Karina Fabian–Six Rules for Worldbuilding

Hi, Karina! Welcome back to Of Werewolves And Other Strangers. Glad you could stop by on your tour for “I Left My Brains in San Francisco.”

Karina Fabian is an award-winning fantasy, science fiction and horror author, whose books make people laugh, cry or think—sometimes all three. Check out her latest at http://fabianspace.com

Karina is back today with some advice for us. Let’s get to it!

One of the best parts of writing science fiction and fantasy is I get to create my own worlds. Ah, yes, the supreme godlike powers—what a rush! However, with great power comes great responsibility. As writers, our worldbuilding responsibility is to the reader—to make the world believable as well as entertaining, so they can let themselves get caught up in the characters an story. Here are six rules for making sure you do just that.

1. Let the story determine how you worldbuild: There have been some stories where the world was more important than the story—Larry Niven’s Ringworld, for example, or perhaps Terry Pratchett’s first Discworld novel—but for the most part, you need to make sure the world is serving the story and not vice-versa.

2. Keep an internal logic: There’s nothing more jarring to a reader than setting up an expectation that the world will work in a certain way, then having your main character violate that when the going gets tough. Readers will swallow the most fantastic things…as long as your characters accept them as natural, and follow the benefits and consequences fo those fantastic aspects themselves.

3. Know how things work together: Actions have consequences. A rule here has a result there. Make sure you understand how things work in your world, especially if you do something different from the world we live in. You don’t need to get too deep into this, however. For example, you do not need to describe gravity as the bending of space-time to know that if you jump off a tall building, you’ll splat when you hit the sidewalk.

4. Stay true to your world–or make the world true to the characters or story: this goes back to internal logic. Think of your world as a character—if you make it do something out of its character, then you need to have a good reason, and you need to set-up why it can do that early on.

5. Check your facts: If you are using a technology that exists today, know what it can or can’t do. If your villain carries a specific gun, know whether or not it can, say, penetrate Kevlar before you have him kill that police officer. If you have a military operation, please don’t depend on how television botches an attack.

6. SHOW, don’t tell about, your world
–Let characters take things for granted
–Explain from the characters point of view
–Use the details that matter.
–The more it matters to the story, the more detail you use.
–If you need to explain, let characters do it–but avoid Q&A or “As you know, Bob..”
–Decide the important details and remove the distracters.

Thanks for your wise words, Karina! Now, let’s see what “I Left My Brains in San Francisco” is all about:

Zombie problem? Call Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator–but not this weekend.

On vacation at an exterminator’s convention, she’s looking to relax, have fun, and enjoy a little romance. Too bad the zombies have a different idea. When they rise from their watery graves to take over the City by the Bay, it looks like it’ll be a working vacation after all.

Enjoy the thrill of re-kill with Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator.

Finally, a little something different. “Are You the Next Zombie Idol”? Damnation Books and Karina are looking for someone to sing the theme song she wrote for “I Left My Brains in San Francisco”. They are offering prizes for the best singer, the most creative audition video, and are giving one in ten entries a copy of the e-book. The details are at http://fabianspace.blogspot.com/p/are-you-next-zombie-idol.html

Thanks again for stopping by, Karina. I wish you all the best with your new book, “I Left My Brains in San Francisco”!

3 Responses to Karina Fabian–Six Rules for Worldbuilding

  • Great rules! I read so many books where one or more are broken, which usually comes about the same time my commitment to reading the book is as well. Coincidence? Not a bit. A writer wants a reader to “fall into” their world, and an inconsistency will kick them right out.

    And no one should EVER use that “As you know, Bob,” dialogue. Recently I ran across a book (one from the Big Six) whose heroine often used this awkward kind of infodump with her sister. She actually said something along the lines of, “As you know, Sue, we’re sisters,” and proceeded from there! Yeek!

    It’s also good to note that not just f/sf novels have to worry about world-building. A novel set in modern-day, normal New York City has its own world to build for its characters to inhabit. A historical novel set in Regency England has a different world to set up. With the f/sf stuff the world-building just tends to be a little more blatant.

  • Great rules! I read so many books where one or more are broken, which usually comes about the same time my commitment to reading the book is as well. Coincidence? Not a bit. A writer wants a reader to “fall into” their world, and an inconsistency will kick them right out.

    And no one should EVER use that “As you know, Bob,” dialogue. Recently I ran across a book (one from the Big Six) whose heroine often used this awkward kind of infodump with her sister. She actually said something along the lines of, “As you know, Sue, we’re sisters,” and proceeded from there! Yeek!

    It’s also good to note that not just f/sf novels have to worry about world-building. A novel set in modern-day, normal New York City has its own world to build for its characters to inhabit. A historical novel set in Regency England has a different world to set up. With the f/sf stuff the world-building just tends to be a little more blatant.

  • Thanks for hosting me today!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *