One of the panels I attended at ConnectiCon was, “World-Building: Crafting a Literary Landscape,” presented by several writers from WordFire Press.
A key takeaway from this panel was the idea that, in order to build a believable world, you have to build in consequences for the characters in that world. We need to be able to see both the reach and the limitations of your world — the things that make it grand and fantastic, as well as the things that keep people on their toes. Your world will feel more real to a reader if they care about these consequences.
Josh Vogt very nicely summed up the “3 C’s” of world-building by saying that all good worlds must:
- Be consistent
- Be complex
- Have consequences
Another point the panel made is the sheer volume of research that must be done in order to build a world. You need to know about EVERYTHING in your world from architecture and politics all the way down to soil and insect science. Yet at the same time, only about 10-20% of this research should actually show in the final product. A key tactic to making this transition smoother is to incorporate a certain degree of familiarity into your setting, thereby cutting down on what needs to be fully explained. Another approach they suggested to tackling setting concepts that are otherwise difficult to explain is to show these concepts in the text through character’s reactions to them.
In addition to being experts in their craft, the presenters were also witty and well-spoken. The panel was so impressive that, despite watching a kid on stilts dressed as Jack Skellington fall off the stage after a fight to the death against Mulan, it remains the highlight of my time at the convention.
While I understand the importance of world-building, I tend to focus more on character development, so my world-building often gets lost in the shuffle. Getting this kind of perspective was an invaluable experience that I’m glad to be able to share with whoever wishes to read. You can find my full notes on the panel here.