My World and Me

I think I’ve established that I think that maps are the cat’s meow, right? So, here I am basically changing my map around, due to some plot points I want to bring up, specifically, canals.

I know, seems like all I’d have to do is add a few canals to my existing map, and VOILA! Um, but no. Why would a canal be built anyway? What are the ramifications? How does it change the importance of the land that has a newly built waterway? What purpose does it serve? How long did it take to create?

Well, in my world’s case, I plan on making the canals pivotal to the story; as in, if the canals didn’t exist the country/empire that figures as the primary backdrop in my stories would be radically different than it is. The canals provide quick travel from point A to point B and reduce the cost of goods and services which then provide the citizens with a higher standard of living than would otherwise be possible.

I know, sounds pretty boring, right? However, these kinds of details end up being radically important in the creation of the story itself. I strongly believe that a writer needs to answer as many questions about their world as possible – assuming they’re creating an entirely new one. If I were science fiction and I had earthlings landing on a new planet, one of the first questions in the readers’ minds might be, “Do they need spacesuits?”  – Can our little earthlings breathe the air on the new planet?

If your science fiction or fantasy world is just going to be Earth with a different coast line and names of countries, I think that’s fine – but one still needs to have some extrapolation of what they expect even in those small differences between the new world that’s created and the one we live in.

Now, I do believe that there are plenty of stories that can get away with minimalist changes. I mean, look at The Princess Bride, for example. (Out in about 8 DVD/Blu-Ray editions and been in print for who knows how long…) It’s a fairy tale, yet we have giants, magic (Miracle Max?), and all the rest, but no one can argue that there’s a whole lot of back story to the world. Yet, the story obviously captures the imagination, largely based on the ingenuitive format of the author.

So, do what works for you, obviously. However, if you’re going for “high” (or as I call it, “epic”) fantasy, you’re going to need as much detail about your world as you can afford to give. (Oh, and FWIW, that’s an excellent article on high fantasy. I even read the notes at the end.)