World-Building: How Much Detail?

I’ve noticed a number of adult reviewers of my Wycaan Master series have been critical of my world-building, suggesting that I do not go deep enough or that the books are too fast-paced and that more description of scenery and environment would help to pace the book.

There seems a definite age issue here. I asked a number of my sons’ friends (ages 10-16) who have read the book and they did not agree. In fact, the younger readers were happy to describe to me the fortress of Galbrieth from Book 1, and mighty Hothengold, the dwarf capital, which is situated in a huge cavern. Admittedly, each child described it differently, but I am not sure that matters.

Girl Browsing Books at the Library

It seems there is a certain richness in each (young) reader’s imagination forming their own world, but why do adult readers not want to exercise their minds in such a way? Why does the generation of instant gratification seem willing to work their imagination muscles, while those who always had to work hard to discover anything, do not? In an earlier blog post – The Art of World Building – which I wrote at the beginning of my epic fantasy writing journey – I assumed that it would be exactly the opposite.

I suspect age is not always a factor. The adult who is often challenged to find reading time, wants to push the plot along, something my books are complimented for, and not spend a chapter describing every tree in Mirkwood. Ironically, when the same readers lost themselves in Tolkien’s Middle Earth decades ago, they had more free time to meander with the master.

Over the summer, I have indulged myself in writing an adult fantasy novel, a Game of Thrones wannabe, and I will soon shelve it to focus on editing Book 4 and writing Book 5 – the cycle never ends. But I realize I have been no more generous with my world building than for the Wycaan Master series.

Airship10

So my question to you, dear readers: How much detail of the environment is needed for a YA in comparison to an adult fantasy novel? Is there enough world-building in the Wycaan Master series? Please feel free to leave your feedback in the comments section below. I really appreciate every comment.

Talking of feedback: I have been reading a number of books about Amazon.com and how to improve your ranking and exposure. I really need reviews on both At The Walls Of Galbrieth and The First Decree, on both the US and UK sites. Apparently less than 3% of readers leave reviews and I admit, until I began writing, I was one of the 97%. But now from the other side of the fence, I would really appreciate that if you have read either book, please take five minutes and leave a review.

It will be a huge help to a struggling author and if ever we meet in Odessiya, the next round of ale will be on me!

hobbits in pub

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and The First Decree, both released by Tourmaline Books. Ashbar – Book 3 – is due for release in October 2013. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

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4 comments on “World-Building: How Much Detail?

  1. Tracy Koppel says:

    I think it’s a matter of pacing, not imagination. The adult reader wants to “get it right,” while the young reader is anxious to move the story forward, and is therefore more content to fill in their own details. That said, I know some adult Jane Austen readers are frustrated by her lack of description, and others are content with creating their own details.

  2. My normal complaint about books is that they can be too slow and over descriptive! I like fast paced books without big info dumps and every piece of clothing and furniture being described! I guess authors will never be able to please all of us. I haven’t read your books so I can’t comment on them directly. I think you need to do what feels right for your telling of the story.

  3. wagnerel says:

    For me, the important aspects of world building are not the physical descriptions per say (I get pretty bored with stories that spend lots of time describing clothes beyond what is needed to get a general feel for the setting, for instance), but the stuff that hints at there being a rich culture and an internally consistent world that permeates the story and exists behind the scenes. It is part of what defines the characters and what makes them different from people from our own culture. I agree that the describe every tree or every rivet in the armor approach gets a bit wearying, and even as an adult, I tend to skim that sort of thing more. But the character interactions and their internal states, that’s important and can be where the nuances of world building come in.

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