Monday, August 22, 2011

World Building With a Bottle of Wine.

I have created a world. It’s an impressive world separated from our own by time, space, distinctive culture, economics, politics, climate, and science (among other things). I cannot, however, figure out a way to convey this world to my readers without it being choppy, confusing, bewildering…you get the idea.

My world fits into a neat little corner of my mind. Why can’t it fit into a neat little corner of your mind too? How do I balance the construction of this world between the fine line of an info dump and a hazy cloud of vagueness?

My mind has been consumed with this problem.

I live behind a vineyard. I came back from vacation to see the rows of grapes had been readied for near-harvest with hundreds of glitter ribbons. The workers tie glittery ribbons every few feet on the tall vines. Apparently the sparkle scares the birds away.

The thing about the vineyard is this: most of the year I see very little change. Sure, some cutting back in the winter, glittery ribbons in the fall, and then the harvest: which is done during the misty darkness with bright lights and the bustle of workers talking and laughing all night long. Occasionally, near harvest time, I will hear the shots of a canon as they try and scare more birds away from the ripening grapes.

So for me, an outsider—an admitted wine neophyte—it doesn’t really seem like that much work. You plant a few vines, wait, and try and keep the birds away. Not that hard right?


Apparently a lot of work goes into vinification (not a made up word). There are all kinds of variables: the quality of grapes, the yearly weather patterns, local flora that can affect the taste of the wine, the fermentation process, and etcetera. Besides the fact that even the glitter ribbons require labor. Someone has to tie those ribbons every few feet in the acres and acres of vines.

I know, right?

So I guess maybe my readers don’t need to know everything about my world. Maybe I just need to show them the glittery ribbons and the harvest. You know, the good stuff. And maybe some of the bad stuff too. The mundane stuff is there, neat in a corner of my mind, the hours testing the fermentation process, the boring meetings about natural sugars with chemists and other vitners, the panic over altering weather patterns. Those things might not be important on the whole, but aspects of them might leak through.

In the end, hopefully, we have a really nice bottle of wine.

How do you build your worlds?


  1. Yay. I'm your first follower. Beautiful blog.

    I can appreciate (now that I write) how much work goes into a seemingly simple stream of words that make up a novel.

    And I don't even want to think about the hours a picture book author must spend on each word of his/her glittery 500 words.

    That nice bottle in the end is worth it though!

  2. I'm excited for your blog. I know nothing at all about making wine except for what I learned watching "A Walk to Remember", but I really liked your analogy.
    World building is really tough. I know what you mean about having this clear image in you head and how it's hard to write it in a seemless way that adds to the story not distracts.
    I built my world by finding pictures and places that inspired me and pulling bits of them into my world, plus adding my own little twists here and there. But to write it, I'm still trying to find the answer to this question myself.
    Hopefully you'll get some good comments to help me out too:)

  3. Robin,
    Thanks. That's a good idea to find pictures. After meeting my word quota for the day, I'm off to google images.

    I also had a sort of epiphany in the, ahem, bathroom today. A way that I could more easily and naturally build my world.

    Yay for epiphanies, however they come!

    And Ilima, thanks for being my very first follower.

  4. I am horrible at world building. My first drafts often feel like two heads talking in an all white room. Ugh.

    Like Robin, I often look at pictures to get ideas of what I want it to look like (movies are good inspiration as well) and then I'll look at how other people have included world building without it feeling like an info-dump. Scott Westefeld is particularly good at this, especially his new series (it starts with LEVIATHAN, I believe).

    Congratulations on the epiphany!

  5. Jenilyn,
    That's a good idea. I might be re-reading books with great world building.

  6. What a perfect analogy, Emily! You, the author, need to know the complete process of your world, your vineyard, but you're absolutely right...the reader needs to see just hints of that detail to believe your world. And I think those will naturally leak into your writing once you're world is fleshed out in that neat corner of your mind. And then you can have a ball stringing up those glittering ribbons, which I think are the complex characters in your novel. One thing is for sure: this blog post was a glittering ribbon. You write beautifully!

  7. Congrats, Emily! I have given your blog the Liebster Award. For more info, visit