You Built It…Use It

Maybe you’ve heard this before, or maybe you haven’t yet, but you will.* When talking about worldbuilding, there is often a comparison made between the world you’ve built… and an iceberg.

What you see on the surface, what you present to your reader, is (wait for it…) just the tip of the iceberg. The rest of the iceberg – often close to 90 or 95% of it – is below the surface. In terms of writing, it’s the stuff that you, as the writer, need to know about your world, but the reader doesn’t need to know for the story to make sense.

That leaves you with 5-10% of your world – roughly – that you will need to bring into your work. Parts of this may be how the magic system works, or how the spaceships fly, or why it’s a bad idea to get caught out in the rain on Auriel.

These kinds of details are essential to bring your world to life.

Now, because this is a blog about writing and writers – particularly, your humble contributors – on their way to publication, I’m going to reveal something that may shock you.

Math and I don’t get along.

I know, right?

It’s not that we just don’t get along…It’s more like I would step over math on my way out of a burning building…while carrying an armload of books to safety.**

Figuring out percentages? Even worse.

Remember that 5-10% of the iceberg?  Yeah, I miss that mark.

On the up side, I tend to miss it on the side of caution. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have my story and my characters running around in a blank, white room or anything like that. It’s more like…well…

I think about it as if I’ve got some seriously potent spices and a vat of chili. I don’t want the chili to be bland, but I don’t want to ruin the meal either, so I use the spices sparingly.

Too sparingly, as it turns out. Who the heck wants chili without a little bit of stang in it?

That’s what I’ve been finding out lately.  One of the things that I need to work on is identifying opportunities to show off my world. I’ve got a really, freaking, cool iceberg out there and I’m chipping pieces of it off in ice cube sized chunks.

What I really need to be doing is making with the chainsaw sculpting.

So don’t be afraid to let your world melt onto the page. Make it so that your reader can get down and roll around in the sights, and smells, and the unique tastes*** that your world has to offer.

Show off that exotic location. Give us a big, freaky bug that we’d never see in the real world. Invent a curse word or two. Make up some food – What does a Gakis bean patty taste like (smell like), fresh off a grill? Bring that character with a bum cybernetic hand to life…or, you know…maybe you don’t…

Anyway, you’ve built that world, you might as well put it to work for you. And, if it turns out that you’ve added a bit too much, well that’s what the “Snippets” (or whatever you call ~That~ place where you store stuff you cut****) folder is for.


Good Luck!



* Sooner than you think.

**Don’t do this. Get the hell out of that building. Besides, you keep all your books in a fireproof safe. That’s normal…right?

***Don’t forget the other senses: Touch and Sound. Get them all in there.

****You don’t, actually, delete anything…Do you?


Time: 10:51 am-ish

Music: Epica – The Ultimate Return

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