Building believable storyworlds is a tall order to fill. Some writers love developing the intricacies of political landscapes and the ramifications of technological advancements. But some writers just… don’t. Whether you are the former or the latter, a step that most all writers struggle with is quickly and effectively showing their readers that the storyworld is developed, and that it extends beyond the borders of the story. Here are two easy tips to help you bridge the gap and bring your vibrant storyworld to life in your reader’s mind.
Even from back in the days of Moses and Pharaoh, monuments (see: pyramids) have been built to commemorate historic level achievements of the past. If your storyworld has any history at all (and in all but the most extreme cases it should) then it should also have monuments. Whether it’s a giant spire of ashen granite, or deep pit dug by thousands of slaves (now long dead), building your own special monuments in your own storyworld will create an implied history which will (potentially) fascinate your readers.
The best part about building monuments? They don’t all have to make sense. I mean, here in this world we have a Eiffel tower, some strange stones in England, and equally strange cars in Nebraska. I mean… what? And I don’t know all the history of all the monuments in this world, but that’s not the point. Just knowing that they’re there means that someone built them, and there’s history there that I don’t understand. Putting physical monuments into your storyworld will tell the reader that the world goes deeper than the story… that it’s a place where the story happens, not a place for the story to happen.
Think about Lewis’ stone table or Tolkien’s Amon Hen. But of those monuments, used in the story, subtly tell the reader “There’s more story here that you’re not being told.” And that extra bit of story, can stretch your storyworld farther than any map or prologue ever could.
Don’t explain everything
This one seems counter intuitive, I know, but that doesn’t make it any less effective. You’d think that taking time to explain how the political system works, how it was established, and how there was a war fought over it three hundred years ago.
But your readers don’t want to know all that… and they don’t need to. Your job as a writer is to tell them everything that they need to know, and not bore them with the rest. Then, as the story goes along, you can allude to the rest of what you’ve developed and let the readers fill in the blanks.
If you tell them everything you know, then they will know that the world is fake… because no one man can know everything about an entire world. Give them what they need to know, but hold enough back to keep them guessing. The only way to fully develop a storyworld, is to let the readers know that there’s more you’re not telling them… which should always be true.