Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wonderfuly Written Worlds

Yes, I meant "worlds", not "words". For me, a wonderfully written world goes a long way toward luring me into a book, seducing me with sights and smells and sounds and cultural differences. I can forgive telling, mediocre character building and even an abundance of adverbs (as evidenced by my previously mentioned love for Dune) if the world becomes real to me. Some of my recent reads have taken place in amazingly unique worlds, part of the reason I enjoyed them so much.

Most recently, Marianne de Pierres' Burn Bright led me through the inky dark, staying always on the lighted path, for who knows what lies in the darkness? Her Ixion is as foreign to me as it is to her heroine, Retra, but it wasn't long before the lights of the clubs, the spires of the churches and the spiderweb cables of the kars to come alive in my imagination.

Goliath, the third and (hopefully not, please, scott, write more!) final installment of Scott Westerfeld's amazing Leviathan series wowed me with the way it wrapped up the tangled plot-lines, even as it added more with every chapter. More amazing to me than the complex and loveable characters and more intriguing than the threat of a war to end all wars is Westerfeld's Clanker/Darwinist world. Between the Beasties and the walkers, there is no imagining this world the way of our own pre-WWI history, from everyday life to the war front.

I'm not advocating that all writers should go overboard with setting descriptions. That can get long and boring and doesn't serve your plot or your setting. It's a delicate balance. It's the reason I still haven't finished The Name of The Rose. Sorry, Umberto. It's part of the reason I know a lot of people couldn't get into Dune.

Not all books need to set the stage so vividly, but Goliath and Burn Bright are wonderful examples to learn from if you are looking to write a fantastical world. In both of these books it is the way the characters interact with their surroundings that makes the skies stay ever black, or brings the smell of the Leviathan to life in my mind. Don't be afraid to fascinate the reader. It's the reason we all want to go to Diagon Alley and get our own wand at Ollivander's, or visit Samwise in Hobbiton, or have tea with Alice and the Mad Hatter. It's the reason I'm so in love with my WIP.

What worlds have drawn you in lately?

11 comments:

Abby Annis said...

I don't know if I've ever been drawn in by world building. At least, I can't think of any books where it stood out enough for me to remember it. That's always part of the backdrop when I read.

For me, if the characters aren't strong enough, I'm probably going to get bored with it and put it down, regardless of how beautiful the world is.

Good thing there's lots of variety out there. :)

Plamena Schmidt said...

I don't know, I would have to say character (and what's happening to the character) trumps the world building for me. But as an extra world building can be very nice (especially if as you said it's important and the characters are interacting with it). Two examples I can think of: Harry Potter (of course : D) and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials.

Jenna Cooper said...

I've come to realize how important settings are as well. Obviously Harry Potter does this amazingly, but one that also stands out to me is Avonlea from the Anne of Green Gables series.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I think Cornelia Funke is a master world-builder. The Inkworld of her Inkheart Trilogy and the world of her new series, Reckless, are beyond compelling and brilliant. LOVE her!

Alexandra Shostak said...

I loooove BURN BRIGHT so much! :)

Cynthia Lee said...

I think Susannah Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell built a lovely world inside early 19th century England that has lodged itself into my memory, in a good way.

Bish Denham said...

Yes, setting can be very much a character all by itself. Lord of the Rings is another one. And now you've given me some other books to read!

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Jade said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed Burn Bright! I loved it, too! I think the sequel might be out soon...

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I love good world building. I can think of tons of stories that took me somewhere other and entranced me. I'll just start listing...;)
The Hunger Games, Graceling, Stardust, Neverwhere, Uglies, The Marbury Lens, Feed, Dreamdark, Daughter of Smoke & Bone, A Wizard of Earthsea, Howl's Moving Castle, Riddle-Master. Um, I could keep going. I'm a sucker for jumping down the rabbit hole.

Krispy said...

Worldbuilding isn't the most important thing to me for a book, but it IS something I notice. It'll bug me if the worldbuilding greatly affects the characters' lives/story arc but doesn't make sense.

That said, I'm curious about this Burn Bright now and I still need to read Goliath! Glad you're having fun with your WIP world! :D

Medeia Sharif said...

I read Burn Bright not too long ago and was pulled into the world right away. I appreciate a well-built world.

Have a great weekend.