Worldbuilding is essential to speculative fiction and other genres as well. If we cannot create a plausible, yet fantastical world for our story to live in, we risk losing the attention of our audience. However, there is a strong tendency out there to focus more on building up the fictional world than to write a compelling story. We look at the masters of fiction we admire and say, “I want to write something like that.”
I’m no different. Since I was a teen, I’ve admired the worldbuilding of Frank Herbert for his Dune series. What I (and probably other fledgling writers) have to remember is Herbert had been writing published fiction for almost TWO DECADES before he wrote the first Dune novel.
Developing character backstories are also essential while writing fiction. We research and write the elements of a character’s backstory for important reasons. It helps us learn what motivates people. It informs realistic choices in the character’s story. It lends additional writing experience. To a point, it even helps us get closer to finishing our stories.
But never, not even once, assume that this information is vital to the story.
The most important things to remember about back story are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting.
― Stephen King
The goal of writing fiction is to provide words that will hopefully enlighten and entertain our readers. If we can attain those two things, we’ve done our job as writers.
What we have to do to tell a compelling story, at least in the beginning, is narrow our scope and vision. Work in worlds that we understand more intuitively. Write characters who’s motivations we can easily comprehend. By all means, create amazing, incredible worlds and histories for characters. Just don’t do that at the expense of finishing things.
“Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.”
― Neil Gaiman
All those arguments aside, try writing backstory and worldbuilding as exercises in storytelling. Tell the story of a character’s past. Tell a story of an event that helped forge the world into what is is today. I’ve done some of this, and would never share the results with anyone. Still, I think it has aided in my quest to become a better writer.
Thanks for reading, all! There probably won’t be an installment of Rue From Ruin this week. Allergies have really bogged me down recently. I promise to have it to you as soon as possible.
Please enjoy this GIF as compensation: