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Entries in magical fantasy world (3)


How intricate are the worlds you build?

Some world-building musings from author Chuck Wendig:

I’m always a little… reticent to fall too deep into the world-building rabbit-hole, because oh, what a deep and wonderful hole it is. In both my upcoming YA cornpunk series and in my next Angry Robot novel, The Blue Blazes, by golly, there was worldbuilding to be done. But I also found that the worldbuilding was easy to become tangential and distracting — there comes a point when figuring out the details of the world crosses over from “enhances the richness of the narrative” to “tangles the narrative up in its own shoelaces and makes it fall down and chip a tooth and then everybody laughs at it as it skulks home, weeping into its bloodied hands.”


Really heavy worldbuilding distracts me, I think — once I hit that point in a fantasy novel that we have to describe the pubic grooming habits of halflings or the lyrical history of the lizard people’s addiction to chocolate eclairs I start to tune out. But, when done well, it gives you a deeper sense of place and roots you to the story in a way that the plot itself cannot. (This is true in much the same way that details about a character can bring you closer to that character — at least, until they don’t, until they expel you from them like an exorcism purging a ghost.)

Read the rest here!

I feel the same, which was part of the struggle to get started on Week Eight's eventual story (remember that? you didn't even read it but I'm still writing the series so nyah). I don't lavish too much attention on those details in the books I read, but for some reason I feel like it's my responsibility to include them in books I write.

Why? Because.


Week Eight: Fantasy-ed!

Week Eight's completed challenge can be found here!

This is the first true short story I've attempted since graduate school. In writing it, I had to overcome a number of self-imposed stumbling blocks that have kept me from attempting something just like this for many a year now. Basically, I had to get over myself. 

And the result...? Well, you decide.

Please, I would love some feedback on this one. What worked? What didn't? What do you hope to see more of? You can comment on this post, or on the story itself, or contact me directly

As I've mentioned, the intent here was to better flesh out one major character of my theoretical fantasy series. It took some time (you may have noticed), but, having done this, I truly believe that things will get easier from here. I feel... accomplished.

Anyway, check it out! And I've hinted before (and the story itself has a disclaimer on it), but there's some dark stuff in there. I don't want to upset anyone, but I also don't want to spoil the story, so please contact me if you want to know what exactly that dark stuff is before you read it.

Reflections, and Week Nine's several challenges (microfiction week!), to come this weekend.


Building a magical fantasy world...

So I've decided to attempt a character-driven story set in a magical fantasy world... but how do you build a magical fantasy world that is both compelling and uniquely yours? How do you weave in fantasy tropes (magical trinkets, a perilous quest, etc.) without unwittingly copying everything that's come before?

Brandon Sanderson talks about how The Lord of the Rings changed the landscape of fantasy literature forever—and perhaps not for the better:

[Tolkien's] work was so revolutionary that the market couldn't deal with it. Readers wanted more books like LotR, but other authors weren't ready to produce high fantasy yet. The only thing they could do was try and do what Tolkien did.

But they didn't do what Tolkien did. They didn't create a new world, with its own mythology, its own society, its own technology, its own races and creatures. This wasn't their fault—they just weren't ready to jump to that level. So instead they applied their considerable creativity toward copying Tolkien. Instead of creating true high fantasy, everyone created more low fantasy—but they used Tolkien's world as a base instead of our own. The result was a kind of tainting of the entire genre, a 'Tolkienizing.' Fantasy didn't mean 'the genre where the author creates his or her own unique setting.' It meant 'the genre where the books include elves, dwarfs, wizards, and quests.'

(Link to the rest here.)

Well, crud. And conversely, if I am going to build an entire fantasy setting that's uniquely mine, owing nothing to Tolkien et al.... where do I start? The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America has a great series of fantasy worldbuilding questions to ask yourself... but now there's the threat of being overwhelmed by the scope of this thing before I've even written one word. For example:

  • How are the continents laid out? If there is more than one moon/sun, how does this affect winds, tides, and weather generally?
  • How much land is there, and how much of it is habitable?
  • Is the axial tilt and orbit the same — i.e., does the world have the same seasons and same length of year as Earth?

I could of course just start writing the story and figure out these details later, but that's going to make for some tough writing.

Have you tried to build a magical fantasy world? If so, what was the experience like for you? What were some helpful things to keep in mind?