Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Mortal Sins of Worldbuilding

Worldbuilding is one of the most unsung skills a storyteller can have. When it's done right the reader won't even notice it, except to remark on how cleverly and naturally everything fits together. When worldbuilding is done poorly though it's a "slam the covers and throw the book at a passing nun" kind of offense.

This practice becomes dangerous at the Vatican.
Generally speaking that's something you want to avoid.

So How Do I Avoid Bad Worldbuilding?

Normally this is where I'd launch into an exhaustive list of tips, tricks, and suggestions for how to make your world stand out among the stacks of other popular fictions on the market. However I already covered some of this in this entry all about building Dystopian futures, and Charlie Jane Anders has created this phenomenal guide to the 7 Deadly Sins of Worldbuilding available at io9.

How can you argue with this sweet graphic?
For those of you who didn't click the second link, you seriously should. However the salient sins you need to avoid when it comes to worldbuilding are:

1. Ignoring Infrastructure: You can't save a world when you don't know who picks up the trash.
2. Not Explaining Current Events: Why is plot happening now? Why not 50 years ago/ahead?
3. One-Dimensional Parodies: No characters, especially ethnically derivative ones, may be flat.
4. Monoliths: No one in a party/ethnicity/country feels the same way about everything. Ever.
5. Simple History: Real history is full of happenstance, unfortunate weather, and bad decisions.
6. Soulless Locale: If you can't touch, taste, and smell this place, it will be flat and boring.
7. Follow the Ripples: If people can read minds, then what does that change about a society?

Could I add more to this list? Absolutely! Does more need to be added? No, not really. Anders hits all the high notes and if you follow the advice given your world is going to be a lot more believable. The problem is that once you've built the stage you still have to come up with an interesting story to have play out on it.

An author's work is never done, is it?

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