Fantasy novels can cover so many different types of worlds. It doesn’t always have to be a medieval or agrarian setting. Remember, pre-computerized or pre-electrified societies had guns, cannons, and steam power. Have you wandered into Stormwind City in World of Warcraft lately? While many players ride around on traditional steeds, others ride dragons, and still more have motorized transportation. There’s no reason that a little technology can exist in your world as well, if you wanted.
Sometimes a map, creature encounters, or a sword fight are not enough. A reader needs to know what type of world s/he has been thrust into upon opening your book.
Now I’m sure some may say, “They know they’ve purchased a fantasy novel. They should know what kind of world to expect.” All well and true. But how to best describe the intricacies of your world? One unique aspect may be the level of technology.
Exposition right out the gate is definitely NOT the way to go. Imagine opening a book or using Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature and seeing something like…
It was the third age after the fall of Westernia. Many people roamed far and wide over the centuries. They built communities, new cities, and were now the denizens of four separate Kingdoms. The distances created new languages, regional accents, alliances, and war.
However, all the Kingdoms would unite when faced with a common enemy blah blah blah… Maybe this could work as a blurb, but not as a chapter opening.
Here’s My Approach
A better way to build your world is in dribs and drabs emerging from the story and characters. As an example, in my forthcoming novel An Easterly Sojourn, I have a single passage from the middle of Chapter 3 that locks in my world’s technology level and a few other things.
The vendor blinked his over-sized eyes and smiled ear-to-ear at Cyril, as only a Gnome could do. He held out a small, plain steel box, about two inches square and a quarter inch thick. With a flick of his fingers, the Gnome flipped the top open to reveal a wick and a gnarled metal wheel. His thumb pressed down on the wheel, and after a quick quarter turn, the wick burst into a small flame.
Cyril raised his eyebrows and smiled. “By Korak’s staff! Instant fire.”
“I’d hate to hear the price,” Daggorat said.
After a hearty round of bargaining with the vendor, Cyril paid eight Golden Claw pieces. He proudly admired the gadget as they walked away. “An amazing feat of Gnomish ingenuity and craftsmanship.”
“And you accuse me of being impulsive. Just twelve copper-jacks for our breakfasts. We could eat at the tavern for almost a whole year on that money. Why does everyone trust those Gnomes?” Daggorat shook his head. “It must be those huge childlike eyes.”
“Oh, stop casting shadows upon my enjoyment.” He moved closer and whispered, “Besides, with this fascinating little trinket, I can make fire without suffering the company of dark mages. Or bending to their will.”
Within this small passage, I’ve introduced Gnomes, the monetary system, some information about the technology level of the world, and something mysterious concerning both Light and Dark Mages. All while keeping the story flowing. This is the approach that I’ve had the best feedback from at critique groups. Give it a try and see what it can do for your writing!
Hope you found this writing tip helpful.
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