Worldbuilding vs. Building a World

February 2, 2008

When I think about the term “worldbuilding”, the first author that comes to mind is J. R. R. Tolkien.  This man didn’t just write a story about Middle Earth; he wrote about the culture of each race, the history of each race, and even created a language for each race.  (Granted, he was a linguist, so I’m sure creating a new language was something he could do over his morning coffee, but still!)

At the polar opposite of a “worldbuilding author” seems to be Terry Goodkind.  Goodkind has said in nearly as many words that he doesn’t worldbuild, he tells a story.  What are important to him are his characters and the relationships that they form with one another.  There is a world around them, and you have to flesh that world out a bit to make the story move along, but he doesn’t get caught up in every little detail about every person, culture, or race in that world.

Until very recently I’ve been working to build my world out.  Unfortunately, I’ve been writing by the seat of my pants, and have started to hit places where I need to flesh the world out before certain things make sense.  I’m of the firm belief that good fiction is internally consistent, and (even better) has an element of reality to it.

Basically what I’m saying is that I’m overdue for a dose of consistent reality.

My wife would say “in more ways than one”.


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