Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Vast and Lofty Fabric

Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.

 ~Saint Augustine

When you're a writer, everything you see and everything you read tends to have significance to your writing. Take the above quote from Saint Augustine. On the surface, it's a quote about humility. But to someone whose days are filled with ponderings about imaginary worlds, it suddenly struck me as brilliant advice about worldbuilding.

You see,  I do desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric. I want to create the kind of stories that will be remembered in a hundred years or more. I want to create whole worlds to tell those stories in. And the above quote reminds me is that every great thing, every lofty construction must begin with a deep and solid foundation.

But what exactly does that mean when you apply it to imaginary worlds? To put it simply, it means you need to think about your world's basic nature. Worldbuilding isn't just saying "this place is here and that place is there and this is what the societies in those places are like". Worldbuilding is also establishing how and why your world exists and what are the natural rules that govern it. In our world we have the laws of physics, but an imaginary world could operate on entirely different principles.

Don't settle for just explaining things away by saying "it's magic". Know the reasons that your imaginary world operates differently from our world. Don't get caught up in the thinking that science and magic don't mix. Science is just another word for knowledge and magic is really just an application of knowledge. (Albeit usually specialized or arcane knowledge that can only be used by some.)

So when doing your worldbuilding learn to think like a philosopher. Get metaphysical with your creation. It will make your imaginary world feel all the more real and genuine to your readers.


  1. "Don't settle for just explaining things away by saying 'it's magic'."

    I like that. Thanks. :)

  2. World building is all about depth and truth.

  3. I hate that "it's magic" cop out.

  4. This is why I suck at writing fantasy :)

  5. Great advice. It does come across when an author has really thought about their world.

  6. That's great advice. I wonder if someday I'll be able to create a world for a story?

  7. Nice. I like the idea of going into the metaphyscial for the world building. It's something I struggle with, but it seems the more I write the more I'm able to get into it. It's like I have to see it in action before I can understand it.

  8. What a great point! I think we too often as writers say "I'll just wing it, no one will notice." When, in fact everyone will notice. Your book can be okay or it can be great, depending on how you treat it.


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