I’ve almost finished Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and I’m really digging the world building in this book. Most speculative fiction novels are either heavy on character building or heavy on world building, with some really exceptional works striking a happy medium. I don’t think being strong in one aspect is necessarily weak writing, though I’ve read articles that grumpily disagree. In books with truly rich, developed worlds, the setting becomes the central character. Harry Potter is a prime example of that. The story itself is compelling, but Hogwarts itself is the most developed “character” in my humble opinion.
I tend to enjoy character building more than world building and I think I’m a bit stronger at the latter. It takes me longer to develop worlds and cultures and rules than it does to come up with characters. That said, I love world building especially in the realm of cultures and settings. My inspiration is generally half things/places I like and half things/places I have had the awesome of experiencing.
I’ve been in love with Mongolian and Chinese culture since middle school. Around the same time, I was growing increasingly sick of European inspired, vaguely racist classic fantasy. There are so many rich cultural resources to draw from beyond the typical Arthurian, white-washed tropes. I wanted to write stories about the places I found fascinating, beyond the familiar. I also have a slight obsession with the 1920’s and the whole jazz and gangstas and Gatsby era.
During my early days of roving, I was a desert unicorn and still am at heart. If I could live in a tiny sand igloo, I would. It’s always easier to write about what you know well and have passion for, so I think desert empires are kinda my thing. Last summer, I got to wander around Sonoma Coast, being a deep sea unicorn. Treasure Island is one of my favorite classics and the inspiration behind Stevenson’s piratey adventure felt more “real.” Kinda wanna write a pirate story now. Or a story about the crab colony I met and I robbed of their shells. I don’t really have much to say of my adventures in the Rockies because unicorns don’t honestly enjoy the cold. I did start writing a wintery story – the second book in my fantasy series – shortly after moving here because I realized how awful snow is and needed to devise a truly awful setting for the characters.
Are you more of a character builder or a world builder? Where do you get your inspiration from? Do you have a method of world creation or are you more of a free range writer?
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