So we finally dove into a real writing topic. This was something that came up in comments and discussions all over the web, as it’s one of the most iconic and important things fantasy writers do. I’m talking, of course, about worldbuilding.
One of the reasons I think fantasy as a genre doesn’t get the credit it’s due is that the critics and intelligentsia never seem to understand the amount of work that goes into building a second-world setting. Literature is easy. Pick a time and place, and everything is given to you. All you have to worry about is the character arc and plot and message. With fantasy, you have no base to rely on–other than cliches and tropes, which it behooves a writer with any pride and ambition to avoid–rather you have to create everything from scratch.
Ultimately, the best fantasy tends to be that which is the most distant from our world. You start with the common elements such as monsters and magic, but eventually a master worldbuilder is creating history, myth, and even language. The geography and astronomy of your world is distinctly different from Earth, and everything carries from that. What is a sunset if your world has two suns? Can a task be a “piece of cake” if it takes place in an ancient society that doesn’t bake?
Worldbuilding requires a monumental effort, and the further you get from Earthly reality, the more new elements and language you inject into your narrative, the bigger the payoff for the reader.
In this episode, we focus primarily on the mechanics of writing worldbuilding elements into your narrative. You have an idea for a creature, or a myth, or a place…how do you convey that to the reader without being overwhelming or just annoying?
Because of the importance and complexity of the subject matter, this episode is about double our usual length. But I’m sure you’ll find the extended discussion to be worth it.