Insights of the Writes Q&A: World

Hi everyone!! I’m so excited to be bringing you another installment of Insights of the Writes. Today, we have another Q&A, focusing on WORLD. 

On the Google Form that I took these questions from, I asked: What do you want to know about World? — (This can be big scale or small scale! For example, crafting a compelling society, creating political intrigue, making sure the world shapes the character, the world’s technology, etc.)

So…you asked and I answered! Here are 3 splendid questions asked through the form about characters, and my corresponding writing insights. Enjoy!!

How do you create believable worlds without being overwhelmed? (Ash @ Starlight Strands)

I think we’re used to talking about and confronting world as a full grown elephant, so it seems very daunting! But I think we need to take a step back and approach world as a soft, smol kitty.

Think about it. Our life and our world revolve around what we can experience and sense up close. While we all might want to travel around the world in 80 days and get a full sense of this wonderful Earth, it’s not always feasible (even in non pandemic times).

Applying this logic to writing, we need to start small with our characters and their worlds. I would recommend choosing 2-3 aspects of this world you would be most interested in developing, and directly relate it to your character (backstory, growth, motivation, etc.) and the demands of the plot. And just—leave it at that. I’m here to tell you that you do not need to know everything about your world—you simply need to know the few most important things about it and flesh those out. Everything else will be supplemented by your readers.

I feel like that is a piece of advice that you’re rarely see out here—but if my words aren’t enough to convince you, acclaimed author V.E. Schwab (Vicious, Shades of Magic) talks about two types of writers: door writers and window writers. Door writers will try to dictate everything about the room that they lead the reader into, but can easily write themselves into corners because of the intensity and enormity of what they are trying to control. Meanwhile, window writers will provide readers a window into a room, and provide limited information, but that information will be enough for the readers to “infer what they cannot see”. So, it is up to the author to make that limited information exceedingly relevant to the characters and plot.

Pro tip: Try factoring in the character’s strengths and flaws to help you. If your character is an artist, have your world either emphasize creatives or ridicule imagination, to either advance or hinder your character. So we’re basically advocating for more depth, less breadth NOT more breadth, less depth.

I would like to know more about creating secret societies and political intrigue. (Cari @ All Creatures Great and Small)

Check out yesterday’s post for political intrigue!

For secret societies, I think they can be used in really impactful ways if they twist the plot in a believable way or affect a character’s surety of their place in their world. Secret societies are the joker in a deck of cards. Unexpected, unpredictable, but most importantly, believable.

To create a good secret society, approach it almost like a mystery—because they’re supposed to be secret, and secrets are mysteries (see where I’m going with this logic?). I recommend using a healthy dose of foreshadowing, red herrings that lead astray in order to drop clues of the society’s existence, and ominous name droppings like “The Teacher” or “The Priest”. This will plant seeds of intrigue, but the reader will not step on the flower that will eventually bloom, because they were either consciously or subconsciously aware of its early existence.

I truly want to know how world-building authors are capable of coming up with so many names and cultures? Where do you take inspiration from? Is there a secret trick you use to help? (Millay @ Millay’s Musings)

Coming up with a unique culture is incredibly difficult. But drawing influences from your own culture, or even others, is a perfectly good way to create your own. However, do keep in mind that research (especially for cultures that are not your own) should never be neglected, and a thorough understanding of at least a part of that culture would be best.

You may often see books tagged as a “West African fantasy” or “influenced by Chinese culture” or “inspired by Indian folklore”. Authors of fantasies in particular like to blend elements from their culture with the magic system they have designed—to a beautiful effect.

When it comes down to it, research really is needed to develop a strong culture. Even if your characters are traveling to a marketplace or visiting a palace, those details of the setting are what can really immerse and ground your readers and lend even more believability to your world. You may also want to read other books that have been applauded by the people of cultures it is representing for an insight into how other authors approach the weaving of culture within their narratives.

For coming up with names, symbolism is a big factor to consider. For example, if you want to name an object that can manipulate the weather, try looking up names that have meanings akin to that and try a few out. There are also a lot of fantasy name generators out there, although I generally avoid using them, not because they aren’t good, but because I prefer coming up with names on my own!

And…that’s a wrap!!

A big thank you to Ash, Cari, and Millay for your amazing questions, I enjoyed answering them, and hope that you and everyone else reading were able to take away some key insights!! 

I hope you all have a lovely week! Stay safe, healthy, and happy!

17 Comments

  1. I really loved reading this, and I agree to everything you said!! Especially that bit about world building – it’s the small things that matter the most! As for character names, when I write I usually do have a rough idea about what my main character’s names are. I also have a habit of combing world maps to look for place names that can be used as character names I don’t know if anyone else does that😊 there’s also a website called behind the name where names are categorized by their country so it’s very helpful if you want to write about different cultures!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Jan! And for leaving your lovely comment 💕 Small things are definitely fun to incorporate, especially as they are easier to grasp and relate to for readers (and indicates character familiarity). Same, the main characters’ names generally come quite quickly for me, although with this current WIP, it changed around quite a bit hehe. Ooh that’s so interesting, how you look for place names that can be used as character names! I think I actually did that once before when I was working on my own version of a series I loved. I should think about doing it again, it’d be lots of fun!! I think I’ve heard of Behind the Name before but it does seem helpful, I’ll definitely look into it!! Thanks again and I hope you’re having a lovely day!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Those were all such great answers to those questions!! I have been thinking about how I should approach some world building for a story idea I have and these were some good tips! Thx!
    *hugs
    -kaelyn 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sophie! Thank you so much for stopping by. I’m glad you enjoyed reading this! I think it’s a really important piece of advice, to focus on just a few elements of the world, because it allows for so much more depth and freedom on the reader’s part! Hence the V.E. Schwab analogy of providing a “window” into a room. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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