Friday, August 20, 2010

More Perils of Worldbuilding

When it comes to worldbuilding, I like to think that most of us fledgling sf/fantasy writers actually sit down and get the work done.  This probably isn't true at all.  Plenty of wanna-be writers don't do the work at all, much like they don't do the research about querying or how to write a novel.  But a fair amount of us do it, and do it in depth.

The question then becomes putting it on the page.  This is the hard balance.  It's very easy to fall into pure info-dump mode, dropping a ton of history and culture information but not actually telling a story.  Not only is this an easy mistake to make, it's an easy mistake to recognize, no matter how you dress it up.  I was doing this a lot in Crown of Druthal's early drafts, even if I was couching it in a historian giving a lecture and other characters being bored by it.  Lampshade hanging doesn't make it not boring.

The other mistake is almost as easy to do, but harder to realize you're doing, I think.  It's knowing your world SO WELL that you forget that you have to actually explain it.  Just like how, if you were writing contemporary fiction you wouldn't explain New York or London or US History, because you assume the audience knows this.  It becomes very easy to be so immersed you don't realize no one else knows what you know.

I've seen works fall into this trap plenty.  I've fallen into this trap plenty as well.  But it's important to realize that Too Little Information is just as damaging as Too Much.


Unknown said...

Excellent post!It's especially hard for me, because I LOVE reading info dumps, and prologues too! But general writing advice these days is they are a no-no. Which is really funny, since most of my favorite books (And these are best sellers) are loaded with info dumps and start with prologues!

As for the second issue, that segues into real life with me. I can't tell you how many times I've had a conversation with my wife, only to find out it was all in my head. :-)

Marshall Ryan Maresca said...

I do have a certain fondness of infodumps, but I do want them to have a degree of relevance to the events of the story, or at least be presented dynamically.

Prologues are out of fashion now, and I can see why. I've rarely seen a fantasy prologue that didn't give up the game right away about what, exactly, was going to happen in the story.