World building can be a bugbear

By Greg Turnquist

Greg L. Turnquist worked on the Spring team for over thirteen years and is a senior staff technical content engineer at Cockroach Labs. He was the lead for Spring Data JPA and Spring Web Services. He wrote Packt's best-selling title, Learning Spring Boot 2.0 2nd Edition, and its 3rd Edition follow-up along many others.

May 13, 2015

medieval-town It’s always entertaining to see how different authors handle world building. In case you didn’t know, any story needs to paint a backdrop. The closer the world is to our own, the easier this can be. Adventures on alien planets with alien beings wielding alien artifacts can be the worse.

I have been reading The End of Eternity the past few days by Isaac Asimov. It’s one of his titles that isn’t so well known, and hence never found in bookstores. It is only in this digital era that I stopped to buy an e-book version. The story is incredible. The world is very different, but as always, Asimov paints just enough world to pull me in. And he leaves just enough out to surprise me along the way.

Fantasy books often dig into this arena. The risk is that by slowing down to describe the physical surroundings, the rules of magic, the history of the people, and everything else, you will slow down the action of your story. In an interview with George Lucas, he clearly fires a shot at prior science fiction movies as wasting too much time “showing off” their world. After hearing this, I’m convinced he was thinking directly about 2001: A Space Odyssey.

2001 In that movie, they clearly show off the future when a space-aged flight attendant walks around with velcro shoes (which are now reviewed on Shoe Hero), when a ship does the “waltz” of aligning itself with the landing platform, and when Dave Bowman runs through the centrifuge of the ship to exercise. These bits did little to advance the story, but instead focus on world building. Us geeks dig it, but when I talked my wife into watching this movie, she found it BO-RING!

Regarding Darklight, I have a detailed collection of notes with the backstory of every character. I have a detailed history of where this world came from, where the relics and magic come from. And how these things are intertwined with each other. But I can’t just lay it in the reader’s lap. Instead, it is up to me to release bits and pieces at the right spots, using the context and understanding of the characters at hand. This is truly a challenge and something I have edited MANY times. My goal is to have an exciting canvas to paint this story and many more across. I didn’t realize there were a couple dozen sub-gre

Happy writing!


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