Before I start today, I just want to let you know that I’ve been invited to join the bloggers of Untethered Realms. I know most of them, and know that they’re seriously talented, so I do hope you’ll go check out what they’re doing…
But for today, I want to write about plot.
Until last night, I thought I was a character driven writer. But then I sat through a fantasy world building hangout, and spent the whole time repeating the same mantra in my head. (I couldn’t turn it off.)
How would it be relevant to the plot?
The thing is, I know that nothing technically has to be relevant. Some people make a lot of money off books with slow plots. I can’t slam them.
Personally, I like my plots thick and fast. Rich with detail, yes, but not so as to yank me out of the growing story in order to describe the finer details of a given culture or political system or whatever.
To me, writing a fantasy world is pretty similar to characterization. If I write a character, I usually know millions of little details about him or her, without them ever making it into my book. Yes, it’s super important that I need to know them. The reader, however, only needs to know enough for them not to wonder what the heck is going on.
It’s precisely the same with the world-building. For the Doorways series, I know enough about the world’s history to write a whole other series just about that. Heck, I know enough history from a single one of the world’s country to write a series. And there are four. The thing is, if I put all of that into the books, I’d swamp the reader with information which (while it could be argued that the history is relevant) isn’t strictly necessary to put them through the plot.
I actually take it further. I don’t explain the history. I don’t explain the political systems. I don’t spend pages and pages of description. What I do is to explain what’s needed right now and trust the reader to put together the full picture themselves. Yes, some people might grow impatient, because it might take a few books to build a complete picture. But the pay-off is that my plot moves along at a faster pace.
Which I like.
But like I said, my way isn’t the only way. Any writer working on a spec fic novel eventually needs to decide on an approach to the world they’ll develop.
1) Do you want to showcase your world as a character in itself?
2) Do you want your plot to move slower? (If so, exploring the world is a good way to do it without boring people. Just keep in mind that it’s a fine line to toe.)
3) Which factors of the world determines your plot and characterization? If you have some macro issues coming down on your characters (say a world where tributes are sent every year to kill each other for punishment of an old rebellion), you’ll need to spend some time explaining. Do try to keep the explanations relevant to the moment, though.
There are probably other questions that’ll come from answering these questions, but those are the big ones. If you know those, you can probably figure out how you want to represent your world in your novel.
So, spec fic writers, how do you usually prefer to represent your worlds?
And readers, how do you prefer your fantasies? Slower and rich in detail, or directly to the point with some fantasy thrown in?