Thursday Thoughts: Universal Worldbuilding

I remember sitting on a panel at a writer’s conference one time. Most of the audience was comprised of new writers–either just published or still waiting. One of the questions asked by the moderator was: Which is most important–characters , plot, or worldbuilding? I thought it was a dumb question but the answers before mine were surprising. The mystery writer said plot. That was sort of d’uh but at the same time, if your “dectective” is simply a cipher or two-dimensional, readers won’t stick around. The romance writer said characters. This is true the conflict and character arc in a romance is important. I bet you won’t be surprised that the fantasy author said it was all about the worldbuilding. Then it was my turn and everyone was tuned in, waiting to see which would get my vote because with 4 authors and 3 choices, one was going to get twice as many votes. I fooled them. My replay? All of them are equally importqant. Boy, that opened the flood gates. Lots of discussion and arguments and I sat back and rolled my eyes, which made the audience laugh. Finally, the others glared at me and demanded I explain myself. So I did. Charactes do not exist in a void. No matter the genre, they have to LIVE somewhere. And with no plot, the story is boring. That said, when I encouter an author who is particular well-versed in combining all three, I am in awe. This is especially evident in long-running series. The plot foreshadowing in book 3 that comes to fruition in book 10? Bloody brilliant. The minor character introduced in book 1 who becomes a major player in book 6? Again, brilliant. And what holds all that together? What is the base of the story and the characters? The world created by the author. And yes, I did end up teaching a class on this at another writer’s conference. The Universe sums it up rather well, IMO.

True brilliance, Silver, is not a function of understanding one’s view of the world and finding order, logic, and spirituality in it. True brilliance is understanding that your view of order, logic, and spirituality is what created your world.

You can change anything and everything.

Shape Shifting 101,
The Universe

Oh, Silver, reality is such a trip…

As a writer, you need to create such a reality for your characters and plot. You need to create characters that react with the reality of their world in a way that is…real. And you want a world that creates such a reality for the other two. As a reader, I get lost in books where the author has melded all three into such a reality. I’m thinking about this today because I’m doing a marathon relisten of Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series. She is a master in both this series and her Guildhunter/Archangel series. The wife/husband team known as Ilona Andrews does the same with the Kate Daniels series. I’m always amazed when it happens to–and sadly, usually by accident rather than intent. Sort of. I figure my subconscious brain knows something I don’t so when something I wrote back in book 1 pops up and is important in book 5? I mean…talk about a light bulb moment! Now, I just need to figure out how to do it consciously because that would be an awesome reality for a writer like me.


About Silver James

I like walks on the wild side and coffee. Lots of coffee. Warning: My Muse runs with scissors. Author of several award-winning series--Moonstruck, Nightriders MC, The Penumbra Papers, and Red Dirt Royalty (Harlequin Desire) & other books! Purveyor of magic, mystery, mayhem and romance. Lots and lots of romance.
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1 Response to Thursday Thoughts: Universal Worldbuilding

  1. Yep, yep, yep. The subconscious does some weird and amazing things. I think most writers are gifted with an amazing subconscious. And I doubt most writers who drop something in book 1 that works perfectly in book 6 knew ahead of time that was what they were going to do. Or maybe it’s just me. I didn’t consciously plan for what happened in WHTF, but the things that happened in the first three books seemed to all come together in the fourth, like I planned it. When I dropped Ned into FG, I never guessed he would get his own book. I usually have no conscious clue of what’s going to happen in any of my books or series. That’s the magic of writing. Nothin’ up my sleeve… Presto! For me, looking too closely at the magic makes it go away. It’s no longer magical, it’s just words on a page – flat and lifeless. And about as exciting as reading a dictionary. (Or, like I said, maybe it’s just me.)

    Anyway…. You’ve got that magic. Keep sprinkling that shit everywhere.

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