By Jessica Greyson
Into caring about the details of your world
I’ll be the first person to admit it. I am not the best at worldbuilding, I am much better at what I call world painting. My first published book Annabeth’s War has a lack of description. I’ll be honest. I did it on purpose. Why?
There are several uses and reasons to worldbuild or not to worldbuild.
In Annabeth’s War, I chose not to specifically worldbuild, and describe deeply. Why? I wanted the reader’s imagination to take control of the situation. I wanted them to paint the canvas of Annabeth’s War for themselves. I put in the emotions I wanted the readers to understand, but the rest was up to them. They could read as a spectator, or they could step into the shoes of Annabeth and Ransom and make the world their own. The choice was up to them.
However, many people need more guidance: they want to be told a story, and that is where purposeful worldbuilding or painting comes in.
Personally I don’t like too much worldbuilding as a reader.
Because far, far too often the characters didn’t care.
For me as a reader and writer, worldbuilding must be purposeful; it must have meaning. I don’t know how many times I’ve skipped description in a book because I felt they had no meaning and were mere words that clogged the story from the plot and inhibited the story’s building drama. Why are you describing the sunset to me, if it’s a mere fact of life? As a reader I see no purpose for the description of sun putting itself to sleep behind the ridge of mountains, no matter how prettily put.
However, if you tell me the hero or heroine is standing watching the sun slip away behind the mountain ridge, their heart pounding, as they wonder if they will ever see another sun set, then you have given this plain little sunset meaning.
We take the rise and set of the sun for granted, but you perk the question inside my mind about how would I feel if I were watching the sun set for the last time, and the gravity of the situation settles with a twist into the pit of my stomach, pulling me onto the pages and into your character’s mind.
Weather, this is a beautiful way to evoke emotion into a story.
Wind, rain, heat, cold.
These are all things we can relate to. However if you are telling me it’s raining and the character is sad, it will cause a ripple of sadness to cross my heart. Now, tell me that the character stood out in the rain letting the rain spell out the tears they couldn’t cry because of ____. You have made me care about the rain, you’ve made me care about your world, you have made me feel your world.
The same concept can be applied to many other things: twisting it in many different ways to shape and mold your world, tweaking a readers interest.
Taking wind for instance.
Negative emotions: The crying howl of the wind sent a tingle of fear up his spine. It was so wolf-like, so lonely sounding. His grip tightened on his gun. Alone, in the wilderness…he couldn’t let his imagination get to him. It’s just the wind, he repeated over and over again.
Positive: The warm summer breeze danced about her; it seemed to tug at her, begging her to play, to swirl and twirl in its delightful whisper seeming to sing back the thoughts running through her mind. I am going to the dance, I am really, truly going to the dance.
Now, if I did my job as a writer correctly, each of those scenes should have evoked a different feeling from you, hopefully pulling different images into your mind to fill in, what I left out.
Negative, you probably started remembering some of the coldest weather you’ve experienced, winter, fall, snow, perhaps nights lying in bed for fear of nonexistent fears lurking inches from your bed.
But how could I continue to further fill out the scene? Let’s move to the positive example.
Here I could continue to describe her surroundings.
Maybe there are birds seeming to chirp out dance music, maybe a butterfly flits by as if a suitor requesting to be her dance partner. Perhaps I’ll show the grass swaying and rippling in the wind like the billowing skirts twirling in a full ballroom, or maybe I’ll hint at the vaulted azure blue of the sky being as high as her dreams; the exact shade of the dress she wants to buy, make or wear, or the same hue as a certain pair of dreamy eyes.
Now, while these are all good adjectives, using them all on a reader, could be overkill, and lead the reader to possibly gagging at the over-stimulation of “adjective glitter.” Instead, pick the themes that are going to pull your story along: maybe it’s the wind, maybe it’s the sky…choose two or three, but don’t overdose me with adjective glitter that over-glamorizes your story’s sentiments.
Worldbuilding at its finest should be an enhancement of your story, adding dimension and depth to it that carries the reader into the story, and into your world.
Jessica Greyson—is the Daughter of the Risen King, and dedicated to being a Ready Writer for Him. An eager reader and published author, Jessica loves historical fiction and good adventure stories which weave their way into her writing style.
Her pastime includes mostly time with her family, scribbling, plotting, graphic design, listening to music, cooking, and other creative modes, such as embroidery, costume sewing and dabbling in watercolors.