David Eddings is on record as saying that when he designed the world of The Belgariad, he chose a pagan pantheon because it was more interesting than a christian one (“pagan” just means non-christian, by the way). By that, I imagine he meant he preferred a multitude of gods in his world rather than one single one. For the sort of fantasy world he built, one god was just not going to work.
But that’s not necessarily true.
What do you think happens when a friend tweets about their apparantly missing copy of Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and how they’d like to read it again? Especially when Neil Gaiman is flavour of the month on Twitter at the moment? Even more especially when her closest Twitter friends are unashamed Gaiman fans, too? 🙂
What happens is that we now have at least half-a-dozen close friends who are going to spend April reading Good Omens, and then May reading American Gods. And there has been at lesat one proposal for The Ocean At The End Of The Lane for June.
Us human beings like marking the passage of time and the repetition of time-based cycles. Mostly this is because our world moves in such cycles: we have sun-earth days, moon-earth months and earth-sun years. And most of the time, for your characters in your writing, these will also exist. But sometimes our Gregorian Calendar doesn’t work in a setting that isn’t Earth as we know it. After all, in a world where there has never been a Pope nor a Catholic Church nor a Roman Empire, why should their calender look exactly like ours? And why would it?
I’ve decided to start a series about world-building. It isn’t going to be comprehensive, but it should be interesting.
World-building is the work a writer does to create any part of writing that isn’t the characters and isn’t a real place. Fantasy and science-fiction authors are known for world-building because most people think of building a whole new world. But there is a lot of world-building at smaller scales, too. Even if you invent a flat in the city you live in to set your story in, you will still be world-building. It’s just that the world you build will be the flat the story is set in.
I’m not aiming to create a course to cover the full extent of world-building. No, I’m going to pick things that I find interesting, either in stories I’ve written or settings I’ve created, and talk about the problems and delights I discovered along the way.
I’m also going to note when world-building is a bit more visible than normal in other stories. Sometimes world-building that goes awry is amusing when you notice it. I mean, not all readers do, after all. Sometimes it goes spectacularly awry, destroying the suspension of disbelief needed to enjoy the story. That’s when you see reviewers going “but it doesn’t work that way!” But I also want to celebrate when it works well, and when it works very well.