World Building: can you have too much of a good thing?

I know this is going to surprise you, but I played Dungeons and Dragons. I will pause to let you collect yourself from the shock. You back?

I feel it was my enjoyment of D&D that really sparked my creative side. I would spend hours reading the different module and guide books, reading the background of every character and monster they contained. My character was not just a collection of numbers and item lists, I wrote backstory and history.

creationI also remember being drawn more to the role of dungeon master than adventurer. I would find joy in drawing maps of dungeons, castles or wildernesses. Place that my adventures would need to go in order to get the prize set before them. I populate these maps with the characters and monster that I read about, I would even invite some of my own if the perfect obstacle was not to be found in a book. I spent more time planning out an adventure than my friends and I actually spent playing it.

It was that love of world building that led me to other areas of creativity. I was constantly making my own board games, Marvel Risk anyone? I even made a Dragon’s Lair board game were I drew all of the screens and the player had to choose which way to go and their decision would reveal a new drawing.

Eventually I turned to comic books, both writing and drawing them. I then moved on to computer games. All along the way I would write stories. So naturally I am now committing myself to writing novels.

Finding an outlet for my creative mind has been awesome. I feel like there is an unlimited canvas for me to paint my mind’s images on and invite others to enjoy them with me. I have no limitations on what I can write about or who I can write about.

All this freedom is causing a problem for me. When I start world building I can’t stop. My mind wants to fill in every aspect of the world in which my characters live. From the room they are in to the galaxy that holds them, my mind wants to put it all down in words so that my readers will want for no detail. But I am finding that this is slowing down my story telling. Isn’t the world just the setting to tell the story? Isn’t the story the reason we write?

I also find that once I have stopped creating one world another pops into my head and I want to start building that one. I have at least six worlds in outline form waiting for me to send adventures through them. My hope is that I can focus on the world I have built for my NaNoWriMo story and ignore the others for the month of November. Please tell me I am not alone with this affliction. If you find world building distracting you from story telling, how do you turn it off long enough to tell about the characters that inhabit it.

Well, I am off to try and complete my WIP before November starts, and I’ll tell you what, the world of my current WIP is cool. There are so many stories I could tell about the people and culture that it seems a shame to tell only one…

Until next time…

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2 thoughts on “World Building: can you have too much of a good thing?

  1. I think everyone is scrambling to finish their work in progress before Nov.
    I also have a tendency to like world building and since most of my books are in the romance genre I have to be very careful to prune out anything that isn’t absolutely vital to the story.
    My first novel, Educating Autumn, takes place in a futuristic dystopian society where there are three continents Josiathan (patriarichy), Pacifican (matriarichy) and Retois (the leader in technology and a country that doesn’t have gender roles). Early in the book I had five chapters I had to cut out because I needed my characters to get on stage together ASAP and the five chapters were mostly world exploring. I had my hero go to a University on Retois so he could compare it’s society to Josiathan which is where he and Autumn lived. It was so fun. But, I had to cut it all in order not to slow down the pace.
    I think how much world building you can get away with depends on the genre you are writing in. In romance you can’t get away with as much as with sci-fi.
    With your current WIP could you make it into a series? I am planning on doing a few more books that take place on my different continents so that I can take the readers exploring the places we didn’t get to journey the first time.
    Sorry for the super long reply.
    Keep up the great work.

    1. I am in danger of making all my books into Jack Reacher length series 🙂

      The funny part is that I started this WIP as something to pass the time until NaNo, never intended it to become something I am enjoying so much.

      But the story I have plotted for NaNo is more my style and I am looking forward to it too much to not start it in November. We’ll see how it works out.

      Reply away, never cut yourself short if you have something to say, I don’t charge by the word to read 🙂

      If your signed up for NaNo make sure to add me as a writing buddy, I would like to see how you are doing in November.

      http://nanowrimo.org/participants/arphaxad

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