Background: I have a fictional world in my head.

I currently have a sketchbook where I jot down notes, sketch out maps, important people and places: all the usual things I do. The raw information exists; what's left to be done is to organize the chaos in such a way that is clear and logical to a reader.

Question: As stated in the title, I am wondering where history should be in the order of presentation.

Chapter I is an introduction, an overview meant to pique the reader's curiousity and draw them in as well as tie the world to established material.

Chapter II contains geographical information, both physical and social.

Chapter III covers myths (in the religion sense) and magic, a topic as complex and interconnected as geography.

The remaining chapters are mechanical, and arranged in their own section.

So, then, I ask: "Where should history go?" Before Geography? After? After Myths & Magic? Spread throughout, in sidebars perhaps?

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    Gio, if you don't write a novel (as you indicated in a comment to my answer), please elaborate on what kind of book you are writing. – user5645 Oct 9 '16 at 14:58
  • Have you tried worldbuilding.stackexchange.com ? – rolfedh Oct 9 '16 at 21:39
  • Have you considered using any other works of a similar nature as a basis for organizing your work? – rolfedh Oct 9 '16 at 21:40
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    I'm voting to close this question as off topic. The reason is that there is no single answer to this question; rather everyone's personal opinions. You should put the history where you feel it will be best. At what point does the reader need to know it? Put it there. – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Oct 10 '16 at 2:50
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    @ThomasMyron - I think it could be salvageable, but what we do need to know is what kind of work this is intended to be. To me it sounds like a companion-guide type book for the world, but this would greatly benefit from clarification from the asker. – user18397 Oct 10 '16 at 4:38

Your book sounds like one I would put down after a couple of pages. I read books for the characters, what happens to them, what they do, and how they develop, not for the history or mythology of a world that does not exist.

When I read Rhapsody, by Elizabeth Haydon, I was thoroughly intrigued by the emotionally intense and mysteriously rich prologue of the book. I was one of the best pieces of fantasy writing I had ever read. But when I continued with the next chapters, I found myself bored with long sections of background mythology. After the first few of such elaborate deviations from the plot, I began to skip them, browsing the book to where the character story would pick up again. I do not believe in God in this world, and I find the made up gods of a made up world doubly irrelevant. And in fact they were. I didn't need the background to follow the action, because the behavior of the characters was perfectly comprehensible psychologically and did not need a detailed explanation of their religious beliefs. Nevertheless, the story wasn't really dense enough, because all the writer's imagination had gone into the worldbuilding, instead of the story building, so I soon abandoned that book and have never returned to that writer again.

Because of that and similar experiences I have come to believe the advice of many experienced writers to

only include as much background information as is indispensable for the story.

You are not writing an encyclopedia, dictionary, or atlas to the Lord of the Rings, but The Lord of the Rings. And you can use that book as a prime example of how to include background information in a story. What Tolkies does, and what all good authors do, is let the characters interact with their environment in a natural way, and allow the readers to infer the background information from how the characters behave.

All the background that is not readily apparent through the story itself is irrelevant to the story and should not be included. Tolkien wrote many volumes worth of worldbuilding, but he put almost none of it into his masterwork. Many aspiring writers confuse Tolkien's worldbuilding with his writing. But if you actually read the Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, you will notice that apart from that introduction about hobbits there is actually very little background information in his books.

If you are very much in love with your effort there, you can offer the background worldbuilding as a bonus on your website, which is in fact a great marketing strategy. But keep it out of your novel.

  • Just because it's fiction doesn't mean it's a novel. I don't know how many novels have an entire chapter dedicated to geography or religion and magic. Did you read my question? – Gio Oct 9 '16 at 9:31
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    Almost none @Gio – Featherball Oct 9 '16 at 14:55

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