This week’s episode of the Writing Excuses podcast is on a highly interesting topic: how to insert worldbuilding into character viewpoint, and why is this a good idea. Essentially, we are talking about worldbuilding that happens without it being explained directly on the page. The approach is great because it avoids blocks of explanatory text and permits detail that would otherwise not be easily included. It allows the writer to add emotional responses to worldbuilding elements, highlight (mis)conceptions about the world based on character background, describe underlying elements of conflict (not everybody sees the world the same), and produce a rich narrative with hints of mythology, history, political opinion, religious beliefs and so on beyond those directly relevant to the plot.
As a reader, these are all things I want to know, but I don’t necessarily want them spelled out as general narrative where they can feel clunky and slow. I would quite like to know what the people in city X thinks of the people in city Y, if this varies with social standing or age or occupation or something else, if the assessment is fair and if it is based on history, geography or beliefs. I would, however, get quite bored if the writer listed these permutations outright. Give me an overview for sure, but then feed me the details within the story, let me experience it first-hand through the characters when and where it happens. The politician from city X can use swearing that offends the dragon-tamer from city Y, who might respond in kind with a disparaging reference to the history of X, which differs entirely from how the same history is depicted by the politician, and both of them have probably built parts of their identity on these differing accounts so you bet there will be arguments and misunderstandings and wonderful, wonderful drama.
In short, I can guarantee I will be much more intrigued if the history, geography, conflicts, politics and beliefs of the world are woven into the characters as well as the plot.
Go listen here:
Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard When you’re defining your world for the reader, some voice in the text must speak those definitions. This episode is about how we use character voices—their dialog and their narrative view points—to worldbuild. What do they see? How do they perceive it? What are their favorite jokes?… via 14.5: Viewpoint as Worldbuilding — Writing Excuses