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Living in my own little world

30 November 2010

Building a world for one’s characters to inhabit is easy, initially. It all starts by saying What if? What if North Korea were to set off a nuclear device in downtown Los Angeles? What if there were ancient, angry gods buried in West Texas and Greenland? What if Omaha was actually an interesting town?

But then comes the hard part — you have to make sure the world you’ve just created makes sense, obeys some sort of in-world logic. Even if it’s apparent only to you, you have to know every little thing going on in that world, and know what makes it fundamentally different to the real world you live in every day. A lot of times, this just means checking and checking again, making sure you didn’t break any of your own rules (or if you did, you can justify doing it). Sometimes, though, it means putting up a dry-erase board and covering it with notes and scrawlings like a madman.

So who do you think does a really good job of worldbuilding? What stories have you seen where it made a good effort, but ended up failing in the end?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill M permalink
    30 November 2010 0705

    Stephen Brust, Larry Niven, S.M. Stirling, Anne MacCaffrey, J.R.R. Tolkien, the list goes on & on!

  2. 30 November 2010 0723

    I almost don’t know where to start! I could list so many, but instead, I’ll skip the obvious giants and go for C.S. Friedman in his Coldfire trilogy and Robin Hobb’s twist on the Tolkien-style world in her FarSeer books (I mean, there are zombies).

    The biggest failure has got to be Eragon. Well, I should say it was the biggest non-attempt, since he just completely plucked the whole thing from the body of existing high fantasy.

  3. 30 November 2010 0906

    How has no one mentioned David Eddings, Peter David, Douglas Adams or the creative team of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman????? EPIC worldbuilders

    Biggest failure….Stephanie Meyer.

    • 1 December 2010 0752

      Douglas Adams is in the group of those I didn’t mention individually, but grouped as “Obvious Giants,” along with, oh, Tolkien, Frank Herbert, Robert Silverberg, C.S. Lewis, L. Frank Baum…

  4. Trace permalink
    30 November 2010 1033

    Frank Herbert builds his worlds so well he’s actually right on the line of overbuilding them.

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