Saturday, December 28, 2013

WIP Marathon Check-In #4

Last check-in: 1300 words into re-writing chapter 3

Currently: Finished chapter 3 at 2600 words. Finished editing chapters 4 and 5. (current word count = 12,800)

WIP issues this week: Relatively smooth sailing this week.

What I learned this week: While details are the sign of good worldbuilding, it's important for those details to reflect the "heart and soul" of that world. A good fantasy/sci-fi world should have 3-4 core elements, and almost all details should reflect one or more of those elements.

But worlds are complex, you might argue, and I wouldn't disagree. But unless you're writing a geography book, you can't ask your readers to memorize every detail of your world. So that's why it's a good idea to pick 3-4 elements that are most important for your readers to understand. (Probably not more than that, unless you're very experienced or you're George R.R. Martin. And not less either--otherwise your scope is too limited.)

Take The Hunger Games, for example. The 3 core elements of Panem are as follows:

1. The Capitol's power over the districts. The Capitol exerts its power through economic inequality, militant fear tactics, separating the districts (each district specializes in one particular industry, thus ensuring that they cannot survive independently), and of course, the Hunger Games.

2. Wealth vs. poverty. (Actually, this could be a subcategory of #1). There are a lot of details about food and fashion. These aren't just for scenery--they illustrate the extravagance of the Capitol vs the poverty of the districts.

3. Futuristic technology: Convenience living, hovercrafts, arena technology, genetic engineering.

My own novel is organized around 4 core elements. This wasn't how I originally planned it, but it's how I figured out which details to keep or discard.

1. societal structure: small, close-knit, and agrarian, with no technological development

2. religion: the Pathways of Fate = Takiran Code and personal Guides

3. magic system: there are 3 "sources" of magic in the novel -- while they are not initially apparent, it was important for me to have an explanation for why certain characters have non-talisman powers

4. the relationship between Takira and the Severed World (our world): My novel is Portal fantasy, which is generally thought of as the "wish fulfillment" genre--but it doesn't have to be. One thing that's important for portal fantasy writers to consider is the relationship between the magical world and the "normal" world. You can't expect me to believe that even though characters can jump between them, the worlds never interact. Even if the portal didn't exist until your protagonist came along, you still have to consider the implications of said portal.

While some people might see this "core element" thing as limiting, it's helpful in that not only does it make your worldbuilding less scattered, but it makes you think about what your readers need to know in order to understand your world. It also gives your readers a context for what's going on and helps minimize info-dumping.

(You can really tell the difference between which novels have "consistent" vs. "scattered" worldbuilding. For an example of a novel that does this well, see The Girl of Fire and Thorns. For an example of a novel that does this considerably less well, see Shadow and Bone.)

What distracted me this week while writing: The usual. Social life, laziness, internet.

Last 200 words: Nope. Spoilery.

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