marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

what not to world-build

Details in prose draw the eye.  They announce what's important.  Which is why it is wise to curb your world-building in places, even allow the stereotypes to take control.

If the hero is disembarking, and another character meeting him at the docks, some allusion to the bustle about would be wise, but unless the cargo is significant to the plot, it's just background detail, and should be chosen to reinforce the setting.  Wine, perhaps, if it's a pseudo-Ancient Greece world, or woolen cloth if it's a pseudo-medieval one.  Enough to add some particularity to the scene, but not enough to draw the eye.

This can be particularly tricky if what you want to convey is that this location is merely the starting point, the foil for what happens after.  The farm where he grew up and from which he will take his leave for the quest, the dreary orphanage before she's adopted, the rich mansion before their parents lose their money -- it needs to establish itself as preliminary, while being interesting to hold the reader's attention, not so interesting that they resent the setting that comes after. . . .

Writing is full of trade-offs.
Tags: cliches, foils, local color, setting (scene), world-building: general

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