WorldBuilding and NovelTrimming

January 29, 2013

Cut - before or after you create

Cut – before or after you create

I asked one of my coaching clients for questions about writing she might like to see in a post.

She chose Wordlbuilding as a topic and came up with three things about it. Saying “These are my favorite questions – and ones you don’t see often.”

 What festivals/celebrations do they have, and how often?

 What is their money system like?

 What traditions and ceremonies are involved in weddings and funerals?

Before I go there, think about writing non-genre novels for a moment. If your writing is solid and strong in the storytelling department, you have Plot Points, Inciting Incidents, & Complications you’re dealing with. Clean prose that doesn’t spend a lot of time telling story-facts to the reader. Backstory is only used to forward the story’s plot points, and the character’s reactions and actions.

Would you plan adding festivals or celebrations to your novel?

Go ahead, if they have to do with Settings that reflect your story’s subtext, or Complications to the plot.

Would you plan describing our money system?

Feel free to, if they have to do with characters living in a new country, and conversion is a problem they’re facing.

If you’re writing about weddings and funerals, would you go into depth, writing about the traditions and ceremonies involved?

Okay. As long as you’re writing it in scene and not adding it in narration that only explains story-facts; in Exposition narration.

Don’t know what Exposition is yet? Wiki says:

Exposition can be conveyed through dialogues, through a character’s thoughts, through background details, through in-universe media such as newspaper clippings, trial reports and letters, or through a narrator telling a back-story or by establishing scenes where a character is followed.

 I say, avoid your exposition in narrating story-facts, or by telling your Universe’s ‘backstory’ when it comes to festivals/celebrations, money system, weddings or funerals.

And that brings us right back to Worldbuilding, but I want to talk about it with a side of NovelTrimming.

Worldbuilding takes a great deal of energy. Your mind’s coming up with some unique ways of looking at things. Use that energy in the important bits. Don’t figure out things that aren’t going into those plot points, inciting incidents, and complications.

Let your worldbuilding serve the story you’re writing. That’s why you’re building your world in the first place – to place your story in it. Not the other way around.

Go on and consider writing about the things in our three questions when and if it serves the story you want to tell. Or maybe you’ve already included things just like that in your first draft.

A round of edits might be in your future, trimming down all the wonderful things you’ve created (but possibly only written in exposition narration), so that they DO serve your story.

Want to reach me for 1-on-1 coaching or edits to your manuscript? See my contact info to the right >>


Thanks so much to Karlie for her help sparking this post for me.


6 Responses to “WorldBuilding and NovelTrimming”

  1. Karlie Says:

    Thank you, EJ, for allowing me to help! I love world building. 🙂

  2. Laura Bruno Lilly Says:

    Even using the ‘real world’ in building my story, I have different festivals and such…and I’ve been looking at it all with an eye for ‘does it move the story forward?’ Hard to edit at times, but doing it for the ‘greater good of the story.’ Thanks for the reminder and it helps me to see I am ‘on track’ even if in the ‘real world!’ peace

  3. Would agree entirely with this post and follow this advice in my own writing. But…I was reminded of how the Lord of the Rings came to be. There Tolkien was creating the world first…

    • ejrunyon Says:

      Thanks for commenting. : )
      And, to your point, yes.
      although, remember, Ruth,(and you too, novices) none of my advice is black and white. Do or don’t.
      A story has to be considered, each with its individual needs.
      Looking at the details Tolkien built into his world, He didn’t build a word without wanting to develop his story lines of the themes he meant to discuss therein. The Hobbit or the LOTR were not afterthoughts once his worlds were in existence. They may have been created first – but to what end?
      You’d have to admit, his world told his stories as well as his narration did. And yours can also.
      I doubt his details were ‘built’ in his world without his intention that they contribute to his story’s points, themes, or plot concepts.
      Which is the point of the post’s advice. Worldbuilding is best when it serves your story.

      Please read other posts here, Ruth, I’d love to comment more with you.

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