Monday Question: Wuzza Wooza Worldbuilding?

Saladin Ahmed wrote a cool thing at NPR called:

At Home In Fantasy’s Nerd-Built Worlds.”

It’s an article about the virtues of worldbuilding in terms of fantasy fiction.

In it, he says:

“Like a detailed model railroad the size of a football field, or a small city of fully furnished dollhouses, the well-built fantasy world astonishes us with the vastness of its intricacies. And from this wood, paint, cloth, metal, and hours and hours of painstaking nerds’ work, a kind of magic is made.”

(Which is a damn fine quote, indeed.)

I’m always a little… reticent to fall too deep into the world-building rabbit-hole, because oh, what a deep and wonderful hole it is. In both my upcoming YA cornpunk series and in my next Angry Robot novel, The Blue Blazes, by golly, there was worldbuilding to be done. But I also found that the worldbuilding was easy to become tangential and distracting — there comes a point when figuring out the details of the world crosses over from “enhances the richness of the narrative” to “tangles the narrative up in its own shoelaces and makes it fall down and chip a tooth and then everybody laughs at it as it skulks home, weeping into its bloodied hands.”

Ahmed points this out — giving some examples of worldbuilding that works (and why) and also noting those examples that perhaps fall towards parody (Robert Jordan, f’rex).

Really heavy worldbuilding distracts me, I think — once I hit that point in a fantasy novel that we have to describe the pubic grooming habits of halflings or the lyrical history of the lizard people’s addiction to chocolate eclairs I start to tune out. But, when done well, it gives you a deeper sense of place and roots you to the story in a way that the plot itself cannot. (This is true in much the same way that details about a character can bring you closer to that character — at least, until they don’t, until they expel you from them like an exorcism purging a ghost.)

I’m fond of saying that I prefer worldbuilding that serves the story rather than story that serves the worldbuilding. (Though the opposite is true in terms of games: a rich world presents myriad stories for me as the player to experience — the deeper the world, the bigger the sandbox.)

It also occurs to me just now that the worldbuilding in the very non-fantasy novel of Ulysses (James Joyce) is actually quite robust. It’s almost like a fantasy novel without the fantasy bits? In that sense that Joyce creates the heroic journey (made mundane) through a capably-realized real world city, and along the way packs in enough allusions and details to perhaps drown a bull elephant. (It’s a hard-to-read novel, though I do quite love it.)

I was never the kid with the fantasy map on his wall, but over time I’ve come to appreciate the power of really good worldbuilding.

Which is all a roundabout way of this week’s question:

What for you is an example of good worldbuilding? Or bad? In genre work or not.

And the obligatory: why?

51 comments

  • I write mostly fantasy…(although I’ve started a suspense novel that I’m not sure how to do, but that’s another story) and I find most modern fantasy books dull, dull, dull. Love the classics. I’m with you, world building should enhance the plot and characters, not the other way around. Unfortunately, that’s what so much of fantasy does. I tried to read some of the Wheel of Time books…I couldn’t concentrate. I feel like I’ve been there before and I don’t think I’ll see anything new. (I keep trying to read it but it’s not getting better.)

    A fantasy that really caught my attention recently was Dracula. The first half of the book was amazing, I loved it. It was a fantasy with horror and suspense. It wasn’t about the monster’s details, it was about that horrible, suspenseful feeling. I want to write a book trying to do just that.

    So yeah, fantasy, stop being so boring and start being original. Give me characters to love and think about. I want witty dialogue. Interesting worlds are great but they shouldn’t be the point.

  • i had this problem building my own world, having worked at both ends of too little work or too much work on the world. I finally settled on just enough where it melds the story but i leave enough lore in the story so people go oh there more going on besides this story. All i can say is that when the kickstarter start’s in about two to three weeks i will find out =P

  • Matt Ruff’s “Set This House in Order.” Ruff made the rare and difficult ordinary (and thus extraordinary) by making the small things important and setting the bigger picture just beyond the readers reach until the last moments. His world is so much like our own, one in which people focus so sharply on what’s right in front of them and miss the larger implications until it’s balancing on the precipice time. And though there were parts of characters revealed to the readers throughout, Ruff very clearly knew every intimate detail of the myriad lives inhabiting the novel. I can only aspire to have such a deft hand someday.

  • Ready Player One is an example of both. On one hand, the technology the author created and the post-apocalyptic america with stacked mobile homes and modern-day indentured workers was really neat. Unfortunately, I think Ernest Cline over-relied on the use of pop culture. Granted, that was a big plot point, but the frequency of references jarred me out of the story on multiple occasions. He could have dialed it back just a little. Still a fun read

  • I’m currently reading Rowena Cory Daniells’ Outcast Chronicles and the world building in that is fantastic. The races, cultures and magic system are amazing and I’m devouring the books. What really captures my imagination is how the non-human race has segregated their males from their females and how the genders interact with this strange separation between them.

  • January 14, 2013 at 3:34 AM // Reply

    The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress – because with very little backstory, Heinlein managed to create a former penal colony on the moon, blend multiple cultures, remain true to physical reality (lunar gravity and such), and yet have a sentient computer running an entire rebellion, not to get back at his former human overlords, but as a favour for his friend. None of the details seem forced or dumped in for the sake of filler, or made up on the spot. It’s all blended perfectly, and it *works*.

  • I was given Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst as a Christmas present and loved it. I think it’s a brilliant example of how world building enhances the story. There’s no point where it gets bogged down in details, but you get the feeling that the details are there. There are different desert clans with their own rituals and beliefs and the Crescent Empire with their own mythology. Little details of custom and behaviour work their way into the plot so you can believe that there are centuries of history behind the actions of the characters.

  • I’ll add in here that Saladin Ahmed is for me an example of someone who knows good worldbuilding — not just from the article, but from his own work. THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON never feels chained to its worldbuilding, never feels like those details overwhelm. The story moves fast but there’s a lot to see in terms of those snidbits of worldbuilding goodness.

  • Stephen King is an excellent world-builder. Whether it’s the pseudo feudal-western world of The Dark Tower or the small towns of Maine in so much of his other work, he lets you know exactly where you are. And the people of those places are as much a part of his world-building as the scenery.

    • Come to think of it, DARK TOWER is actually an example of pretty meager worldbuilding — like, I feel like King is clearly building the road as he goes forward into the story, throwing in whatever works in that hallucinogenic land of his. The details there are spare. More spare than in most fantasy, I think. There the worldbuilding definitely serves the story, almost dragging behind it.

      I love that series. Need to read the newest.

  • I am currently reading 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson. The worldbuilding is what our solar system would look like in terms of human habitation. Great stuff.

    I particularly like it as much for the world it describes as I do for the descriptions of how that world was created — how mankind created these terraformed habitats all over the solar system.

    It’s very cool.

  • Brandon Sanderson in the Mistborn trilogy blew my mind. I’ve not read any of his other stuff yet, but that trilogy did a really good job. I don’t remember what the character’s names were, I barely remember the plot of the story (it has been years, and I have read a great many things in the interim) but I remember the world and the things in it and how really, really, really cool it was.
    Also the world setting for the Dragonlance series. It’s so big, and there are so many authors doing little bits of world building. You can also connect the dots between books and things are always constant and interconnected. Not to mention with so many people you can explore just about everything. Want to know culture and world view of the forces of darkness from interesting and sypathetic characters? There are something like three series for that, each for a different race. It’s a fully immersive world which is wonderful but it makes it hard to suggest where people go after the first triology because you want them to read one book but realize that it would be so much richer if they read this OTHER book first but that’s the third in a series. Not to mention it has several dnd adaptions for different versions so you can have numerical value added to your world building (a kender’s optimism adds +1 to all their saves because really it’s the only way they manage to get themselves out of trouble). But the BEST part is you can jump in whenever and every series is stand alone no real background needed and you can explore it at your lesire and go and write very long comments on other people’s blogs about it.

  • The Night Circus did it for me. Reading that book was like stepping through a freaking mirror. The sad part is that I think the magic only works once; as much as I loved it, I haven’t picked it up for a reread.

    • Oh yes, the world building in that book was subtly and wonderfully done. So subtly, that I didn’t even think of it as world-building. It definitely had a mood and an atmosphere all of its own.

    • I thought The Night Circus had the problem of building the plot to show off the world, which made it not that compelling. It was a lovely place to be, but nothing was happening. And after Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell – the most believable and absorbing world-building I’ve ever read, added to an intensely intriguing plot – The Night Circus was like a pretty trinket, pleasing to look at, but nothing to lose yourself in.

  • A world that extends beyond the borders of my waking mind. It’s an intangible, difficult thing to capture, but when an author’s writing makes it clear that the world exists far beyond the small bubbles of the POVs we see, that’s worldbuilding I treasure.

    One author I’d like to cite here is Kate Elliott. Every series of hers I have read have created characters that fit and exist in their worlds, but their worlds have the very real feel of extending off the page.

    A map is important, as long as one minds Diana Wynne Jones’ dictum: Elliott’s maps go far beyond any place her characters explicitly do, but those places have influence on how the world is constructed.

    Languages: I loved the creole she used in Cold Fire, as an expression of how the cultures of both hemispheres come together in the town of Expedition.

    The little details: It’s the little references and allusions that give a world a proper history and make it seem that the world extends backward in time as well as off of the page.

  • Great worldbuilding: Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.
    Over the top, please don’t make me sit through another four page narrative of the relative facial hair practices/bodice fabrics/quirky syllabic slurring of our current protagonist: Robert Jordan, Robert Jordan, Robert Jordan…

    • Yes, hands down for His Dark Materials. Every world touched on in those books feels rich and well-drawn, and even though sometimes Pullman can get a little dense with his descriptions, every bit of world-building serves the story.

  • The Harry Potter series, when I was a wee lad. Hogwarts was a world in itself, and kept me entertained for book after book.

    Games by Bioware have some pretty great worlds. The Mass Effect and especially the Dragon Age: Origins worlds are great. They’re detailed, and since they’re not books putting in too much detail isn’t annoying. The’re also full of conflict. There’s racism, religious problems, bigotry, cultural conflict–it’s great! Putting conflict into the setting/world/DRAMATIC ECOSYSTEM , I think, is one of the keys to good world-building.

  • Any/everything by Charles De Lint. I think that partially has to do with the fact that his fictional city, Newford is close enough to consensus reality that we recognize it, and that the magical landscapes feel natural. In his work place, plot and character are interwoven to such a degree that its almost as if none of those three elements could exist without the others. The fantastical shapes character and moves plot forward all at once.

    • Clearly I have not had enough coffee to be typing. The fantastical landscapes … and there is a missing comma.

      Shalzbat!

  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and The Nightangel Trilogy by Brent Weeks.

    Totally different books. But the reason I like the world building in both is similar. There is JUST the right amount of description to feel complete and you’re sucked into it. Also, the worlds, despite fantasy and sci-fi ish, have strong traits in reality, in how our world works (culture, society, relationships, etc), which I think is a quality makes all of stories of those genres stronger.

  • A lot of historical fiction can have the same world-building problem that science fiction and fantasy runs into. I was part of a critique group years ago where one of the other writers had passed around pages for his Civil War novel. It was five pages describing a character’s breakfast during wartime rationing.

    On the one hand, fascinating details. On the other hand, really fucking boring.

    He had gotten so wrapped up in the details of his research that he believed that it all needed to go into the novel. And so he had a lot of scenes that read like a text book.

    Conversely, there’s FRINGE. Never could get into it until recently, so I’ve been watching huge chunks at a time. Seeing how they’re dealing with the alternate universe scenes has been a good reminder that you don’t need to be heavy handed about how you get details across. It’s little things that you don’t necessarily explain. Like showing a theater marquee for Back To The Future starring Eric Stoltz, or showing people trapped in amber and not explaining it for five episodes.

    Done with a light enough touch you can throw huge things at the audience and they’ll go along with it just fine. It’s a fine balance that tends to benefit from the less is more philosophy. Not everything has to be explained right away. Some things never have to be explained at all.

  • I find historical fiction also needs to tread this fine line. You’re introducing the reader to a world that’s familiar but also other, just as fantasy does. I think that when a description needs to be explained then you’ve done it wrong – all information about the world needs to be eased in gently, or the reader spends too much time worrying if they need to remember the information instead of enjoying the story.
    George Orwell and H.G.Wells I think blend the other with the mundane expertly, as does John Wyndham. Not necessarily fantasy, but they still do it well!

  • I think we’re always worldbuilding, whether it seems that way or not. One of my favorite examples of worldbuilding is the way that Stieg Larsson sets up his Swedish setting in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I also love fantasy worldbuilding that feels rich but doesn’t bog down a story, like N.K. Jemisin’s work in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Keeping all the details as relevant as possible to the story conflict is absolutely critical.

  • The best world-building for me is when I hardly notice it at the time, but afterwards have a fond and strong image of the story and it’s settings. I have a vivid memory of Ballybran from Anne McCaffrey’s Crystal Singer series, with all the dust, and sharp rocks, but I don’t think she overdid the world-building and instead just kept it simple and on a need-to-know basis.

    I hate being told about every detail in a world, because it normally results in me asking “why do I need to be told this” – especially when it’s about the eating habits of a character’s species, when that has no relevance to the story and isn’t very interesting…

  • Like many other things, I’m going to cite the Pern books as my cornerstone of worldbuilding. Also, Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles (and later her exhaustive list of things to look at when worldbuilding).

  • I think a great example of striking the balance between worldbuilding and story would be Harry Potter. She almost creates a divergent history world of England, where instead of technology, magic was discovered — and she thinks through all the necessary cultural and human consequences of that. And she’s able to work in a lot of details pretty easily since it’s told through the point-of-view of not just an outsider to the magical world, but a child, with all the natural curiosity and wonder that comes with it.

    It’s that last bit that helps you feel an *emotional* connection to the world, which I think is an aspect of worldbuilding that isn’t talked about enough. (There’s a reason people actually want to go to Hogwarts or Narnia, for example, but not Westeros. Never Westeros.)

  • Good world building: If I may divert from books for a moment, then the Mass Effect video games. The galaxy is a sprawling place full of interesting people you can meet and occasionally shoot, every species you encounter has a nicely detailed history and culture, but none of them are presented as truly monocultured. It’s a big place, and feels that way when you grasp the scope of your actions and impact on everyone. Additionally, however, the place does not revolve around you. Different species and political factions have their own struggles and history and culture. And it’s nice that while all this exists and can be read you don’t technically need to devour the entire in game codex to play.

    Bad world building on the other hand: The current incarnation of DC’s Dial H for Hero. It’s an entertaining story with decent characters and a unique look at the toll of being a superhero (and the nature of the hero dialer) but the world itself seems… empty. It’s a blank place into which the writer can throw anything. Despite being a bit of a globe hopping adventure there is no feeling to different cities or countries. And it doesn’t help that comparisons must be made to the rest of the current DC lineup. In the rest of the current new 52 even without crossovers comics are constantly referencing each other’s heroes and events, making the place rich and lived in. And while Dial H ostensibly takes place in the same ‘verse they are in a vacuum, no mention of the ongoing themes or struggles of the world or other heroes is made, they hardly even admit that anyone other than the four or so main characters exist. It’s just flat and dead on the page.

  • The Lies of Locke Lamorra by Scott Lynch. One of the amazing things about that book is how the city feels like a character in itself. There’s the interplay between the different districts and economies and history out the wazoo. The novel itself still reads like Ocean’s 11 and is constantly moving even with the world building.

    • I heartily second this. Camorr absolutely *breathes.* Every single detail Lynch gives the reader can eventually be connected to either the various factions clashing with each other or even an individual character’s personality quirk. Lynch didn’t set his punk rock story in an opera house; Camorr is just as bawdy, dirty, harsh, and beautiful as the story itself. That, for me, is the key to world building that transcends – personality.

  • I loved the world of The Red Tent. It’s a historical novel, not fantasy, but far enough removed from my time and place that a good amount of world-building, or at least world-describing, was needed to pull me into the setting. And Ms.Diamant does a wonderful job of showing the details of Dinah’s life; what she eats, what her day is like, what her role in the society is, without every being preachy, or launching into long, tedious descriptions or info dumping or shoe-horning in things that Dinah wouldn’t notice or experience. It’s been a while since I read the book, but even thinking about it, I remember Dinah walking through the desert next to the camels, twirling a hand spindle. That book really lives and breathes for me.

    At the other end of the fantasy and seriousness spectrum, I think everybody who reads the Discworld books has a strong idea of what Ankh-Morpork looks like. For something that started out as a joke, Mr. Pratchett has done an excellent job of creating a detailed city that sounds like it could work, politically and financially. It has enough places that you’d really want to visit and enough that you’d want to stay the hell out of unless you were being escorted by Detritus and a bunch of his mates.

    Incidentally, Even Sir Terry admits he got some things wrong initially on the map of the Disc, and was taught about rain shadows by a geographer (sorry, can not cite source, read it somewhere ages ago).

    I’m going to give a shout out to Ms. Gaie Sebold for her novel “Babylon Steel”, which due to its dual timeline plot, manages to build two separate worlds (and takes a whirlwind tour through a number in between). There’s the stifling deserts of Tiresana, and the magical city of Scalentine – vibrant, beautiful and dangerous. Again, there’s enough deft, vivid description that I can close my eyes and see places, almost like a memory of being there. Scalentine docks, the shouting, the bobbing detritus in the water, the glow of the magical portals limning the ships sailing in.

    So, I guess that’s what does it for me. I love sensory world-building done with a light touch and masterful language that can take me there without trudging through pages of pure description. Writing that lets me experience the world with the character, instead of grabbing me by the arm, nudging me in the ribs with an elbow, and going “Look at that. Eh? Eh? See that?”

    Historical, social and political context is trickier, but my preference is for a line or two of straight explanation to clear up the tricky bits, and the rest is only important if it’s important to the people in the story, in which case, they can talk about it as part of the, you know, plot.

    P.S. Also – Frank Herbert’s Dune. Great world building! Why? Again, I could imagine going there.

  • King of the Middle March (2003) by Kevin Crossley-Holland – I think it was that one. He goes through a list of what they packed on the boat to go on a voyage during the Crusades. I swear it was a six page list. And terminally boring and unnecessary. Prize winning author. Ugh.
    Definitely vote for Dune, Harry Potter and Pern dragons for awesome world building. OR Julian May’s Saga of Pliocene Exiles. Where that series started and where it finished showed a dramatic change in her world. The great thing about HP world is how a tiny detail in an earlier book becomes a giant plot point in a later book. She not only builds the world; she uses it.

  • If details about a world add something crucial to our understanding of that world, then great, but if not, I would leave them out. I would think in any genre information should be presented on a strictly need-to-know basis. If the engravings on the sword of the elf king are just cool looking, don’t tell us. If they contain a secret message critical to the liberation of the queen, then yes.

    I read “The Last Unicorn” about four hundred years ago, but seem to recall that the details of that world were mentioned in passing, where they served a specific and identifiable purpose. We don’t know why we’re in a world containing a harpy, a giant demon-like red bull, a unicorn, a prince, or a magician, but we take it at face value, no great level of explanation required. We only know the magician wears a cloak because that’s where he keeps his stuff and wants to be taken seriously in his role as a conjurer, so tries to dress the part.

    Similarly, in Michael Chabon’s novel “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union,” which is essentially a murder mystery, we are told the Jews lost Israel in 1947, and European refugees now inhabit a strip of land in Sitka, Alaska, a territory due to revert to U.S. national control in the near future. The setting is a backdrop that contributes to a sense of displacement and uncertainty, a feeling reinforced by the murder investigation itself and in the emotional life of the main character. Along the same lines, Chabon doesn’t go too deeply into descriptions or explanations of weapons, equipment, crime scene procedures, or the details of police work. It’s enough that we know the main character has been at his job for so long he can do it in his sleep, and frequently does. We get little hints, such as in the way he opens a door with a handkerchief or knows at a glance that the murder is a mob-style hit. The details are offered when they facilitate an understanding of the character or the story, but otherwise not. It’s very crafty the way Chabon pulls this off, painting a picture that feels right without providing explanations that could withstand much scrutiny if we were to bother to look. He knows we won’t. He uses a kind of wordsmith sleight-of-hand to direct our attention instead to the main character’s inner turmoil. We end up riding along with a subjective experience instead of viewing a scientifically accurate video of what occurs.

  • The best world building happens inline with the plot. The reader knows what he needs to know when he needs to know it, and not before. Then it layers on itself, small references becoming more important descriptions, until the reader has an expectation of how things will work, and a sense of what *hasn’t* been described from what has.

    When something surprising happens, the reader looks back at the evidence you provided earlier, almost like a mystery, and says “You did tell me that could happen.”

  • Don’t know if it counts, but the old Lone Wolf choose your own adventure books by Joe Dever were great. You explored a world that was built up book by book and had a really kickass hero story. Each book focused on one region and you were immersed in it. I loved those books!

  • Rule number 34561

    World building has to make sense. You have to think through the consequences of the changes you’ve made. To quote (paraphrase? I may not get it exactly right) If pigs can fly, then anyone living under a heavy flightpath with have a REALLY stout umbrella.

    You also don;t want to dump it out all in one. I tend to worldbuild on the fly, as I go which kinda helps (because the details only crop up as they are relevant to the story). Until book 2…But also, you want to give a vision of…what is just around the corner, if the story went there. A sense that this is not all there is to this world, this one story.

    As with al things, okay most things that aren’t male strippers, hey, maybe even then, subtlety is key. And it is the very best us of that old ‘show don’t tell’ thing. Don’t TELL me about your world. SHOW me your people acting within it. That is all the worldbuilding on show* you need

    * you may know more about your world. But does the reader need to know it in this story?

  • I don’t like adding too many details about the world itself, only the once needed for the actual story. If I need to show the relationship between Sidhe and humans for the story or for characterization, I will do it, if not, then it’s just extra clutter. Even when the world I’m writing about is very different from ours, I will only describe what I need to.
    That said, the writer should know the world in details to make it more realistic.
    I like Terry Goodkind’s world. There is a lot to it, but he doesn’t show it until it’s needed. Makes the world complex, realistic but not intrusive

  • Any writing that captures the flavor of an unfamiliar culture and folds me into it, meanwhile making me feel like a brilliant reader because I understand it all without turning back a page or consulting companion tomes that weigh more than my children—that’s brilliant world building for me.

  • I love love loved Neal Stephenson’s ANATHEM for this. He created this amazing math-monastery world/lifestyle that was absolutely fascinating, and just as soon as you feel like you totlly grok it and your interest starts to wane, BAM, he threw open the monastery doors and takes you through the much bigger world outside. So good.

    His latest tome, REAMDE, actually does some meta-worldbuilding, as several characters are involved with the design of a WoW-type game and a the book discusses their methods a bit a bit. I was actually disappointed that there wasn’t more of that, but the story didn’t need more and I can see how someone who isn’t as nerdy as myself would get bored with it.

    • I think that world building is both the foundation and the result of good storytelling.

      Example: Gaiman’s Stardust – a little bit of reality and a hint of Victoriana, then a world so fanciful and nebulous that anything could happen. The world serves the story and the story compliments the world.

      The problem I have with world building is when there is no sense of touch; good world have brush strokes of different sizes and types, poor worlds feel printed out.

  • Part of the issue for me is ‘what do you have to tell and what do your readers take for granted’. Like the automagical assumption that if you don’t describe skin color, people assume your character is white. I don’t like that, so I have to add information on my characters in one way or another. If I don’t paint my world, people assume it is ‘like earth’.

    However, the line between ‘enough painting’ and ‘not enough painting’ is a mysterious one for me personally. Do you have to describe snow for someone who is unfamiliar with it? I would say yes, but also would assume that the majority of my readers know ‘snow’ without it being explained. It is not something I would add to my story as such. That’s an easy decision. The others are harder.

    Sure, I can tell what I like for instance. Pratchett’s world is an alive one in my opinion and I love it.

    Personally I love world lore, so I tend to read books that are not just story books. I’ve read most of Pratchett’s not-story books as well and I love the world more because of it.

    Same goes for games. The BioWare Mass Effect and Dragon Age series have world building, and there is a myriad of additional lore you can find if you know where to look. As a lore nerd, I love that as much as the stories that are told in those worlds.

    /wordy-word-nerd is wordy

  • While I admire the kind of world building that is internally logical and consistent, I prefer worlds that are fairly daft and strange, ones that aren’t necessarily logical or consistent. Doctor Who, for example (especially the classic series, with its muddled continuity), or pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths DC Comics. Or Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast and E.R. Eddison’s Mercury in The Worm Ouroboros. Or Kingsisle’s online games Wizard101 and Pirate101. I’ll take “imaginative” and “funny” and “producing good stories” over “logical” and “consistent” any day of the week.

  • A few years ago I tried to read a book that I probably heard about on NPR. (Surprisingly, I like few of the books that NPR recommends.) It was about a real-life diamond heist and the subject had real potential, but I stopped reading when the author actually described the bathroom floor in the apartment the person running the heist had rented. Too much unnecessary detail just bogs me down (so to speak) and distracts from what’s happening in the story.

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