After going to see The Hobbit (the first time) I was filled with the inspiration of Middle Earth, fantasy and new worlds. I came home, looked at my fantasy novel and considered the world it was set in. I started thinking about world building.
World building is basically the make up of a fantasy world; the religions, languages, history, geography, topography, etc. Creating maps is a big part of writing fantasy and something I used to do when the Lord of the Ring films introduced me to the beautiful epic world of fantasy. But I quickly got bored.
The novel I’m currently working on is set in a city and the surrounding area. Other cities are mentioned, politics is hinted at as is the history but I don’t go into great depth. Why not? Honestly? Because it bores me.
When reading a fantasy with a great deal of world building (G.R.R. Martin and Tolkien for example) I tend to skip over the long descriptions of landscape, family coats of arms and ancestry and things of historic importance. World building, for me, should come across through the story.
Take Terry Pratchett’s Discworld as an example. I have never looked at a Discworld map, nor am I bothered learning about Discworld folklore but I love reading about the different cultures and religions and cities through the characters and their stories.
I’m just not interested in where the mountains are in a world. I’m not too fussed about languages. But I am interested in different cultures. What I fell in love with when watching The Hobbit was the culture of the dwarfs. Their songs, their beliefs, their history and backgrounds and how that had shaped their characters.
I haven’t read The Hobbit yet. It’s next on my list. I have, however, read about it. The main impression I’ve gotten from Tolkien fans online is that Peter Jackson has developed and expanded The Hobbit characters more than Tolkien did through his novel. In my review of The Hobbit: An unexpected Journey I mentioned that not all thirteen dwarfs were fully developed. It sounds like none of them were fully developed in the novel (I would hope with the exception of Thorin). Now I’m a little worried. I love the thirteen dwarfs in the film, for me it’s why the film was such a triumph. I wonder if having the dwarf culture but a lack of character in the novel will leave me with the same rush.
So after creating a template document with which to create my fictional world complete with map, I got bored and decided I didn’t need it. Not all fantasies require the world to be complete. My hope is that readers will be able to learn enough of my world through the story and the characters without need for maps and long descriptive prose.
I have been thinking about a short appendix or using short stories to build on the history and therefore add to the world building but I still cannot help that I find serious world building incredibly boring.
At the moment I’m planning on making my current novel into a trilogy. Maybe if it were to continue into a series the world would be built as I write more but at the moment I’m happy to leave blanks where it is unimportant to the plot. I hope that my future readers will be happy with this too.
Saying all that, I still can’t help but worry that I’m missing a trick. Will my lack of interest in world building will be my downfall as a fantasy writer?