I love writing dialog, building story tension, and revealing plot twists, but for some reason I'd always had this notion the worldbuilding aspect was laborious. Something that took time away from writing the "fun" parts.
But I was confused. I think it was because I love that adrenaline rush I get writing a particularly tense scene -- you know those scenes where your fingers can't fly fast enough to get it down? Or, as a reader, where you realize you've stopped breathing and are hanging on every word?
While it's true that those types of scenes typically contain only subtle worldbuilding, if any -- and only a masochist would slow down her writing flow to force herself to write description -- that doesn't necessarily make worldbuilding a chore.
I think that my own, previously unacknowledged love for WB is the whole reason I can't seem to make myself fast-draft. Yes, I do sometimes get in a groove and leave the details for later. But as a writer I have an erratic rhythm. Sometimes I need to really slow down and get into descriptions of my world and its landscape, culture, politics, psychology, etc., to fuel my creativity for continuing the story. It was true for GHOST PLANET, whose world is really a character in the story, and especially so for my current WIP, which is largely set in a sensual, vibrant oasis on a post-apocalyptic Earth.
And yeah, it's only a paragraph or single line or even single word carefully placed here and there, but it's like the sauce. The ingredients (character, plot, etc.) are critical, but they don't hold together without worldbuilding.
So in tribute to this personal revelation, I've decided to conduct an informal study of worldbuilding. Off the top of my head, here are some titles that really nailed WB for me . . .
- Maia by Richard Adams - It's a sexworld, pure and simple, but incredibly complex and richly drawn, from culture, to landscape, to politics.
- Splinter of the Mind's Eye by Alan Dean Foster - I read this Star Wars-based novel in 6th grade and its swamp world stuck with me all this time. You might be tempted to think that LUCAS actually did the worldbuilding, but this story has its own rich setting. (A bit like Dagobah, but the book came out before Empire.) There's romance too. Though it turns out to have been incestuous later. (Interesting commentary about that here and here. But I digress.)
- Harry Potter by JK Rowling - OBviously, said Sherlock.
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte - English countryside, boarding school, big old spooky house, brooding gentleman who moonlights as a gypsy, and a beautiful crazy woman in the attic! Dark, dark, dark and lovely. Wuthering Heights was probably more atmospheric, but I connected more with Jane's world.
And I have to give a nod to SF Signal, which has a thought-provoking (and much more clever) post on worldbuilding that got me thinking about this topic: Worlds Are Conjured, Not Built.