“Writing a novel is not merely going on a shopping expedition across the border to an unreal land: it is hours and years spent in the factories, the streets, the cathedrals of the imagination.” –Janet Frame
This is such a beautiful quote from Janet Frame that I knew it was going to be my quote for today the moment I saw it. I have been dipping my toes back into the world of fantasy fiction lately, the fiction that first inspired me to be a writer, the fiction that college had shook its head at and swayed me away from, and now I’ve recently picked up a new fantasy story and I’m falling in love with the whole experience….and with world-building again, so these words instantly struck me.
It’s easy to talk about world-building with fantasy. A good deal of fantasy authors have spent years creating incredibly elaborate lands, languages, cultures, religions, and creatures, taking that step into some place completely new and letting it envelop them entirely. But what about other fiction> When writing a story about a young woman and her career, a couple and domestic distress, a budding love story or a murder mystery, do we just traipse into the apartments of these characters for a visit, or do we spend time exploring the streets they live on, the places they work, the market where they buy their milk? The places they grew up, their lovers grew up, their best friend grew up?
That’s one of the most wonderful things about writing. It gives us a chance to explore so much more, and we should explore more. The reader might not be interested in an anecdote about your main character getting lost somewhere when they were five, about the immigrant couple who lives next door to them, about the way they have their bedroom decorated or what sort of spam they get in their inbox. But just imagine how much more complete your understanding of your character will be if you take the time and explore these aspects, the entire world, from their point of view.
I’ve been talking a lot lately about writing for the sake of writing, to hone the craft, but this quote makes me think of how important it is to remember that we are not just plucking out a few interesting things to write about; we are creating a world, and we should explore that world completely, know it better than we know our own world. After all, we are the masters of the worlds we create, so we better get to know them, love them, and the writing will follow.
Also, yesterday, I completely forgot to thank my newest subscriber, so thank you, Belle of Mountains, for following my blog! It’s great to have you along for the ride!