This post was written specifically for the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop.

One of the things I’ve been doing since the last AuthorToolbox is listening to podcasts and Youtube videos discussing various techniques hoping to apply some of them to my own writing. One of the biggest areas I wanted to focus on was worldbuilding so I’m going to pass on a couple of the hints I’ve picked up on the subject.

One of the main things I’d like to discuss involves an idea that the Savage Books video I found referred to as “Name it and drop it“. Personal speaking, I think of it more as sowing seeds for later harvest. The idea is rather than give an explanation (or worse, an info-dump) about a piece of your world, simply make a reference to it. The reference could be a character name, an event, a location or just a detail about the world in general. Then you just leave the reference there, leaving it under the surface of your story as it were. You can elaborate on it further on into the story, whether than be a few paragraphs or a few chapters later.

Now the original video gives some great examples from a better known source (see link 1 below) but, for a change, I’ve decided to be brave and try illustrating this using my own work. The following is the first two paragraphs from a previous draft of House Valerius, chapter one:

Over the centuries it has become tradition for our family to gather at the House of the current Patriarch on the day of Ascension, to celebrate their becoming head of the families. For weeks preparations had been made in my father’s house and now, only two days before, the anticipation was running high.
It had been thirty years since my father had challenged our last Patriarch for leadership and had succeeded in his ambition. I was not there to see it of course; but my uncles, who are my father’s loyal lieutenants and stood beside him on the day, have told me of the occasion enough times on previous Ascension celebrations that I can picture it almost as clearly as they.

Too much, too quickly, right? And now, here is the recently revised opening:

The kitchen of Shadowcroft Manor was crowded and hectic, everyone there busy making preparations for the Solstice and our expected guests. Rather than try and scrounge some breakfast amid the chaos, I contented myself with a cup of coffee and escaped to the quiet of the library.
I’d risen early enough that it was still daylight outside. The windows in the library; the real ones, not the fake ones visible from the outside; had their thick blackout drapes drawn. Despite that, tiny slivers of weakened sunlight could still be seen in the gap between their hems and the floor. I made sure I kept well away from them, feeling the habitual prickling in my skin, and settled myself into one of the large leather chairs that populated the room.

Hopefully this is more inclined to have the reader asking questions and drawing them in rather than the previous version.

Another suggestion I picked up, this time courtesy of Mary Robinette Kowal on the Writing Excuses podcast, was using events from your worldbuilding in place of a more defined timeline. The example given (which comes about the 5:30 mark on the episode, link 2 below) was rather than say that event Y took place X number of years ago, instead say that it happened just after event Z. Not only does this prevent you having to have an exact timeline there and then, it basically gives two pieces of worldbuilding for the price of one and, into the bargain, can also draw your readers interest deeper into the story. You don’t even need to give any detail about what event Z was, just leave them wondering about it.

Finally, coming back to the video I mentioned, there is also the idea of using your worldbuilding details to help set the tone of your work, particularly in your opening chapter. By describing some of the common events in your world, you can paint a picture of what your world can be like. Again, here’s my attempt from chapter one.

Although it was easy to understand the excitement many felt before the Solstice, with members of the various Houses gathering and the ensuing banquet, I couldn’t shake my anxiety. Despite his well-known prowess, it was still possible my father would face a duel that same night. If a challenge was made, it could only end one way, in death.

I’m going to leave things there for the moment, but I may well return to the topic of worldbuilding later in the year. In this meantime, I hope either this or the sources I’ve included below prove useful in your writing journey.

Link 1: How to Write Worldbuilding: Game of Thrones

Link 2: Writing Excuses 14.35: What You Leave Out

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4 Comments

  1. This is really interesting, Drew, and I like your writing. I’m confused about the name it and drop it technique, though, because I can’t tell what from your pre-edited paragraph was named and dropped in the post-edited paragraph. I was expecting to see Ascension dropped in there. Not that the post-edited paragraph needs that, or maybe I’m missing what name it and drop it is?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry, Raimey, I probably could have been better about my examples. My intent was to say that there is an event coming up (the name) without actually explaining what it is (the drop). It might make more sense if I had continued to use Ascension instead of switching to Solstice, maybe I should go back and edit that.
      To be honest, the video makes it a lot clearer.

      Like

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