Wednesday, September 08, 2010
Now I'm working on the third draft of the ongoing, I have to keep in mind the cardinal rule of world-building: details are useful only if they have some kind of interaction or intersection with the protagonist, which is to say, something to do with the narrative. In science fiction novels, as in fantasy and historical fiction, nothing should be taken for granted, of course. Otherwise the novel will suffer from the flattening effect of genre: of sharing too much stock furniture with other, similar fictions. So there’s a temptation to tip in explanations for everything, to show that you’ve built your world from the ground up. But good world building always implies more than’s on the page. You want to make your protagonist's world as vivid as possible, to highlight all that's strange and unique; but you don't want to bury the story in endless detail and explanation. So unless it's something the protagonist notices, something he has to deal with, something he wants or needs or something that can help him get what he needs, and so on, it's extraneous. It's plumbing. You know it’s there, but unless it goes wrong you don’t need to worry about it.