While there are some readers who revel in massive, lovingly crafted milieu, I believe that it would be a mistake to write a book without character, idea or events to support and flesh out the milieu. The question becomes then, how do you choose what parts of your world to show and when? When you have built so much, what is important? How much do you need to show?
As an example, we have established that Alicia the Archaeologist has risked reputation, her personal fortune and her career on an expedition that she believes will uncover the tomb of Pharaoh Whatshisface. Her funding is running low and if she doesn’t find something to bring back to her financers within the next few days, they will no longer be able to justify the expense of her expedition and intend to cut her off. Alicia believes that there is artifact that was buried with Pharaoh Whatshisface whose recovery will secure funding for many years to come. The chapter three ends with Alicia discovering the entrance to Whatshisface’s tomb, cracking it open and smelling the dry must of a complex undisturbed since it was sealed.
Let us also presume that you have spent a significant chunk of time and effort building Whatshisface’s tomb. Grade A world building. Your ridiculous amounts research has allowed you to map out the enormous complex to the last sandstone brick and rattlesnake’s den. You’ve compiled lists of treasure that includes artifacts described his history but yet to be recovered. You have both pictogram and English translations of every wall etching. Anyone would want to show this world off a bit, but what are you goals as a writer?
Like Alicia, you are on a deadline. In order to secure your own financial backing, you must first recover your own prize. You must sell your book. So instead of going into exploring each room in descriptive depth, pick your battles carefully. I would take my descriptive queues from Alicia’s torch. As she explores the crypt, her light will play over the walls she passes, illuminating only the small area around her. Fingers of light will play across sections of nearby rooms she doesn’t explore, giving only vague details and tantalizing hints. She might encounter pits or vaulted ceilings whose extremes elude the touch of her torchlight, but not the racket and rumble of a thrown rock. Alicia would likely get side tracked, lost or take time to enjoy the view now and again, but she is motivated. You and she both have the experience and skill to make it to the end of the tomb and claim your respective prizes. The story ends when she gets the artifact and brings it back to her backers. If you have done your job right and secured your book deal, the financing will allow both you and Alicia to return to Whatshisface’s tomb in the future for further exploration.
Beginning the Conversation: Given more detail than would be prudent to describe, how do you choose what is important to describe in your own writing?Tags: Sequence 01: The MICE Quotient