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I believe this falls well outside the world-building acceptable topics, so I have come here looking for advice!

As a world builder, I want to produce languages, settings, flora and fauna, and combine them all into on seamless world

As a 'writer' (I am a strong writer in anyway) I want to connect with the reader, and convey particular thoughts and feelings.

Sometimes I may create a world to support a story, other times I may create a story to give life to a world.

With the latter however it can be difficult to produce a story that is readily accessible to readers while fully exploring the world if only because the world is unique enough that the reader may have difficulty relating to the setting.

How can we balance the two? And are there any easy ways to allow readers become invested in, or be able to relate to, a story world that made to be different?

  • Just a personnal thought but, have you considered turning your world into a tabletop rpg book? That way, you would know that your readers are actually interested in your world and its possibilities. Also, it's not uncommon for those books to have a couple of short stories included. Of course it requires other things like game mechanics, illustrations and more. – Patsuan Jun 14 '17 at 8:15
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One way could be to tell your story as the narrator of a wild-life documentary.

I'd guess that the perceptions and surroundings of a common ant is completely alien from our own experience. Yet, we could still tell a story of the rise and fall of our local backyard ant-hill. Build suspense. Create individuals and their struggles. We'd observe the daily happenings, ant x does y, then z because a wasp attacked. From there it's not a large step to dramatize these events and create human-centered metaphors.

So if you enjoy building really strange worlds with really strange characters you could observe what is happening in your own mind and then take a step back. As the wild-life narrator of your own world, what could you say about it? In this way you don't have explicitly add a humanoid character in the middle of everything.

If this is easy to turn into interesting writing, I don't know. But I hope that it gives another perspective for you.

  • First thought that came into my head were the 2 movies Antz and A Bug's Life. Basically do exactly as you described ^.^ – ggiaquin16 Jun 13 '17 at 22:20
  • @ggiaquin Its all ants sure, but those movies really do the opposite of what I meant. Antz and A Bug's life make the ants very human: standing on two legs, being able to talk, having romantic relationships, etc. Compare that to simply going to an ant hill with a notebook and write down what they are doing, and from that create a story. :) – K.Torp Jun 13 '17 at 22:35
  • got it, that does make sense thanks for clarifying. – ggiaquin16 Jun 13 '17 at 22:46
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Your world can be anything, but your characters should be relatable.

Look at the other examples in fantasy literature. The story can be set in a completely different world, but the characters are either human, or reader can easily think of them as humans. It's not the world, but the characters and the story that should keep your reader engaged.

Now, with that problem solved, you are free to do your worldbuilding. Who is your main character? If he (she) an Earthling, things are simple. When an animal looks like zebra, you can call it a "zebra". If the character not supposed to be familiar with our zebras, you have to give a description, short, but clear enough so that reader can tell "Oh, it's just like a zebra!"

World description in itself is usually not very interesting to the reader. Follow the principles "show, don't tell" and make any descriptions that you have to make relevant to the story.

  • Within games I am quite familiar with the concept, but how does 'show don't tell' work in writing? Also you have a good point about the characters. I've tried to create proxies whom may be equally unfamiliar with the world and come from a setting similar to our own. This allows me opportunities to explain certain things, or have the character themselves boil it down into something more familiar. But this feels like a whole lot of 'telling' – Stephen DiMarco Jun 13 '17 at 17:53
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    Ok, I see how visual arts are different. In the world of writing, "Show, don't tell" means that descriptions are coming through character's experience and not through general narration. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Show,_don%27t_tell – Alexander Jun 13 '17 at 18:16
  • Ah, okay, thanks for clarifying and for the link. In truth I come more from a background of game design, so mapping techniques from one to the other is still an on going process. – Stephen DiMarco Jun 13 '17 at 18:35
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So While writing in depth descriptive passages may or may not be boring to some (I know I personally skip them to the good part) that doesn't mean you still can't put an effort into building your world in writing. What you don't want to end up happening is getting so descriptive that the reader pretty much lost the story trying to imagine every little detail you provide. This is also known as purple prose. The link provides a helpful passage on what it is and how you can modify descriptions to better suite your goals without over doing it.

As a world builder, I am sure this is not what you want to hear. You want to bring your world to life. The problem is... Not everyone can imagine the same. As I mentioned above... to make sure everyone understands the details of your world, you will end up having to write in so many minute details that it becomes a chore and breaks the flow of the story.

For the record, There is nothing wrong with creating your own language, your own environment and world. You can talk about plants and animals if they are relevant to the plot. In other words, if your MC is in a forest, and you start to describe the forest and all the birds chirping and wind blowing and all the animals running around, it takes away from what the MC is doing in the forest. However, if the MC is in a forest looking for some big monster, and he notices no birds are chirping as a sign that something dangerous is near by... that ambiance becomes a necessary part of that scene and the major difference that most people often misunderstand.

The world should be supporting of your characters. So if you have a world already done and you want to write a story about it, think about that world, it's pros, cons, environment, types of animals, it's setting and technology. Create characters that can fit into it. The the ability to relate has more to do with the character personality than whether a character fits into the world or not. There are many stories where someone from modern era is placed into a fantasy world, like Narnia as an example. As the characters went through the story, they adapted to the environment but we were able to relate to the characters due to who they were and how they were portrayed.

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    I like your explanation of building the world through your characters experiences, I can work with that idea, thank you. – Stephen DiMarco Jun 13 '17 at 17:56
  • @StephenDiMarco that is what I usually do. I build the characters first then the world. The world mostly builds itself this way as you start creating character bios. City they are from. relations. food. language. how they sleep. all that stuff goes into world building and by time you are done creating the cast, you have a majority of the world created without extra efforts. – ggiaquin16 Jun 13 '17 at 18:02

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