Thursday, November 16, 2006

One World To Rule Them All

Fantasy writers have a couple of options with world building. One option is to create one world so that all stories take place in this same environment. Different stories may take place in different locations or times, but it’s still in the same world. A second option is to build multiple worlds where one or more stories take place in one or more worlds (a little bit of my data modeling as a programmer is coming through here). In this article, I am not going to debate the issue. I’m simply going to write about what I know, which is using one world for all stories.

I’ve heard a number of arguments against the one world philosophy, but there are a number of advantages with this type of world building. The most important reason in my mind is that each story builds the same world. Regardless of whether a story is ever published, you can use it for background material later. I’ve heard some people term this as lore (as in folklore). If you find something that absolutely didn’t work, disregard that piece and remove it from your world. So long as it wasn’t published, you can’t go against yourself (and to a degree you might not care if you do).

Second, if you write for years upon years for this one world, it’s going to have a depth that is instantly available to each story you write. That’s not to say you need to probe those depths with every story, but since it’s there, it can save you the time of having to reinvent the wheel for each story. For those of you who do a bit of mapmaking when you write (I hope that I’m not some sort of odd-ball because I do it), save your cartographic creations and apply them to each story. Now you’re able to see your high-level settings ahead of time.

On my final point, I will deflect the strongest attack against the one world: the lack of creativity or overall boredom in reusing the same world. Creativity can exist because there is always something left undiscovered. Think about our own world. There is such a vast history that there are thousands of books covering past events, from an epic level down to the personal stories. Our world cannot be exhausted, at least not by a single writer in one lifetime. Why should your world be any different?

As always, use what works for you. I’m just giving some of my thoughts and explaining why I think as I do. In another ten years, I might completely change my mind, but for now I’m all for one world.

Feel free to post your thoughts on one world versus multiple worlds. What’s your preference?

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