Mystic Magic: Devil in Details

Grace Cavanaugh ~ Staff Writer

Crafting a world in a story can be a real pain, although it can be an enjoyable one. Worldbuilding can be fun, but too many authors have books – published books! – where the worlds are not developed enough.

I have spoken to a lot of authors and been to a lot of signings. At every one of these events, I have heard the author answer questions about the world and how they created it, or how they wrote it.

The best advice I heard for stories that are set on our Earth, fiction or nonfiction, was to do too much research. Look up everything, gather as much information you can, and then only use a fraction of it. Madeline Miller, for example, did a lot of research on looms for her book Circe, but then only used a little bit of that research.

I prefer to make my own worlds, mostly because I hate doing research. You need to put a lot of work into these worlds. I have settings and details that the reader will likely never see. There are whole countries that will only be mentioned in the stories, and never go into details. Whole languages that I have outlined will never be in.

You need to be thorough. Countries need to be mapped out, cities detailed, and the culture and the people created. I ran into a problem recently with one of my stories that I plan to publish after this final round of edits. I had not properly thought out the color scheme, or even a flag, of the country. While it seemed like only a little thing, planning the flag and choosing the colors of the country helped me realize that the world was flat and the story lacked depth with the setting.

I went in and added details and then I created a Word document and took notes on the world. It helped me expand another story, too, that this world was connected to.

A lot of the time, especially for fantasy fiction stories, the rules of magic are tied into the world. I found that it is hard to specify the rules of magic if your world is not properly built. They get muddled and confusing and then your story will not make sense and will lose the reader’s attention.

In the end, your world is important, even if your story stays in the same five blocks of a city. Make it as detailed as possible, even if none of those details are ever actually written in the story, because then it will make your story even better.