First, I hope everyone had a happy and blessed Easter. I did, but I’m rapidly approaching maximum candy consumption.
So, today is my thoughts on world building plus a little bit of a rant. Fair warning.
The only complaint that has really surfaced so far in reviews of my book is that readers wish there was more world building. I ask, what do people want? Does this mean that they wish I had spent more time detailing the whole world or just the places where the events take place? Granted I’m a new author. I know I have many many things to improve upon. I know that telling about the whole world might give better overall appreciation for a story. But in my writing I would rather just give a reader a few details about a place where the action is and let them fill in the rest with their imagination.Maybe give a few sentences here and there to help fill in the gaps about the rest of the world. Does that make me a lazy writer? Or have we just gotten so used to pages upon pages of world details in our fantasy books? I, for one, do not like excessive world building. In my humble opinion, it should not take several chapters to set up your universe just to tell a story. Or we should not get a break right in the middle of the action for the author to digress for a few paragraphs about some rocks. (OK, I’m being a little facetious about the rocks…) I think we’ve also gotten used to the epic fantasy books that are more easily defined as tomes rather than books.
If you look at some of the old authors, you don’t really get the amount of detail that you do now. Take Tolkien for example. In The Hobbit he simply tells you that the hobbit hole is comfortable with many passages. You get a smattering of Bilbo’s family tree and then Tolkien tells you “and know you have enough to go on”. Gandalf shows up and we’re taken into the story. As the adventure goes on, he gives you a brief description of each location they travel to, but only the places where an adventure will take place. Even in The Lord of the Rings you don’t get excessive detail.
So have we just become to lazy to use our imaginations? Are we so used to movies that we feel compelled to write in every detail down to the last blade of grass for fear that our audience won’t know what we’re describing because they can’t see it? I very much hope that’s not the case. Over the weekend, my family converged on Dallas/Ft. Worth to celebrate Easter together. On Saturday we went to an exhibit on Indiana Jones and Archaeology. You were given a tablet and headphones to help guide you through the exhibit. There was also a game to be played, probably to keep the younger kids entertained but all the adults played as well. There were ten stations set through the exhibit that you would scan with your tablet. Each station had a different challenge. If you could solve each puzzle you were given a piece of an artifact, that, once finished, would be proudly displayed on a giant screen at the exit of the exhibit. The puzzles were all interactive. The clues were all around you and many times you had to locate a certain artifact to complete it. All very fascinating, you’re thinking. Well, to start off, each aspiring archaeologist had to enter their name into their tablet. Many would just type in their name. But if you’re playing archaeologist and Indiana Jones is staring at you, you can’t just type in your name! You need the name of someone with a thrill for adventure! Someone who is not afraid of snakes or other things you might run into in a museum, I mean dig. I dismissed the thought of my all too ordinary name and went for “Swashbuckling Jimmy”. Most of my younger sisters followed my example and we were off.
My point to all this meandering is that it takes very little imagination to make something like a museum even more interesting. The mind really only needs a few details before it starts filling in the gaps. That’s why I try not to be so detail driven in my writing. I give you what you need to know and hope that you can do the rest. The imagination is somewhere that needs to be visited more often. So if you need me, I’ll be off playing in the green fields of my mind.
Disclaimer-these are my own opinions. No offense if you like detail driven world building. Each to his own.
(You also get a million points if you know the title of this blog from a wonderful article that uses baseball to make its point. If you don’t know it, http://mason.gmu.edu/~rmatz/giamatti.html )