Writers, their Research, Worlds and Stories
Shortlisted for the William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review
Fiction plays a vital role in describing history and transmitting culture. How writers understand and use history can play an equally important role in how they navigate a novel. This book explores the nature of the author’s relationship with history and fiction – often using writers’ own words – as well as the role history plays in fiction.
Focusing on genre fiction, this study considers key issues in the relationship between history and fiction, such as how writers contextualise the history they use in their fiction and how they incorporate historical research. The book also addresses the related topic of world building using history, discussing the connections between the science fiction writers’ notion of world building and the scholarly understanding of story space and explaining the mechanics of constructing the world of the novel. This book places the writing of fiction into a wider framework of history and writing and encourages dialogue between writers and historians.
Chapter 4: Constructing the world of the novel: The nature of the narrative and of the world-build
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Constructing the world of the novel: The nature of the narrative and of the world-build
Although ‘world building’ is a concept used mainly by writers of speculative fiction, it is a useful concept for describing the nature of research undertaken for a novel. The description of this process as ‘world building’ is often intended quite literally (inasmuch as a science fictional or fantasy world needs to be ‘built’ to the level of reality required by readers), but on a more metaphorical level it can be applied to the task facing any writer seeking to create any world, including one that uses history.
There is no single method for approaching world building and the array of techniques suggested by writers and educators range from intuitively developing specific detail, to running computer programs to build the fabric of the world. Some authors give checklists of items that a world might need (clothes, food, animals, languages) and others suggest shortcuts. A common checklist for writers of speculative fiction is a lengthy list of questions provided by the Science Fiction Writers of America and devised by fantasy writer Patricia C. Wrede. The questions range from climate and crops, through customs and cultures, to calendars. Some writers literally build the physical world (Russell Kirkpatrick, for instance, who is a practising cartographer as well as a writer of epic fantasy, has full detail of landforms and wind patterns and related matters for his fantasy worlds) while...
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