One of the great things about being a writer is being able to create new and fantastic worlds for your readers to be pulled into. The problem is building those worlds can be a difficult thing. How in depth do you go? Do you spend a lot of time explaining the landscape and caste system? Do you create new types of creatures and foods and other items? Do you make up a lot of new names for things?
I think it should depend on how much the world fits into the story line. If the story is about someone beating the political system where love matches are made for you rather than you getting a say in it (Matched and Delirium) then yes, you have to get into that in detail so your reader understands why it’s happening and what brought it about in the first place. If your story has a character falling into the pages of a book (Inkheart) then it’s not necessary for you to write twenty pages about the politics that goes on in that world. They don’t play a major role in the what happens to your characters.
The main thing about world building, in my opinion, is that it shouldn’t drag down the plot. A lot of high fantasy stories pack the first couple of chapters with a profusion of weird names, strange politics and extensive descriptions of races and landscapes. To me, that sort of thing makes it hard to get into the meat of the story and makes it more likely that the reader will get bored and put the book down.
World building, in my opinion, has to be slipped into the story where appropriate, rather than front loading the book. When your character comes upon a strange creature, explain it then. When your female character gets arrested for wearing pants, take the time then to go into detail about politics behind it. Work it in so it flows with what’s going on in the plot at that time. Your readers will appreciate it.
On Thursday, I’ll discuss some of my own tips and secrets when I world build, so stay tuned!