September 16, 2014

Worldbuilding Quickly

After a panel at Comic Con, I had a question about worldbuilding in short fiction. There both wasn't much time to answer, and I was fairly beat after the end of a long (and awesome) con. Here's a much better answer.

There are four techniques that jump to mind for effective, succinct worldbuilding: interweaving and multi-tasking.

Interweaving: This is the opposite of the dreaded info-dump. Instead of cramming all the information the reader needs into one paragraph, it's parsed out bit by bit in the text. Information feels less "info-dumpy" when it's only a sentence long, especially if it's in the characters POV.

Multi-tasking: This applies to novels as well, but especially in short fiction, a sentence or a paragraph can't do just one thing. It can't just be for setting, or worldbuilding, or character, or to advance the plot. If it's not doing at least two things, it probably needs to get cut or get revised. Three things would be even better.

Point of View (POV): This goes hand-in-hand with interweaving and multi-tasking. Those snipits of info should still sound like they're coming from your viewpoint character. And if your worldbuilding info is in its proper POV, it's also multitasking to show you character.

Concrete Details: Of course you don't want to toss clunky descriptive paragraph at the reader, but the right, specific noun can suggest a truckload of information. The restaurant serving fillet mingon over a bed of organic microgreens is not the same one dishing out Kentucky hot browns. Detail after carefully selected detail can imply a world richer and fuller than the one your character has time to explore.

On to examples! Here's the first scene in my novelette, "The Temple's Posthole". I'll dissect it below. This scene is exactly four hundred words long:

September 8, 2014

Salt Lake Comic Con 2014

Salt Lake Comic Con was awesome, and exhausting. The convention center was packed -- it was difficult to get from one end to the other in less than twenty minutes. They stopped selling tickets Saturday afternoon, fire marshals locked down the building...just packed. It was a great con. Highlights (sorry I didn't take more pictures):

Favorite Costume: Dad in a Luke-Skywalker-from-the-swamp carrying a baby with a knit Yoda hat on his back. So. Stinking. Cute.

Awesome Games. The gaming room had free minis for everyone to paint -- something I'd never done before. I completely missed lunch and nearly missed my own panel. There were also giant board games! Here's the Settlers of Catan board. We played giant-sized Tsuro more than once. Thanks, awesome volunteers, for running the games!

Favorite Presentation: We watched the droid show twice. Full-scale droids racing obstacles courses against each other. It was pretty stinking awesome, not just because, y'know, droids, but thinking about all the hours of learning, work, creativity, and robotic expertise their owners had put into their droids for the sheer enjoyment of it. My kids were mesmerized, too.

Panels. It was great to be on panels -- especially fun to talk to teenagers. During the last panel (on worldbuilding), someone asked about cultural appropriation with about thirty seconds left until our time in the room ran out. That could be a panel, or a conference, all on its own. Here's a post from Lee & Low with a collection of different articles and viewpoints on the subject.

I also had someone ask me at the end of that panel about worldbuilding in short fiction. I don't think I answered very coherently (it was the very end of a long, exciting con, where, again, I kept forgetting to do thing like, y'know, eat...). So I'm working on a blogpost, with examples, which I'll post soon.

Comic Con was great! I'm already looking forward to the next one. :)