Sunday, 21 July 2013

A Conversation with Helena Puumala, author of the Kati of Terra Series - World Building

July 18, 2013 Garneau Pub Patio, Edmonton Alberta

Part Five – World Building

Question: How do you build a world? How big and detailed should it be?

Answer: A clear picture of your world is important in writing a story. It’s hard to develop characters’ reactions to events, unless the setting for the initiating actions is clear; that includes having an adequate amount of detail. Some readers may chafe at this, wanting more action and less background, while others are quite fascinated by the process and imaginative results of world building
Question: I suppose that’s true in all story telling but it seems that is especially acute in science fiction and fantasy. Why do you think that is? Is it intrinsic to the genre, or is it driven by the type of reader who is drawn to speculative fiction - that is, people who enjoy complexity and novelty.

Answer: In my case, the need for world building probably comes from within, rather than from a deliberate attempt to attract a certain type of reader. In my latest book, Kati 3 (in progress) I was having trouble inventing a story because I hadn’t yet invented the setting, especially Gorsh’s planet, the place where my villain lives. I realized that Kati 1 and Kati 2 had very specific environments, and to a considerable extent those environments drove the story. The physical and social environments of those worlds really set the tone for the narrative arcs of the stories. Setting and narrative are interdependent. I suppose any fiction writer would agree with that.

Question: As would any social scientist. After all, the physical environment has a huge influence on the resulting culture and behaviour of the inhabitants of that environment.

Answer: That is true in reality but its just as much a necessary truth in fiction as in non-fiction. After all, you can’t have a person conquer a mountain or fall off of one until you have built the mountain range and the planet it exists on.

Question: Yes, in science fiction, you have to build whole planets, sometimes galaxies.

Answer: But the look in a lover’s eye, the arch of the eyebrow can be just as important as the shape of a galaxy. Nonetheless, one always has to remember that those tiny detail must be contained in that larger setting that we call world building.

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