Monday, April 14, 2014

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #284 -- World-Building in Short Fiction

How important is world building to a shorter work like a novella or short story?

I know some folks will disagree with me on this one, but I honestly believe that world building is just as important to a short work as it is to a long one. There's no precedent I'm aware of that dictates that a story must be in a less fully realized world just because it's shorter than an epic fantasy.

However, I believe that you have to accomplish that world building in more subtle ways when word count is at a premium.

For example, details need to work their way into your dialog or narrative without getting two preoccupied with wasting lots of words on them. That will mean that you'll have to use each detail as a rifle bullet rather than a shotgun blast.

You know what? I changed my mind. I don't think it's different at all. I think both long and short works should be using world-building details that way rather than drafting long Tolkien- or Donaldson-style descriptions of politics or the geography of a setting. Everything should support and tighten the story itself, rather than pull a reader out of it, even -- no, especially -- key information.