Apr 9, 2013

Posted by in Writing | 0 Comments

What World-Building Should Be

          I recently submitted a query to a high-profile agent, and during my research, I noted an interview he did in which he stated how important world-building is for fantasy. And I really couldn’t have agreed more. But what is world-building exactly? Is it simply a setting by which standard rules are applied and some fantastical ideas are added? Are there golden rules? Are some obstacles impossible to bypass? And how does one measure the success of a world created by another?

            I’ve been to many conferences and read countless articles on the subject. Many times, guidelines or questionnaires are provided to help the writer along. “What’s your world’s currency?”, “What is your world’s main magic engine, and what are the tools and rules by which it operates?”, “Who are the rulers and sub-rulers, and what are they called?” But is it really world-building if you operate by a manual? Isn’t fantasy supposed to be purely imaginative? Or, for the sake of being published, has success been reduced to a defined science?

            To me, world-building almost always has to borrow from the ideas of others. If a writer tries to create a fantasy world entirely unscripted and uninspired, he is probably venturing into the dreaded “weird” genre instead. For instance, my world of Carnel was heavily influence by two works: Naruto and Harry Potter. They added to my imagination, and I craved so much more that I was driven to create one of my own.

            And really, I believe that comes to the heart of what world-building truly is. A created world is whatever you make of it, but true success is found in how much it drives people to crave more. When a world is so awesome and complex that all you want to do is explore more and more of it, debate every aspect of it with fellow fans, support ships until you’re deaf to all other possible argument, and write your own fanfiction until there’s 100,000 other stories and yours is just one of many… that’s when you know your world has made it. Now obviously, not every successful story will reach Harry Potter or Naruto’s gargantuan heights, but there’s something to be said for when a reader approaches you and tells you they had a dream about being in your world, or that they wrote a fanfiction, or that they talk about it with friends. I’ve gotten to experience those things, if only once or twice, but it made all the difference in the world. I added to someone’s imagination. I can’t imagine success could be measured by any other stick.


            Some of my other all-time favorite imagined worlds: Mistborn (magic engine rules all), Aria (ridiculous beauty), Name of the Wind, Star Wars, Adventure Time, Sword Art Online, and pretty much every Miyazaki world.