World building is one of my favorite things to do. I really enjoy thinking about the interplay of various systems, be it the food web, inter-country economies or planetary alignments.
Half of what I ponder on and set down is probably entirely extraneous and will never be needed, or useful, and that’s ok. I enjoy it, and one thing I have definitely learned on this journey so far is that pleasing and amusing myself first is critical to continuing to write anything at all, let alone improve.
I think it’s inevitable that people will always give advice. We are a species designed to impart information to others around us for a myriad of reasons, and we all have a unique perspective on the world built from our own experiences.
Advice is important, and it can be super useful. But. (And this is the big but). It isn’t always useful.
I was brought up being told ‘you should always at least listen to advice, its free, and you don’t have to take it.’ And that, of course, was good advice. But writing seems to have a lot of bad advice floating around about it.
A lot of the problem, I believe, is the internet. The anonymity of the Web means there is no consequence attached to how one says things to others, and this has led to some very caustic tones online to what I experienced in the real world as I grew up.
We now have a situation where you can find ‘advice’ on any topic in the world, but rather than being couched in terms of personal experience with room for ‘different strokes for different folks’, we find instead ‘this is how it is, and if you disagree or do it different to me, you’re wrong’.
Perhaps I have just been unlucky in who and what I have come across. Perhaps my brain is just wired different, and the current climate is non-conducive. Whatever the case, my experience with advice for writing hasn’t been good and nearly made me give up entirely, until I started rationalizing my rebuttals and finding the joy in creating again.
World Building Advice
So, what has that little rant above got to do with world-building, which is where I started?
Yesterday, I came across a forum discussion on cliches. This is one area of ‘advice’ and personal experience I do enjoy listening to others on because a lot more rationale tends to get bandied about for why people feel the way they do.
There were some good comments on there, some very valid points, and some things I didn’t agree with. It was a good time all around, time well spent.
The conversation descended on about page three to talk about world building. It started with comments about lots of High Fantasy settings having ‘too many rivers’ with no sources and meandered through talk about economies and even plate tectonics.
I enjoyed it, but it woke up one of my deep fears with my own setting.
I am not a geography expert. I passed geography with good grades, I like volcanology and seismology as an amateur enthusiast (emphasis on the amateur), but I am not a subject matter expert.
There’s a damn good chance huge parts of my world do not make sense by conventional geographic logic. Some of it is on purpose because aether changes certain areas of the planet very much by design, but other areas are going to be entirely, irrevocably by my own oversight.
And I have an irrational fear of having that pointed out.
It’s a very silly thing. No one person can be a genius in all fields, and there’s a strong argument to be made that good writing lifts you away from such minor problems so you don’t notice them anyway. But it is something I think about, and can very much cause me to get bogged down in minutiae that just doesn’t matter.
So, is there a point to my wittering today? Well, not as such. I still find advice to be a very hit and miss affair, and good advice can bring its own problems when you want to take it, and listen to what the advisor has to say.
Still, stating concerns and feelings aloud can help to handle them, and while I’m sure Hevna will never be perfect, I still can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing. Mis-placed rivers and all.