Writing fantasy is fun. Why else would so many people do it? Why would so many read it? There’s more than a monetary investment when a reader picks up a fantasy novel. They are taking on faith that the world the writer has created is going to engage them and spark their imagination. As an author, you have to think through more than loving your own world and story – it has to be easily comprehended by a reader so that they don’t get fed up and abandon the attempt to enter into your written world.
It’s hard to talk about world building and fantasy stories without touching on J.R.R. Tolkien, at least a little bit. At times it feels like the things he did are the foundation everyone else has to build on, but that’s just not true. I’m not advocating a total departure from what he did, but what one writer chooses does not have to be the measuring stick for those that follow.
The greatest weakness I see with Tokien’s method of world-building was how few stories he ended up telling. He put years of time and effort into creating a fully-fleshed world, with different peoples, cultures, histories and even a fully functional language. But could he have written more if he’d spent less time on building that single world? It’s a little late to ask the man himself.
With so many diverse and unique fantasy worlds and stories out there, it should be obvious that you do not have to stick with the “tried and true” to be a good writer, or to tell an engrossing story.
Knowing Your Writer-Self; Being Aware of Your Own Story-telling
For fantasy writers today, this a choice you have to make. How much of your time is going to be spent creating the world of your story, and how much is going to be spent on telling the story? That’s assuming you’re even sticking to one world, which I have rarely seen amateur writers do.
One Way (or the Highway?)
In some ways, it appears that getting published can cut off the options of your writing, depending on if you sign a publishing contract. Publishers want books that are guaranteed to sell, so they often want a continuation of a book that has sold well, rather taking (another) change on something new that might tank. This often ends up meaning a series set in the same world, or a series following a single/set of characters.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but as a writer, you need to know what kind of writing you like to do. If you want to invest your time in telling the stories of a single fantasy world, that’s great! Dive on in. Make that world a place your readers love to spend time in, and get them invested in every character you can. (You should do this even if you’re not writing a series!)
If you love exploring new ideas, new worlds and even genres, you should be aware of that, too. There’s nothing worse than having to write a story you have no passion or interest in, and when you’re locked into a contract, there’s an inherent responsibility to produce the agreed-upon stories.
If you like to dabble in worlds for a few weeks/months/years, and then you’re done with it – no more daydreams about sentient robots, you’re scribbling about radioactive alligator knights – then go crazy exploring the tales to be told there.
We all have one lifetime to write explore the stories that come to us – what kinds of stories are you going to share with the world?
Katie, signing off.
One thought on “Know Yourself: How Many Worlds Do You Live In?”
I like your comments about Tolkien – his world-building is wonderful, but I wish he’d written more stories, too! On the other hand, it seems that language-creation was what he most enjoyed, and as a creative person he had to follow his heart.
I’m definitely a one-world writer myself, and I like reading authors who also set their books in the same world, because it means we get to see that world in more detail.
Creatively, I often struggle to decide whether I am a writer or a world-builder. Building a world is something I really enjoy, as a piece of art for its own sake (this is a hobby known as conworlding), but writing is very fun, too, and it’s the stories that bring the world to life at the end of the day.
I suppose I need to ask myself, what would I rather create – a thousand maps or a dozen novels? Which is they best way to portray the world I’m building?