Monday, July 20, 2015

World Building is Fun

            I think one of the most important traits in an author is a love of knowledge. Why? Because we have to know the oddest things so we can make our books realistic. Some of the most obscure things come up.

            Recently I’ve been doing a lot of world building, getting a very detailed portion of my world developed for a series I’m planning. My research taught me all kinds of things, like you can raise 100 pigs on the same amount of land you need for one cow (free grazing – about 5 acres, in case you’re curious), that dinosaurs only lived about 30 years, and that there are vast stretches of underground, water-filled caves that are the only sources of fresh water in some parts of the world.

            I saw a quote once (and can’t find who said it) that an author must be an expert on everything. When Terry Pratchett wrote The Amazing Morris and his Educated Rodents, he said that by the time he was done, he knew more about rats than anyone would ever want to know.

You might wonder why what seem like minor details matter so much, especially in fiction. Couldn’t we just make it up? Well, yes, we could. But then, along comes an expert in horses to tell us that horses treated the way they are in the book would die from being ridden too hard. This is a bad thing on two fronts – first, it conveys inaccurate information to people and it’s amazing how easily people believe what they read. The second is that it ruins the realism of the book for anyone with that knowledge of horses – which is terrible. Fiction is meant for people to enjoy, after all.

            So, an important part of the writing process becomes research into the oddest things. I can only imagine how often mystery writers worry what people would think if they could see all their Google searches related to how to kill people. It takes less than a pound of pressure to cut skin.

            With all the bitty details needed, enjoying learning becomes mandatory. Otherwise, writing becomes tedious work – and, really, why bother writing if you don’t enjoy it? I’m lucky in that I’ve always loved learning. On the flip side, my research skills are lacking, so it takes me a while to find what I’m looking for, but I tend to pick up a few extra tidbits along the way. I gain lots of new information, then add it to my arsenal for developing believable worlds, stories and characters.

            World building is fun!

Click here to find the charity anthology containing a couple of my short stories.

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If there's any subject you'd like to see me ramble on about, feel free to leave a comment asking me to do so.

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