a roadmap - I'd underestimated how long that would take, foolishly. So, all of this to say, I'm not sure if I'm doing too much or if I'm doing just the right amount. How deep do you go when you're world building? Thanks in advance for your input.
Are you actually doing any writing? Is any of that something you actually need for the story? You do have a story to tell, right? What worries me is that you seem to be all about world building and ignoring what matters, the story. Hell, I don't know all those details when I write about the REAL word. Because the average depth and temperature of the sea doesn't make a bit of difference.
« Last Edit: September 11, 2017, 11:40:18 PM by JRTomlin »

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Offline Jack Krenneck

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Re: World Building: How deep do you go?
« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2017, 02:05:52 AM »
World building worked for Tolkien  ;)

In Tolkien's case though it was much more about interconnectedness than shear volume of data. Volume of data by itself doesn't really create "the inner consistency of reality."

My feeling lately about world building is that it's almost like a genre. Some fantasy readers expect it in a big way, while another group of readers don't really care at all - they want the story. Each of these types can do well in the indie environment, so it's really about your own preferences as a writer.   

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Re: World Building: How deep do you go?
« Reply #14 on: September 12, 2017, 03:27:55 AM »
Are you actually doing any writing? Is any of that something you actually need for the story? You do have a story to tell, right? What worries me is that you seem to be all about world building and ignoring what matters, the story. Hell, I don't know all those details when I write about the REAL word. Because the average depth and temperature of the sea doesn't make a bit of difference.

If she wants to spend extra free-time deepening her future writing then that's a good thing. Instead of criticizing perhaps consider that everyone else wastes time playing on kboards, facebook, tv, etc.

World-building is a nice hobby. Especially for a writer.
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Re: World Building: How deep do you go?
« Reply #15 on: September 12, 2017, 05:44:42 AM »
Oh, interesting question.  I suspect that the answer is going to vary widely depending partly on genre, partly on the type of story you're writing and mostly on you (generic you) and your personality.

For me there are two sides to this: how much do you (generic you) as the writer need to know in order to write convincingly in this world?  And: how much does the reader need to know to make sense of the world and the story?

To my mind, the first side of that should be much, much bigger than the second side - I believe (with no stats to back me up!) that new writers tend to over-think and over-share information as we haven't quite yet learned what the reader needs to know, as opposed to what we want to tell them. 

I consider myself a new writer, and am really careful not to include too much world detail in the actual writing because I don't want to over-burden readers with unnecessary detail - I suspect that, having over-written for years, I now under-write!  I'm working on a series at the moment which means I need to keep better notes than I have in the past, not to mention a few maps - there's nothing more annoying than mixing locations up!

TL;DR: do what's right for you and your story.  :)

Offline C. Gold

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Re: World Building: How deep do you go?
« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2017, 06:30:32 AM »
I'm going to post a very crude (don't laugh!) map of my story:


As you can see the towns and features are generally plopped down. Then I worked out distances and time it would take along the path my characters took. I left the rest empty because why bother? When I met the forest people, I hit on their cultural beliefs, religious beliefs (more forest/spirit related), their clothing, how they built their villages using the grass (think bamboo trees), etc.

The other city mentioned was destroyed, so not much was mentioned of it.

When they got to the big circle in the middle, I delved into the description of the fortress.

In other words, I had an overview, I had the planned travel route and days/time spent. Then I pantsed, ran into the forest people, delved into their culture, etc. Very basic but drilled down as the story required.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2017, 06:37:06 AM by C. Gold »

Offline BigBadBug

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Re: World Building: How deep do you go?
« Reply #17 on: September 12, 2017, 06:32:23 AM »
As far as the story demands. No further. All this story-bible-ing is a rabbithole that takes you away from writing the actual book.
Agreed. It feels to me like the original poster is avoiding writing the book; i.e., this is just another form of "resistance" that Steven Pressfield writes about in The War of Art.

Offline C. Gold

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Re: World Building: How deep do you go?
« Reply #18 on: September 12, 2017, 06:41:44 AM »
Agreed. It feels to me like the original poster is avoiding writing the book; i.e., this is just another form of "resistance" that Steven Pressfield writes about in The War of Art.
I don't think it's a bad idea to get into in depth world building if you are writing an epic multi-book series like Brandon Sanderson's The Stormlight Archive where the scope is huge and you'll cover places all over the world and various cultures, wildlife, etc. There, it will pay off because you'll be using your world bible for many books. It doesn't make sense to me to go into this much depth for a single book or even a trilogy except for the areas you cover in detail. The reader will never know your southern peninsula isn't populated if you never talk about it, so why create stuff for it?

Offline JaclynDolamore

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Re: World Building: How deep do you go?
« Reply #19 on: September 12, 2017, 07:24:32 AM »
I have two types. My Hidden Lands books are a world I've been writing for 23 years now, so it's very developed, although some areas are poorly developed, things I haven't gotten into as much. I tend to spend the most time on things that interest me, especially the different cultures/races, what they believe, how they differ from and get along with each other, how history has shaped them, etc. because that stuff is my jam. The geography is fairly horrible although I'm starting to hammer it down now. I finally made proper maps with consideration of how the geography would have shaped history.

Everything else, I just make up as I go, because I think one super developed world is enough for anybody.

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Offline jaehaerys

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Re: World Building: How deep do you go?
« Reply #20 on: September 12, 2017, 09:26:09 AM »
Thanks everyone, this thread has taught me that the amount of world building I'm doing is going to pay dividends as I progress through my saga (planning for 8 books). Cheers!  8)


Offline Lorri Moulton

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Re: World Building: How deep do you go?
« Reply #21 on: September 12, 2017, 09:45:42 AM »
I just want to add that you should write, when you're ready.  If you feel better with world building and being prepared...then do that.  Some of us develop characters much more than we'll ever need and know all about them.  It helps a lot (for me) even if I don't use all the information.  I know them and know exactly how they'll react in any situation.

When it comes to plot, I'm a pantser.  Then, I don't overly plan things out...I throw my characters into the situation and watch how they react.  My way of writing would not (and should not) work for everyone.  All writers do things differently.  Creating your world is part of writing.  Just like research, character development, outlining, etc.  You should do what feels comfortable for you.

If you get to a point, where it feels like you're stalling or putting off the writing, you'll know.  Then, stop the world building and dive in.  There's nothing wrong with finding the process that works for you.

Also...I thought my approach was a little different until I read about "pantsing" on Kboards and found this clip from J. Michael Straczynski. :) 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhV0EITyCH4

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Offline Jerry S.

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Re: World Building: How deep do you go?
« Reply #22 on: September 12, 2017, 10:54:23 AM »
Brandon Sanderson had a good explanation in his writing class series (look it up on YouTube) that talked about it like an Iceberg. You do have all of that information but you're only giving them what they need for this story. The rest is below the surface.

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Re: World Building: How deep do you go?
« Reply #23 on: September 12, 2017, 02:05:44 PM »
I get lost in research easily, so I tend to fit it into non-writing times. If I need to know something for the plot right then, I'll stop to write. Otherwise, I'm reading about bioluminscent shrimp off the coast of Japan while I'm waiting in line for an hour at the post office. If I don't do it that way, I'll try to look up a visual reference for an eagle owl and suddenly I've lost two hours reading reports on newspapers from the Netherlands of owl attacks and then I catch myself reading a biography by a photographer who lost an eye to an owl while trying to get the perfect shot. That particular tangent cost me several hours worth of writing and ended with the first Criminal podcast and the line "but the husband couldn't be the murderer, they found owl microfeathers in the wound."

See? I got lost just trying to tell you to remember to write. Also, if I'm murdered, someone please tell the coroner to check for owl microfeathers.

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Re: World Building: How deep do you go?
« Reply #24 on: September 12, 2017, 02:40:27 PM »
Usually more than I need to, but I think it allows me to better "imply a bigger world" even if I don't put it all in a work.

I think of it kind of like "playing in the pocket" from blues/jazz/rock.  If I have a really solid framework in my head, even if the audience doesn't necessarily know exactly what's going on, the end result feels more "put together".

YMMV

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