World Building: An Insight from Both Sides

So I finally got that feedback I was hoping for and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact I was floored by how much I got, all of it useful. I shared it with my ePublisher and I think he had an epiphany. But lemme back up one quick sec.

I’m about to expose my weaknesses as a writer and storyteller but I want this to a statement that I’m open to feedback and direction, that I’m eager to learn, not just be told I’m fantastic over and over. While compliments are great (and appreciated), they more motivate me to keep working hard and let me know I’m doing something right, instead of groping in the dark.

“For being a 18 year old production it’s quite good. Now, I can’t really write you row by row or page by page what I didn’t like. 1st I don’t have time, 2nd I really don’t have time. So let me point out major points.

***WORLDS BUILDING ***

Considering that in your book each world has been created by a different god, I’d expect that when you go to different worlds life would not resemble much that on Earth. Why is the sky of the same color (is the atmosphere the same composition of azote and oxygen)? Why is there the same gravity, green trees or grass? Why do people need to drink water as well and as much as here? How many moons are there? How does that influence the world (tides, hair-growth, mating habits)?

The culture for example. I suppose you’ve been born and bred in america. There’s not much of a variation in culture when changing world in your book. Ok, some people live in a city surrounded by wall in hot temperature, and in the other world cat-like people live in little “clan-like” villages. You could find this without even leaving USA….

Considering each world creatures, if feels to me like you’ve kept the tipical american guy/girl and just added a tail or a cat-like feature. Do they have the same xy cromosomes? Do they procreate the same as here? Are their internal organ the same as ours? If you consider just earth, there are so many different cultures like, for most of usa monogamy is a must (one man – one woman) where there’s poliandria (one woman more men) like in some areas of Africa and Tibet or poligamia (one man more woman) like in most Muslim areas.

What if they have only females and they get pollinated by breathing? What if they need to have three sexes to have children born? What if they’re like snails that both partners are at the same time male and female? What if it’s a world without any earth (only air) and it’s all flying creatures?

**ROMANCE**

I suppose I don’t have to tell you much about the romance, now that you’ve grown up and you’ve had more emotional experience you might already know what’s wrong with it. I wouldn’t change much the behaviour of the heroine (who better than your 18yo american girl person can describe the 17yo character behaviour?). But why would the 3200 years old man behave like a horny 20 yo guy? Especially considering that she looks like the only woman he’d ever loved? Wouldn’t he hate her in the beginning? Wouldn’t he avoid her for that reason? Wouldn’t he see her like a very very young little girl?

**EVIL GOD**

About the evil characters…. while I don’t expect gods (neither did the greeks btw) to be really mature, I would expect an evil god to be a little more complex than “I want to destroy all your worlds because you didn’t let me have my own…” spoiled-child attitude. And if you want to follow the spoiled child god, how did it happen? Where was his father? And what about his mother? And how the all-knowing good god became father of such a spoiled brat?

What about his minions? All that.

Anyway, I found this list a while ago and it made me quite smile and also think at how difficult it is nowadays to build a good evil lord, people are quite jaded, and the usual mistakes of a overlord must be well explained. (The Top 100 Things I’d Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord)

**TEMPO (rythm, breath, call it what you like) **

This is quite personal. That means that everyone has a different tempo they like or not. The tempo of your story, for me is way off.

Take for example about location 3785, it’s the beginning of the race, the two walk to the start line get a hug, discuss something, walk some more, see loads of people and flags, find support character and sons, stretch, discuss politics of race organizing, meet god… It takes like 30 pages, most of it is useless to the storyline, but at the same time it’s useless to describe the world. What’s written on the flags? why would you spend an entire paragraph describing a hug?

*** Shortening up everything ***

Most of your writing style is based on the concept “two short phrases is better as than a long one”. While that is a valid general rule (especially for italian writers *sigh*), as a result your book is almost twice as long than it could be, and most of your phrases have the complexity of a 6yo what-did-I-do-last-weekend composition.

Example, you write, “They caught up with Yayu nead the starting line, which lay between the village and the Oromo River. The starting area was packed tighter than a pickle jar.” You could have written. “The starting area, which lay between the village and the Oromo River, was packed tighter than a pickle jar.” Or instead of repeating twice pennants here: “What Roxie could see of the dirt race route was lined with colorful pennants atop tall poles. The pennants waved about in the breeze.” Instead: “What Roxie could see of the dirt race route was delimited with colorful pennants that waved in the breeze atop tall poles.”

The continuos repetition is redundant and really tiring after a while.

***DIALOGUE***

All character talk the same. Everyone talk slang American, but there’s no different accent, different inflection. All dialogues are flat and quite “obvious”. Shouldn’t old people talk differently than young people? Shouldn’t people with a lot of culture express themselves with more difficult words and kids with easier words? I understand that aigis have some kind of power that translate automatically from one language to their birth one, but shouldn’t they at least feel some inflection? If the mouth of a cat is made differently, I would expect cat-people to have problems pronouncing certain letters, like “r” or “g”… Chinese people cannot pronounce the R, even after years of studying occidental languages… And do try to get a Brazilian to feel the difference between b and v…

***LANGUAGES ***

Again I understand this magic of universal translation, but…

Take earth for example. When you translate from Italian to English, which are both languages that evolved mostly from Latin, there are many words that are the same or similar, but there are words that are untranslatable from one language to the other (like “it”). Some concept cannot be translated from one language to the other. If we go from English to I don’t know, any non-Latin language, like Inuit language for example, the cold and continuous winter are influencing the language. Like the classic example, they have 20 different terms to say snow. Some african desert languages don’t even have the term do define it, they have to borrow from other languages. This words, even in english are not usually translated (think pasta or pizza or sushi… there’s no english term for those).

I repeat, I read only up to 62% of your book. And I’m no writer, just a very avid reader, so don’t take whatever I wrote above as the final judgement. It’s just my opinion based on my experience reading. Some of the things I wrote can be wrong, so take whatever I wrote with a pinch of wisdom ^^. Also, as you might have noticed, I’m not mother language English so please be kind with my grammar mistakes, and if a phrase makes no sense to you, ask me, probably it got lost in the translation 🙂

The idea behind the book is good, and some of your characters are cute and lovely, they feel alive, real people (like the owner of the boat, the aunt, and the first hunter). Let me know what you think.”

My ePublisher’s epiphany:

“I read through what he/she said and it is very interesting. I’m definitely noticing a trend here. World-building issues and less being better than more. This is interesting to me, particularly the world building complaints because I know that my world building isn’t even close to yours, but after some thought, here’s what I think happens with your readers.

Because your books are so lengthy, and because they are written in a more literary style, I believe that your readers expect more out of you and want you to address all of their world building questions down to the smallest detail such as air, culture, language, how society changed a character’s outlook on things, etc. Though I know I need to world build more, and better…I’ve never received a complaint (that I know of) about world building because I think they just don’t expect it from me. I’m like the summer blockbuster movie guy. They expect a good time, some fun, a fast paced story and so on, and therefore, they forgive some inconsistencies in the end. You, however, are the movie going for the Oscar nomination. The result being that your story might be better received by critics, more solid cohesively and better made, but you’re also up for more scrutiny on a technical level. I’m not saying to change up your style, or write shorter books, but this is definitely something to keep in mind when writing your next book. Cut out what’s not necessary and expand on what your readers want.”

Meesah gots lots of interesting work to do 🙂 I’m also going to attempt to approach an author I like that uses the world-building style I need to emulate. Hopefully this will go well. Haven’t had much luck with the pros up to this point, but I have to keep trying.

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About Angela Macala-Guajardo

Author, teacher, soon-to-be full time writer for two companies. Also a lover life in the Arizona desert, puppy butt wiggles, and kitties purring away on my shoulder.
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