It’s been said that writers should know everything about every character that’s portrayed in any way in order to make them round and complex. Unfortunately, this mentality can produce an obsessive worry in some writers that they don’t know enough about their world, their characters, their anything. They go back to the metaphorical (or literal) drawing board to create entire characters, sometimes diving in so far as to create whole cultures just for the sake of a side character. The mentality of knowing everything about every character can sometimes lead to advanced cases of world-builder’s disease.
(opinion alert) One famous sufferer from world-builder’s disease was the great J.R.R. Tolkien himself. If you’ve spent any kind of time around my blog, you know I don’t play around with Middle Earth, and you know my adoration of the world and characters. I recognize the work he’s done and the detail he’s added to the books and essays surrounding his world, but I also recognize that it’s sometimes a bit too much. Sometimes, even Tolkien himself gets out of hand. Obviously this shows that world-builder’s disease won’t cripple a writer’s chance of publication (if that’s your goal), but I believe that prose can always be stronger once the writer recognizes their burgeoning case of world-builder’s disease. So what is it?
In which a writer gets so caught up in the intricate inner workings of a world that the story is never actually written.
I call this Strain A of world-builder’s disease. It’s the more severe variety in which the story never actually gets told because the writer’s so wrapped up in trying to cover all their bases. The thought behind the mentality is that the writer wants to have all the pieces already laid out for them to reference when they actually get started. The problem is that worlds and cultures and architecture and characters are all interconnected. There are thousands (probably more accurately trillions) of tiny pieces of data that depend on each other to create the web of the world. Even writing modern stories set somewhere on this Earth in our own timeline requires all kinds of tiny details. Strain A’s most detrimental side-effect is that the writer has very little by way of completed text to show for their work. Yes, they have piles and piles of notebooks and maps, but where’s the story?
Treatment: Unfortunately, there’s not very many techniques to get a writer out of this mentality. Eventually, the story must simply be written. Recognize that it’s something you struggle with, realize that all you have is a multitude of notes, and start writing. That’s it. That’s all you can do. Your anxiety that you aren’t prepared may skyrocket, but hopefully once you settle in to the story, that’ll level out. Be careful, though. Sufferers of Strain A world-builder’s disease are particularly prone to falling ill of Strain B world-builder’s disease.
In which a writer gets so caught up in the intricate inner workings of a world that they flood the story with the details.
Strain Bis what I call this just-as-bad variant of the dreaded world-builder’s disease. Very original, I know. I think the distinction between the two of these strains is very important. The story of a writer with Strain A never gets written, but at least Stain B sufferers manage to get some of their story down. Too bad the story is bogged down with all kinds of detail and data pieces that aren’t always needed simply because the writer is excited that they know them. They want to share! They want to show all that hard world-building work they’ve done! It’s commendable, but often the prose turns out to be bogged down and littered with little things that–while adding texture to the world–are unimportant to the story’s plot and character development at large.
Treatment: It’s impossible to treat world-builder’s disease without first recognizing that it’s a problem. Writers have to first realize that while, yes, all the planning is a form of research, it eventually turns into the most absorbing and fulfilling form of procrastination. It’s impossible to know every single detail about the story’s world. And to be frank, how much of that do you really need? Embrace the spontaneity of writing. Sometimes sufferers of Strain B world-builder’s disease will write along and come up against a detail they don’t know. The writer will stop, back away from the piece, and turn to developing the entirety of whatever they decided they needed. This can be a productive technique when handled carefully. It’s important not to dwell too long on creating those little details. Sometimes simply inserting something logical for a detail and continuing to write without breaking stride too much works just fine.
If you’re planning on employing this to break your wold-builder’s disease, it may help your anxiety to track some of those spontaneous choices in a document separate from your story. Make note of what detail you added (ex. Cyrian’s cousin Banys once had a pet iguana), in what context it was put (ex. iguana mentioned in casual conversation), and if you’re really dedicated to a character timeline note where/when in your story it occurred (ex. previous to the second invasion).
(do you struggle with world-builder’s disease? how do you deal with it? are you still struggling to get out of your planning phase? I’m always here to help.)
Part 2 will delve into which characters should be filled out, which can be sketched, and further more which need only the barest of notice.
Taurus: I Want To Write You A Song – I want to lend you my coat, one that’s as soft as your cheek, so when the world is cold you will have a hiding place you can go.
Gemini: A.M. – All my favorite conversations always made in the A.M. ‘cause we don’t know what we’re saying. We’re just swimming 'round in our glasses, talking out of our asses like we’re all gonna make it.
Cancer: History – You and me got a whole lot of history. We could be the greatest team that the world has ever seen.
Leo: Hey Angel – Oh, I wish I could be more like you. Do you wish you could be more like me?
Virgo: Olivia – The summertime and butterflies all belong to your creation.
Libra: What A Feeling – Everybody needs someone around.
Scorpio: If I Could Fly – I’ve got scars, even though they can’t always be seen, and pain gets hard, but now you’re here and I don’t feel a thing.
Sagittarius: Perfect – If you like causing trouble up in hotel rooms, and if you like having secret little rendezvous, if you like to do the things you know that we shouldn’t do, baby, I’m perfect.
Capricorn: Infinity – It’s like I’m frozen, but the world still turns. Stuck in motion, and the wheels keep spinning 'round, moving in reverse with no way out.
Aquarius: Temporary Fix – You can call me when you’re lonely, when you can’t sleep, I’ll be your temporary fix.
Pisces: End Of The Day – All I know at the end of the day is you love who you love; there ain’t no other way.
I provided lyrics to give you an idea of what specifically reminded me of each of the signs. Feel free to ask for a more in-depth explanation!
Did you know I can hear magic in wind chimes? Because I can, it’s when that small piece in the middle hits the metal and the world is brighter, more alive with its touches. Small notes siding on shrill, but they are perfect little sparks that float away as if free embers.
There’s a spell woven in a puppy dog’s wagging tail, going quickly from side to side as big round eyes stare up at me as if I’m their whole world.
Sometimes I am.
And sometimes I’m staring with my own wide eyes up at a blue, blue sky filled with clouds that are painted with swirls that pepper the horizon. Though I am about on a mile the ground and the mile between me and clouds seem like forever, I’m only a piece of this world. Nothing more, nothing less, but here all the same.
There is magic in quiet streets where only leaves rustle behind me as I walk forward. And there is magic in not knowing where I’m going and there is magic in knowing exactly the same thing.
It’s when the wind blows just right, coming from all sides and rushing at me. It swirls my hair, moves it in every direction, but I can still see, my eyes never covered.
There’s a power in the breaths I take, that one single breath where I pause and don’t think.
Magic is in this world, almost splitting at the seams wanting to be noticed and I see it. I hear it in each reverberated instance.
X-Files Fic: Les Nouveaux Arrivants, an “Au Cafe Pequod” Ficlet
Rating: G Timeline: Alternate Universe, seven years after the end of “Au Cafe Pequod” Summary: Apparently I wasn’t as ready to leave this world behind as I thought I was. I had really wanted, when I was working on the original fic, to have a scene between Mulder and his parents, but I couldn’t figure out a way to get them into the picture.
This is the first of either two or three follow-up ficlets I have planned to round out this story, and none of them are going to make any sense at all unless you read this first.
WASHINGTON, D.C. MARCH 1949
For the inhabitants of the cozy apartment above the Cafe Pequod, a whole evening off is a rare thing.
Running a popular restaurant is a full-time job all by itself. When one owner is also working as a doctor, and another is in the process of re-obtaining his license to practice psychology, free time is even more difficult to come by. Add in a lively five-year-old daughter, and the very concept of a night off, for Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, is a completely foreign one.
Tonight, however, Maggie Scully has put her foot down.
So obviously the 2 main GMW ships at the moment are Rucas and Lucaya. That’s actually one of the reasons I ship Riarkle. Don’t get me wrong I’m total lucaya trash, but there’s just something about the subtlety of Riarkle between the lines….
They obviously love each other and care for each other–not necessarily romantically, but just in general–that’s a given. Farkle has loved both Riley and Maya forever, but even so he acts differently around them…
“Riley, is the sun. Warm and bright and lights up my whole day.” Riley makes his world go round. They round each other out; he believes in what he sees, while she believes and trusts blindly. We could go the route of: they’re both goofy, silly, and weird, and like forces repel, but to me they are pretty different, but are also similar…
If there’s a couple that has nothing in common, it won’t work, it just won’t. They’ll always argue, and they won’t be able to agree on anything. If there is a couple that is completely the same they’ll get bored, they won’t challenge each other, they won’t change each others perspectives, or expand their horizons; they’ll just stay unchanged, and won’t grow. There needs to be a balance: similar, but not the same, different, but not polar opposites. BALANCE.
Similarities: Farkle and Riley are both insecure, they care what other people think of them, and sometimes aren’t sure if they’re good enough (Flaws, Yearbook, Farkle, etc.). They’re both goofy and can both sometimes have “tunnel-vision” when it comes to certain things (Riley: Maya’s Mom, Belief, Forgiveness, etc.; Farkle: Belgium 1831, washing the car–secret of life, admitting Riley’s feelings–texas 3, etc.) They always want to watch over their friends, and understand each other perfectly. I sometimes think Farkle understands Riley more than Maya does. It’s like he can see into her soul. He knew even before she did that she was lying to herself about her feelings for Lucas. He expected and understood Riley’s need to change in yearbook. He was the first one to know that Riley was getting bullied, and she was the first one to know when he was. Put everyone else before themselves (I know the other 3 do too). Are both willing to let the people they like be with other people because they want them to be happy–Farkle helps Riley with Lucas, Riley helps Maya with Lucas.
Differences: Farkle only believes in what he sees, and Riley has beliefs beyond those. Farkle is realistic and Riley is optimistic. Riley is kind of naive and Farkle always examines every situation before reacting. Farkle loves school, and Riley doesn’t hate school but doesn’t particularly love it. Farkle kept his changed image from yearbook (except the name) while Riley changed back. Farkle is “geeky” and Riley is a “princess”.
They have similarities and differences to balance out both sides. I like to think of Farkle as Riley’s “Riley” because everyone else has Riley to fix things and make everything better, and believe in them but Riley doesn’t have herself for that. Farkle is sometimes that for her, like in Texas 3 when he helps her come to terms with her feelings for Lucas, or in Rah Rah when he said “I’m here because I believe in Riley.” But Farkle isn’t Riley, he is Farkle. He, unlike her, always seems to know how she’s feeling or what she’s thinking even before she’s sure of it herself. He loves and accepts her any way she is.
Honestly, I just really see them as a couple, I can feel the chemistry with them. Chemistry is important; it’s what makes the difference between platonic and romantic. I think right now we’re supposed to see Riarkle as platonic, so the writers can trick us again like they did in the beginning with us thinking that Rucas was endgame. I think it will happen, but not right away…
Lucaya and Rucas are huge right now, but eventually they’ll sort things out. I think what’s going to happen is while people aren’t looking, Riarkle is going to continue to build and build slowly under the surface and between the lines. They’re going to have a great foundation, continue to grow together, and continue to learn about each other. We are supposed to be watching the Lucaya Rucas love triangle, so when Riarkle happens people will think it came out of nowhere. We’re supposed to watch them together, but not really see them until it actually happens. It’s going to be a while down the line I think, but I think when it does happen they’ll be mature enough to understand that they’re more than friends. They’ll continue to expand each others horizons, views on life, and beliefs about the universe. They’ll affect each others personalities, and really start to get close–especially if Maya and Lucas are together.
Scenario guess: one day Riley will realize that she’s thinking about Farkle differently. They’ll go to hang out like they always have and she’ll start to get flustered. Farkle who gave up on Riley loving him because she’d never see him like that, would start to get confused. Eventually her feelings will come out, they’ll talk about how he didn’t think she’d ever feel that way about him, and then while he just starts rambling on all confused she’ll kiss him to shut him up, and romantic Riarkle will begin.
I don’t expect this to happen soon. I expect them to be the couple that is going to be a big deal when it happens, but right now we’re supposed to focus on Lucaya and Rucas. They’re supposed to be a “crack ship” that won’t really happen but it’s just fun to imagine. I think they’re supposed to be a huge surprise to shake the whole show down the line. Am I right? Well we’ll just have to wait and see…..
Taylor, this is literally the only thing I will ever ask from you to do. I met someone on Tumblr, her name is Savannah and she is literally one of the nicest and funniest people I know. Her url is thisnightisparklings.tumblr.com She wants more than anything to be able to get into Loft ‘89 to meet you. She deserves it more than anything in the world Tay. She is going to the LOUISVILLE SHOW JUNE 2 and she will be sitting in SECTION 110, ROW B, SEATS 1-5. Taylor, please please please meet her it would make her whole world go round! I ask nothing from you except that you meet Savannah!!