Worldbuilding Part 2 / by Matthew Marchitto

A lot of worldbuilding happens on the backstage of the story. The amount that is actually shown to the audience is usually pretty minimal. Maybe that’s the most effective way of communicating aspects of the world. To let there be some mystery, some questions that the reader has to answer themselves. 

That means what they imagine compared to what you imagine won’t always be the same, but that’s okay. It’s for the better. There is a line where too little is communicated, and sometimes I think I tow this line, and then there isn’t enough information for the reader to even come close to answering those questions. In most cases, that’s the author’s fault. There’s only so much a reader can infer before the author is expecting too much of them. The reader can’t be inside our head. 

This is something I have particular difficulty with. When it comes time to slap in some exposition, because sometimes exposition is the best way to communicate worldbuilding elements, I get all sniffly and sneezy like I’m allergic to the “dreaded” Infodump. 

There are certain ways to try and slip worldbuilding elements throughout the story like little clues dotting a landscape. Ideally, each of these would join together to make a full image. Trying to balance the two is where the difficulty comes in. Knowing what is best to just come out and say, and what can be communicated through background hints, isn’t easy.  

And the inevitable reality is that a good portion of all that worldbuilding will never see the light of day (unless you’re writing a long running series). It’s still good to have though. 

I’m still trying to figure out how to communicate elements without bogging down the narrative, but making sure not to be too sparse and confuse the reader. Sometimes I forget that a lot of this stuff in my head isn’t being translated to the page the way I think it is. (And that’s one of many reasons why it’s always good to have a pair of fresh eyes read your manuscript. They’ll let you know when shit doesn’t make sense.) 

Do you have any books recommendations that have great worldbuilding?

Edit (February 25, 2019): This series is about the things that I've learned, or am learning, about worldbuilding. It's me trying to level up my craft, and documenting the process. These posts represent my personal approach to worldbuilding, and the way I do it might not be right for you. I'm not an authority on writing, and so everything in these posts should be taken with not only a grain of salt, but a heaping bucket of saline.