Details: The Power to Make or Break Worlds


I’m feeling a need to expand on last week’s post about worldbuilding. Specifically, I mentioned how my worldbuilding lies in details.

But details have a double edge. On one hand, they make the world real, visceral, believable. On the other hand, they can break that believability.

How details can break your world:

  1. Inconsistency. In a series, I’ve seen character names change from one book to the next with no explanation or acknowledgment. I want to throw something when a static element – say, the properties of a plant – change in the same way. (Sure, these things can change, but not without some acknowledgment of the shift in established status quo.)
  2. Too much. Some people can read pages upon pages of battle strategies, or gardening minutiae, or the inner workings of complex machinery. These people are rare and I am not one of them. I have put books down because of this and never returned.
  3. Incorrect. If you are telling readers something specific Рlike that complex machinery, or the science of magic Рmake sure you get it right. Explaining the mechanics of a thing offers many dangers, and sometimes a lack of explanation becomes less distracting.
  4. Too little. Don’t just dump your characters on a blank stage and expect the readers to fill in the blanks. Without touchstones, you’ll lose us. Besides which, things that differ from our own reality require some level of explanation.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I’d love your input! Please share the worldbuilding elements that break you out of a story!

Despite this list, I still stand by what I said last week: details make the world for me. I love the mundane details that show me how the story-world differs from my reality, that makes the world on the page a multi-dimensional experience.


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