It’s a big topic, but I want to address only one small aspect of it at this time. You already know about research, and about reading “Maps of Time” and “Guns, Germs and Steel” before you start (see the sidebar on the right, under Suggested Reading, Nonfiction). And you already know that everything must be internally consistent and hang together, and have way more details known to the author than ever make their way onto the page, to give it depth.

But how do you present your world to the reader?

In a novel, there must be a compromise here. You don’t want to just dump everything on the reader in one big long explanation, or you will get the response that, online, has been condensed down to the ultra-devastating “TL;DR” (meaning Too Long, Didn’t Read). And you don’t want to just start flinging terms and events at your reader’s head in such a way that they will be left floundering, lost, confused.

Start by considering your audience. If it’s a fantasy novel, especially part of a series, the reader can be expected to know certain things about a fantasy world. Such as that it’s okay to expect magic, and that it’s okay to expect history to deviate from real history, and religions from real religions, and systems of world construction to be different. Exactly what the rules are of your world, they will be prepared to learn as they go along, to some extent. How do you, the author, know what the general conventions of the genre are? Well, there’s only one way: to have an extensive reading background in the genre yourself.

There will be (unless you’re really imitative) rules and regs, internally consistent guidelines of creation, on your world that are different from most other fantasy worlds. It’s my opinion that the best way to show these is to SHOW them, not tell them. Have your characters run through some of them, with consequences to match. Let them build gradually up. A few terms that the reader doesn’t understand are all right, because they’ll trust you to explain them in good time. Don’t betray that trust. Don’t hand out too many at once, and explain them by example, not by the dictionary in the back. The dictionary in the back should be completely superfluous, a reader’s delight, not something they need to refer to.

Show, don’t tell, refers to your worldbuilding as well as to your writing style.

Word count: 2660
Other: posted in groups, sought marketing book, submitted “Witness”, resubmitted “The Message”


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