Posted by Will
I can easily understand it in “real life”. Someone asks me a question they should never have asked in the first place- maybe having to do with a bathroom or a bedroom- they’re grinning, I’m grinning, and I just get started on explaining. The hands go up, the call rings out- “too much information, Will!”. I understand- I smile, stop and am content.
Because this is OUR world. I know you get it. Some jokes don’t have to be told to be funny.
Not so in the writing of course, and never less so than in epic fantasy. Once again, I’ll remind you patient readers that I do not write– I make up nothing, like those marvelous minds here at IB that I am privileged to call colleagues. My world is only mine because I have been watching and listening to it longer than you, or anyone. But it IS a world, a complete world, and you folks know- seriously- nothing about it. Even I only have a few of its barest details, felt a thread here and there of this barn-sized tapestry beneath my fingers. I’ve chronicled just a fraction of what I’ve seen and heard.
How can anyone yell TMI about that! How dare they? And what’s a poor chronicler to respond when they do?
I’m polishing up “Judgement’s Tale” these days (very slowly, I admit- DAMN the need to earn a paycheck and WHY can’t these Powerball tickets pay off). Several folks signed on to give me feedback on the “monsterpiece” that has not yet- may never?- see the light of cyber-day. This story is EPIC fantasy, you get me? The world is at stake, for crying out loud- the plot of centuries is in motion, the fate of millions hangs in… well, you know all the cliches. My guy is taller than Frodo, both younger and older, and instead of a ring… never mind, some of you have already lost interest. Haven’t you?
These folks, these wonderful patient people who are reading my early chapters and giving me their best feedback, have all said different things. With one exception- every man-jack/jane of the group, without fail, has flagged times I’ve tried to slip in a little info about my world. The history- “so LONG, this really slowed it down”; the stars and astrology- “can this go later on, somewhere?”; the nature of magic- “wow, heavy sledding, had to read it four times”.
It’s like NIMBY in this world- everyone agrees there needs to be a home for the mentally disabled, or a half-way house for recovering addicts, sure. But Not In My Backyard!
OK, but this book is not your backyard. I get resentful, and need to take a break sometimes. It’s a WORLD, dear readers- if you never read about these things, you can’t enjoy or understand it. I struggle with ways to hide the information, like a pill-pocket for a reluctant cat, hoping the medication will slip past you while you’re not paying attention. The reader HAS to have this information- what’s the point otherwise, why not just write about our world if there’s no need to hear about the others?
Only verrrrry grudgingly do I much later admit that the need to do this has made me a better writer. The only key I’ve come up with so far is that you must always have something else going on- two things accomplished by the one conversation- as often as possible. But keep it short? Move it to later? I must say, almost useless advice.
I’d be very interested to hear what other readers find good or bad about the infamous subject of world-building. If you’ve taken the time to look at the Compendium of the Lands right here on the site, has that sort of material interested you at all? Is it a good way to build a world without putting it directly into the story? What works for you? Believe me, I’ll never shout “TMI” about this.