When you’re writing speculative fiction, you have to create a world. For some that means building on what already exists in our world, but for others (particularity in the Fantasy genre) that means creating your own, unique universe from your imagination. It can be a daunting task and you can be tempted to take short cuts.
My beta reader for my WIP, the amazing Valerie Hemlin, gave me a wonderful bit of advice: readers want to “feel, smell, breathe, and taste the world he’s in.”
So what does that mean? When your characters are having a meal, describe it, put little world-building nuggets into their meal. When they’re riding down a road, describe some wildlife, the landscape,. What colors are the flowers and the trees? What sort of wildlife populates your world? It is mundane or fantastical? Are there unusual sights or smells? Bring to life the world your characters are walking through.
If you can make it feel as vibrant as our world, your readers will fall in love with it. Half the fun of reading Fantasy, at least to me, is the world building. Worlds that could never exist in our universe can be brought to life by a skilled author. People read fiction for entertainment, to escape whatever problems they face in their world. So take them to fantastic places, wow them with your creativity. Get them excited and talking about what they read.
So don’t skip the little stuff. Don’t get too caught up in the grand plot that you’re unfolding. If people don’t care about the world you’re putting at stake, then why are they going to keep on reading? Make it real, make it believable. Let your readers “feel, smell, breathe, and taste” your imaginative universe.
Thanks to Valerie for sparking this blog post. Follow her on twitter @VHemlin, she’s very supportive of authors.
5 thoughts on “World Building: The Little Details”
I think we all tend to get caught up in the story and forget the small details. We have the entire world in our mind already so it’s easy to forget to make it more real for the reader.
When I beta read for friends I always say “Sensory details!” over and over until they are so tired of hearing it! And then I read my own writing and say, “Oh wow, this part is so boring. I can’t get a feel for the setting at all!”
We just have to pay attention.
Yeah. It’s so easy to lose those small details.
So, when you are world building, you do it on the fly, as you write?
I have often found that difficult and tend towards building my world after the idea hits, then using that scaffolding to tell the story. For me, this works in that the world is alive in my mind and my characters come to live in it and react to it, rather than the other way around.