Welcome to this week’s third craft post. If you haven’t checked since Monday or even longer, we have started a new sub-series. It was supposed to be only two parts, now it is three. You can find the first two posts in our sub-series History here. The first was posted this past Wednesday as a treat for not posting a wrap-up to Religion sub-series last Friday. The second was posted Friday as part of our regular post. This is all part of a long several month series on Worldbuilding that is being broken down into sub-series since it is such a huge topic. You can find all the posts so far under the Worldbuilding link in the toolbar.

When you are dealing with kind of information that isn’t a part of the present narration of your story, it is very tricky. Not finding that perfect balance of enough to ground the events going on, to give the sense that there is a past, versus, not enough backstory, is something that comes with writing. I will never say there is too much backstory, just too much at one time. New writers like to info-dump the whole backstory so the reader is up to speed. Luckily, that is not our problem we need to worry about, but at the same time, it is.

The Too Damn Much… Not Enough applies to worldbuilding, just like it applies to characters and every other part of writing. You can never have enough backstory for a character, or world. You just need to be aware of that most of it will never see the light of day. Well, unless you write an Almanac of your world. Let’s look at these two problems in turn.

Not Enough

Not enough, I can’t tell you how many times I have read in writing books, blogs, forums, videos from published authors who say you need to have three-dimensional characters, a living world, etc. This is something that comes with time and experienced to realize this for some. New writers are so interested in their story that they don’t ever think about fleshing out the backstory. “Oh, it will come out as I write the story.” Is a common saying. For experienced writers, like Stephen King. Absolutely it will. Newer writers, probably not. If it does, it is very little and not enough to ground the events of what is going on. Also, there isn’t enough to make us feel like this world existed before the story began.

This problem I feel is more of a problem Organic or Seat of your Pants writers face. They want to discover the story as they go, which is great if that is how you do it. However, if you write like this, you need to spend time unearthing the events leading up to your story as well.

Two Damn Much

“How is too much backstory, history a problem? You just said there is never too much.” I did. That is also, my personal opinion. When I say, too much history is a problem I referring to Worldbuilding Disease. “What is Worldbuilding Disease?”  Good question. Here are some symptoms:

  • A neglect of writing the novel in favor of writing about the world and its history.
  • Information dumping upon a reader.
  • Obsession with irrelevant facts.

I am all for, fully fleshed out storyworlds with great histories and details that go beyond a summary of events. However, there is a point when you need to stop working on the world and write your story. Why do some writers fall into this trap? We can thank Tolkien for it. Everyone loves Lord of the Rings and Middle Earth. It such so well fleshed out that, we all think we need to have a story world just like his. Not so. If that is something you want to do, then, by all means, do it. Just note, you will more than likely never write your story. You will always find something else about the world you need to work on.

Tolkien didn’t have Worldbuilding Disease. How do I know this? Simple, he wrote four books before really fleshed out his worlds. Yes, he had parts of this world well formed, and spent many years working on Middle Earth between the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. After those, he went back and continued working.

Outliners are more than likely the ones who fall into this trap. What needs to be done is pick areas of the storyworlds they like and fully develop those areas. Tolkien liked languages, cultures, and maps. What do you like about worldbuilding, pick a few focus on those areas and summarize other areas you may not be so keen about. You can always come back and continue fleshing out your world once you have written your story.

Conclusion

History is an essential part of worldbuilding and can be one of the hardest parts. Starting with the history of the story you plan to write is always a good starting point. It gives you a place work too. Going from the events of your story history and backtracking or working from the beginning to their is a way to flesh out the rest of the world. Just remember that there is too much or not enough when it comes to history. One makes your world seem not real while the other may, but no one will ever know since you will more than likely never write your story.

That’s all I have for history. Check back on Friday for the start of another sub-series. I think the topic will be around civilizations. Also, check in on Monday for my Weekly Writing Wrap-up.

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