Fiction and World Building

Introduction: The Commonality of Writing

Whenever a writer embarks on a tale they are to a certain extent world building. If the story takes place in our ‘Here and Now’ this usually involves taking a scene familiar in day to day life and creating a small world of characters and fitting them in. Therein are many difficulties and challenges all of their own; authenticity, atmosphere, credibility (even in wacky comedy) and all the factors which go to making a narrative whose background the reader can relate to in some way. Therefore in most forms of fiction story telling there has to be an element of a credible creation. Something the reader can comprehend even if this is that situation is completely bizarre.


When addressing SF & Fantasy this takes on a global and even cosmological scale.

There are those in SF who are versed in taking science facts or speculations and melding complex scenarios in which adherence to some laws of a physics must be adhered to. Others would have a broader view and leave the detail ‘as read’ while concentrating on the social implications (something I can relate to). There will be writers who will tend to ignore physics, some succeed because they have written a very compelling narrative with vivid characters.  Whatever path is chosen there will be a lot of hard work to make the story readable.

Fantasy and Its Own Requirements

Fantasy might see an easier option with a temptation to have wands waved and spells uttered. Whereas in some scenarios this works quite well, again if the narrative is compelling. However if handled sloppily it fails, the reader will know the writer has not been trying. Fantasy requires a certain measured approach and a respect for what might be possible and impossible in the world in question. If this is not adhered to then characters are leaping around the place at their own convenience and all suspense, tension and interest fade. If you are doing parody or satire, this might work even there it’s a tough call and requires a great deal of effort in honing the humour otherwise it comes across as just plain lazy. (a luxury only some established ‘names’ have got away with, I daresay due to the demands of publishers).

In some cases the writer has manage to meld sf with fantasy in a rich and complex scenario while at the same time inserting laws of physics and chemistry. My favourite example being Brandon Sanderson’s ‘Mistborn’ series.

A writer must bear in mind their own limitations, inclinations, weaknesses and strengths when going about this as these will have an unconscious bearing on the creation, after all you will be doing this in your own image (as it were). Of equal importance is the universal maxim for all writers…Remember Who You Are Writing For. By all means have fun but remember you would like someone to enjoy the result.

Fantasy is my own preferred choice. I have a smattering of understanding of some branches of science and this would cause me, personally a  great worry when writing SF just in case I was making some fundamental error. Fantasy gives me more scope to indulge my own peripatetic imagination, while mixing a smidge of science in.

Where this led me will be the subject of the next post.


7 thoughts on “Fiction and World Building

  1. I can follow through what you are saying here, Roger. Quote: “Whatever path is chosen there will be a lot of hard work to make the story readable.” Science fiction for example requires a lot of “original” imagination and a whole lot of painstaking research before jumping on the bandwagon of invention of new, as yet unknown, technology, whether in space travel, weaponry or feeding billions of people on a Mars-like environment. Yes, it has to be credible and I believe it is that high degree of credibility and acceptance by the reading public that has made science fiction a leader in the eventual development of “real time” technology. Fantasy, in my opinion is a much tougher subject matter and unfortunately too many would be fantasy writers do not put in the work, so to speak. While fantasy involves magic, the work of writing fantasy is not magical, not is attracting a readership. Good fantasy, the kind that draws in the reader and will not let her return to her “real time” life… is a rare gift these days and the more the genre proliferates it seems to me, the less it attracts. Too much copy-catting! Unlike so much aimed at the young reader market, the “Precipice Dominions” develops on a grand stage and works because its characters “work” with the world they live in. There are no obvious Deus Ex Machina fixes. When something that is supposed to work doesn’t, it doesn’t, and the characters react appropriately to their status and character. When something that isn’t supposed to happen, happens, the protagonists figure out how to deal with it and how to remain alive in the process. It may be “fantasy” but it is real within its context. I like that.

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    1. Thank you again Sha’ Tara. Your messages of support are of great help. (Vol III is starting off… slowly, choosing where to start and who with..).
      Of recent years there has been discussion as to whether Jack Vane’s ‘Dying Earth’ novels and stories had a scientific base to them, some have even speculated he had hit of the idea of a type of Nano-technology which had spread out into the environment.
      This is the area I like to work in, places where other previously unheard of physical laws have come into play.
      To me there is no ‘magic’ as it were in the world of The Precipice Dominions, simply facets of cosmological nature we have not yet encountered. The Zerstorung themselves as not the standard quintessential ‘evil’ beings; they are creatures who have arrived and want the world for their own-and humanity gets destroyed, subsumed or consumed- all very European colonisation-
      Now if I can only control my John Le Carre tendencies (I am really not suited for that level of complexity).
      And in conclusion I am glad you are enjoying the journey (by the way Chap 32, was duplicated in Chap 33…..I do not recall coming across that the last time I read through….looking at you Word!)


      1. Touching on one point and quote: “The Zerstorung themselves as not the standard quintessential ‘evil’ beings; they are creatures who have arrived and want the world for their own-and humanity gets destroyed, subsumed or consumed- all very European colonisation-”
        “Creatures who have arrived and want the world for their own…” – very telling. Your Christian background I imagine has to come into play here. Raised Catholic myself, inducted in the old Latin based Catholicism and its catechism, having gone through the sacramental rituals of confession, communion, confirmation, I know all about how demons are sent into the world to subsume and consume. I know all about their Grand Master Satan!

        But I was given a different interpretation to the story, one which makes more sense to me. The coming of the Time Lords into this universe, their development of a totalitarian regime of absolute oppression and their setting up of empires ruled by their minions, some of etheric natures, some using the natures of the world they are given to rule over.

        The local dominion of the Time Lords has been given many names, that latest and most accurate is calling it “The Matrix” because much of what takes place, say on Earth (or T’Sing Tarleyn for that matter) is hidden to mere mortal eyes. All we are supposed to see are the clowns chosen by the Matrix to rule worldly factions (so-called nations and empires) on behalf of the TL’s. Your Zerstorung fits quite well into the TL invasion and the setting up of their rule over their conquered domain. Quite naturally forces within the universe would spring up to counter this invasion and did. Enter the Ethereal or as Karlyn so adorably puts it, the “Stormhiggle.”
        I was taught to view this universal war from the point of view of the seemingly irresolvable conflicts of Earth. “As below, so above” was the repeated warning. Earth is not special or exceptional, just a microcosm of the macrocosm.

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      2. I wanted to include a sort of universality in these stories in which all manner of plausible elements are given some sort of space.
        As far as I can make out (still leaning about the Precipice world) from the narrative it looks as if the Zerstorung rode in on the back of The Ethereal. This suggest a certain opportunist and predatory quality. They have what we could call a patience for The Long Game, or maybe their perception of time is different. Anyway while the human or human related folks squabble, they wait…and probe.


      3. Whether you are a good or evil entity, if you can exist outside of time, or in a totally different time-frame such as mentioned biblically as “to the Lord a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day” well then yes, you certainly can afford to take a very long term view of things temporal.

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