I recently finished a book, The Lies of Locke Lamora, that is actually going to inspire two blog posts (look for the other Thursday!). So, it was quite the read, let me tell you, and one of the few books that I’ve gone out of my way to recommend to people. Mostly, I just give opinions when they are sought, but for this particular book, I knew a few people that might like it.
Which is probably everyone (okay, I kid on that last part, though it is rather good).
But this post isn’t about how awesome the book is, at least not directly. Rather, it’s about the inspiration from the book.
I think most authors have an experience when they are young (in author-years, which only vaguely correlate to the time the rest of the world uses) in which they read a book that isn’t terribly well-written and they think, “I could do that better.” It might be a series or concept that they love that gets bungled, or poorly written characters, or bad science, or an idea that isn’t explored well. It’s inspirational.
And I get that. I have felt that, though the particulars of the first few books that did that for me have escaped me. I have seen things that inspired me to do it better, whether for selfish (proving what I can do), selfless (giving the world a better story) or other (think of the possibilities!) reasons.
So, in a way, bad books can be motivational.
But for me, this is different. It’s not inspirational in that it’s just good writing, or that it has good characters, or anything like that. It’s something more specific for me, and therefore more awesome.
It showed me just what richness world-building can add to a story.
Some (okay, many) of you may be laughing now, or shaking your head. “Of course world-building adds a lot!” you may say. “That’s the point!” And, I agree, and have still had a problem with it until recently.
You see, I don’t want to see the world building. I don’t want the author to point out how awesome their ideas are, and how interesting their political situations and magic systems and all that are. Don’t get me wrong, those are interesting, but they’re only interesting in motion. They’re only interesting in use.
For a world not at all based on this one (or if so, rather translucently, so that it is nearly opaque), an amazing amount of information is imparted without directly stating it. Any background that you need to read it is brought out in the events of the story, rather than in something of an info-dumb.
Maybe I just had never read really good fantasy before, but I have never read such a rich world before without having the information spoon-fed/narrated to me. I have seen well-presented detail before, but I didn’t get the impression that there was an incredible amount of work behind it. Generally, in those cases, I see only what is necessary for the story, without a hint that there is so much more out there.
Really, it’s the iceberg analogy again. I want there to be a lot of world building, and well thought-out, with secondary and tertiary effects (as in, a world with pervasive magic would not be similar to ours; it would change social constructs and language and the economy and so much else). And it has to appear mostly in the background, if it appears at all (most of it shouldn’t). It’s very interesting to us as writers, but the reader, I think, barely cares.
And it’s inspired me, in the fantasy series that I am still looking to start. I have always known that I would need to do some world building, but I see now how much richness this can add to the story, how much depth. It’s hard, and it’s mostly unrewarding because the positives aren’t directly seen (who cares how pretty the frame of a house is as long as it doesn’t fall down?). But I’m looking forward to it.
How about you guys? What has inspired you more specifically in your writing? Not just to write, or to write well, but that has opened your eyes as to something in particular?