Is World Building a Waste of Time?

I watched an interesting video the other day about the dangers of detailed worldbuilding, and how it produces lazy readers.

This really caught me off guard.  Everything else I’ve read in regards to fantasy and world building stresses how important detailed world building and consistency is.  And considering how often authors such as J.K Rowling and George R.R. Martin get grilled on obscure parts of the worlds they’ve created (and my own personal dream of one day being an equally as famous author also bombarded with these questions on twitter) having a detailed understanding of your world seems pretty important.

More than that, I completely disagree with the idea that having a well thought out world leads to lazy readers who don’t bother to ask questions.  I think that a world feeling real makes people more curious about the details, and more willing to use their imagination to fill in some of the blanks.

I’m not saying that every fantasy author needs to engage in deeply detailed world building in the style of Tolkien (because that would be ridiculous), but I just don’t think that choosing to spend time on world building is a bad thing.

Perhaps I’m biased because I thoroughly enjoy world building.  To me it isn’t a chore, it’s just delving into my imagination to find more answers that have really been lingering there all along.  I love the feeling of bringing the world I’ve created to life with a history, cultures, maybe even an attempt at a language.   Of course, the chances of any of this detail making it into the hopefully one day published version of my books is slim, but that’s not why I’m doing it.  I’m doing it for me, so that I know what I’m writing has its base in a history I’ve made for the world.  It’s a way for me to express my creativity, and for me to feel like my stories have a little more depth to them than they’d have without world building.

I’ve been focusing on my world building at the moment whilst I’m out of action on the rewriting front thanks to a computer malfunction and lack of Scrivener.  I’ve found it deeply refreshing.  Drawing maps, picturing cultures and dreaming up a history makes me feel so much more connected to my story.  And I’ll be honest, I’m quite emotionally attached to my world.  For the time being at least it’s still just mine, and I love being able to take the opportunity to explore it.  I know after the work I’ve been doing I’ll return to my writing much more refreshed and engaged.

So regardless of what some YouTube guru says, world building for me at least isn’t a waste of time.  It’s all part of the process of writing.


3 thoughts on “Is World Building a Waste of Time?

  1. I think when it comes to world building the author needs to know all the details and the readers need to know what pertains to the story line itself. That’s just how I do it when I’m world building, I’ll have histories and cultures all squared away on a separate file, but only add what helps the story itself for the readers. But world building especially in fantasy is a big part of the writing process as you say.

      1. Yes, exactly! Because if the author can’t answer a question a reader may have out of curiosity then they are doing something wrong.

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