Thursday, September 25, 2014

Brandon Sanderson on Worldbuilding

by Jill Williamson

I'm sure many of you have seen this picture. I promise this is the LAST you will see or hear of it, in 2014, anyway. Mwa ha ha!

Today's quote is for all you spec fiction writers out there. Brandon Sanderson, who is so adept at worldbuilding, says that speculative fiction stories are about characters, yet worldbuilding is what sets them apart. So if you write spec fiction, you must have strong, compelling characters. That is vital to your storytelling. But your worldbuilding is what sets your book apart from all the others. It's what makes your story so very different from all the others.



I think that is awesome. If you're building a world, what kind of world is it? How have you set yourself apart from other books?

21 comments:

  1. That's a true quote. I'm writing a fantasy novel and you really have to know your characters. You're dropping the reader into an entirely new world and he/she has to have something in that world to connect with that will keep them there. My present WIP is the first manuscript I've written in a long time that I feel like I know my characters and they have their own voice.

    I'm trying to build a world that is magic, but most of the magic (except for certain types) is grounded in technology.

    To the second question, keeping clichés away is how I'm trying to set my work apart. I was reading a novel several weeks ago that had a moment like, "Wow. That was about to be so cliché... and then the author completely turned it around." It was awesome and very inspiring to me that you can make a cliché something fresh and exciting. :)

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    1. That's awesome, Linea! Thanks for sharing that. :-)

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  2. I LOVE world building! On my current WIP, I started with the setting, and I was able to create all the main characters in two days because I was able to create their backstories with ease.

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  3. I've been building a fantasy medieval world populated by anthropomorphic rodents. It was really fun to create alternate transport using only rodents, so for example instead of horses they rode chinchillas, and one country uses capybaras like you would war elephants.

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    1. that sounds awesome!

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    2. Much agreed. :) It seems kind of similar to the Redwall series, but with an original twist (just rodents instead of all types of animals). Creating alternate transportation sounds like fun. Happy writing!

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    3. I decided look at your blog after posting the above comment. You have done a *lot* of work on your worldbuilding! I do maps as well, just not as large and detailed!

      Have you started writing yet, or are you just worldbuilding for the moment?

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    4. Thank you. :) I haven't started writing yet, but I have written out a synopsis.

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  4. World building is so fun! My fantasy is medival-ish. One of my new WIP is futuristic. It's also inspired by cyberpunk. I've been wanting to do a book with lots of technology and such for a long time now :)

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  5. Aw, this is lovely! I'm world building for fantasy, currently...and really looking forward to picking up your book!

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  6. My WIP is set in a fantasy world called Ganoria. When my FMC, a servant girl, embarks on her quest to the throne, she must call on the ancient creatures on her people to help her. One of these is a Diaji, a species of three-eyed, flying, talking reptiles who seem fierce but are really very gentle.
    The other strange thing in my story is that the invaders (including MC's owner) are glowing white people with wings. Don't know what to call them yet, though. :-)
    That, and my FMC is a giantess. It runs in her blood.
    How do you go about naming fantasy people/creatures/places??
    Thanks for the great post!!!!
    B

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    1. :O That just sounds severely awesome. For my current fantasy WIP I used Latin for naming many places, and for names I kind of used ones that fitted where they lived. So for example characters that live by the sea end up with nautical-ish names.

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    2. I translated a name that means gentle into my FMC's native tongue and came up with Diaji...

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    3. A name that means gentle+ FMC's native tongue= Diaji :-)
      Sounds awesome!!
      B

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    4. That is all very awesome, Anon. As to naming things... I wrote some about that in last weeks creature post. Did you see it? Here is the link: http://goteenwriters.blogspot.com/2014/09/creating-creatures-for-your-novel.html

      But here is what I said:

      NAMING CREATURES

      First, and most importantly, keep it simple. You want readers to be able to remember the name and be able to pronounce it.

      The name should feel right. Don’t name a beautiful bird a slithlop because slithlop sounds slimy and heavy and slow. Names can give readers hints about the creature. One would expect a timber gator would live in trees. You might also be able to give a name that fits the animal’s personality or paints a picture in the reader’s mind. Andrew Peterson is great at this with his bumpy digtoads, snickbuzzards, and toothy cows. Or you could combine animal types like Peterson’s ratbadger.

      Play with the obvious. Make a list of describing words for how your animal looks, sounds, or behaves. I did this with two creatures in my Kinsman project: the bluegem beetle; and lightworms, which glow like jellyfish. You could also combine description with an animal type, like furry pigs or red-beaked hawks.

      Foreign languages can be an easy way to come up with names. I used Hebrew for many of my fantasy words in my Blood of Kings trilogy, and for some of the animals I simply looked up the word. If you use this approach, you might have to vary the spelling to make it easier to pronounce.

      Be consistent with the tone of your world. It would be strange to use French names for creatures if you used Inupiat-style names for everything else in your story. Unless you’re choosing names purposely to match different cultures.

      Always Google any foreign or made up words just to make sure that the word doesn’t have some strange or offensive meaning.

      If you get stuck, you could try some of the online name generators. I’ve never used a name straight from a name generator, but I have played with them and been inspired. So it might be worth a peek if you’re at your wits end.

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  7. I do work with Norse mythology and so have to deal with nine worlds instead of just one. I have nine different races all with different customs. One custom is that in one world they don't shake hands, they put their hand on the weapon.

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  8. I'm not sure how good I am at worldbuilding, but I do have an idea for a story set in a fantasy world with magic. The idea is that those with magic are corrupt and their blood is tainted. There's more to it, and it still needs a lot of work, but I think I could pull it off! Thanks for the post!

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    1. You're welcome! Sounds like a neat idea, Ally.

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  9. This is such an inspiring and challenging quote. Especially since my work in progress definitely has speculative elements, but is set in a fictional city in our world. Developing its uniqueness has been such a journey for me.

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    1. I can't wait to read that uniqueness, Shannon!

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