Monday, March 21, 2011

The Art of World Craft from Other Writers' Writings

How perfect does the world you craft for your story have to be? Do you read other writer's books in order to glean some little sparklet of genius from their words?

Some authors really do it for me. Patricia McKillip is one author who just delights in her words, and in her worlds. She weaves together the most remarkable terms in order to create a shockingly vivid picture. Her lands, her worlds, her sense of place is solid and firm and there. You can't visualize another land except the one she snares you in during the duration of her tale. You're there, in Hed, in Sealy Head, in Ombria, wherever she takes you.

Diana Wynne Jones, of course, is another writer that does it for me. She has a real talent for picking random words, combining them, and creating a word that is completely new, bizarre, and amazingly perfect. She also has a vivid sense of place. She writes, and her worlds come alive. In between the pages you can believe in magic, in a series of worlds numbered 1-12, in an askew sense of normality. She knows how to draw you in and keep you there, in Ingary, in Dalemark, wherever she takes you.

Tolkien is the one I go to for sheer inspiration. I read what he writes, and the poetry in his words refreshes me, makes me think, makes me wonder about my world, and my worldbuilding. His sense of place, his intricate attention to detail make him one of my fantasy heroes of all times. Plus, he has a great way with words.

Below is one of my favourite passages from his book, "The Silmarillion." The beauty of his language sings like poetry.

"Then the discord of Melkor spread ever wider, and the melodies which had been heard before foundered in a sea of turbulent sound. But Iluvatar sat and hearkened until it seemed that about his throne there was a raging storm, as of dark waters that made war one upon another in an endless wrath that would not be assuaged.

Then Iluvatar arose, and the Ainur perceived that he smiled; and he lifted up his left hand, and a new theme began amid the storm, like and yet unlike to the former theme, and it gathered power and had new beauty."

From: The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Taken from the first chapter of The Silmarillion, with the creation of the world and the re-harmonizing of Melkor's first discord.


  1. I tend to write urban fantasy, so my worlds are not all that different from the real world. I've read some great books with completely made up worlds though. If you haven't read Atherton by Patrick Carmen (middle grade) then you should check it out. It's about a new planet created from nothing. Scientists made it because the Earth was being destroyed.

  2. Wow, Kelly, I have Atherton and couldn't get into it. But that sounds like a good premise. Going to try it again. Um, worldbuilding?? Ursula K Le Guin's early tales were stellar.


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