World Building and the Info-dump

Readers love a rich universe that feels expansive. Creators that have been successful with that task have a nearly endless supply of material available to them to craft more stories. There is always something new to explore in a world that is as complex and interesting as our own. This is why fan fiction, movies, and other creations are so rampant – particularly for excellent fictional worlds; the backdrop of the story is deep enough that it always feels that there is another tale just around the corner, waiting to be told.

There is a fine edge to walk when developing such extensive frameworks, particularly in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. Balancing enough information for the reader to understand and be interested in a new world – with different social customs, cultures, technology, even physics – against overloading them with facts is tricky. Too much and the reader is left lost and confused, having to reread paragraphs or whole pages, constantly refer to tables, charts, or maps, or *gasp* put down a book all together. Too little and the world doesn’t feel real enough. Belief can be suspended for almost anything. A ring that gives ultimate power, and invisibility? I’m with you. Swords made out of light? No problem. A planet supported on the back of a huge space turtle? I’d buy that. However, every reader needs a reason that these things should make sense. Rules for why and how magic works. Probability for the unknown in the vast reaches of space (and a bit of humor). Without framework and a semi-logical constraint system, even the most interesting world can fall apart. Poorly executed world-building ruins the most important task of a fantasy or sci-fi work: transporting the reader to another place.

Barghest is set in our world, in the future. There is no magic, but there is a significant amount of technology that does not exist today. Some of that, like the  armor suits Maker and her fellow soldiers use and gene therapy, is based on actual research being done today. Other things are a bit more far-fetched, like faster than light travel. Those concepts are based loosely on some theories about how physics might work beyond our understanding of it, and the vast amount of unknowns in the universe. I also rely heavily on fifty years of of sci-fi readers that have suspended disbelief for “warp speed”. Beyond the technology of Barghest are the cultural and social constructs, the politics of humanity more than a century in the future. I have attempted to insert that information gently into the story, using conversations between characters and inner monologues that are hopefully not too distracting. Even with those info-dumps, I still felt like I needed to give the reader a better sense of the world. I added in the headers for each chapter, either a “this day in history” or a dictionary entry that are designed to set the stage for Barghest.

The latest chapter for Barghest, Part II: Depredation has posted, and it features a flash back for Maker which I used to describe the social structure that I imagined evolved along with alien incursions and designer genes. Please read Chapter 2: Character Building and let me know what you think. Too much? Too little? Or just enough?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.