October 20, 2020, 12:54:13 AM

Author Topic: Wide Worldbuilding vs Deep Worldbuilding  (Read 374 times)

Offline Peat

Wide Worldbuilding vs Deep Worldbuilding
« on: September 17, 2020, 04:11:53 PM »
So I developed the following thesis with a friend today - "Never trust a fantasy author that wants to go wider into their world rather than deeper"

And I want to run this past a few people and see whether it makes sense.

Note - By wider rather than deeper, I mean the difference between GRR Martin deciding to explore Slavers' Bay with Dany (wider; not part of the original conceit) vs exploring the deeper intricacies of the Night's Watch and the lord-subject relationships of Westeros (deeper - this is part of the original conceit, but not gone into much detail at first). Or Rowling introducing the Deathly Hallows (wider) vs going deeper into how Goblins are treated (deeper - goblins are seen early on iirc).

Do you prefer Wide Worldbuilding or Deep Worldbuilding - or do you demand both?

And do you agree that going from Deep to Wide - like RE Feist did, or Jordan did in the latter half of Wheel of Time, or how GRR Martin is creeping into doing - is a good sign that an author is writing worse books?
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Offline Skip

Re: Wide Worldbuilding vs Deep Worldbuilding
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2020, 04:40:13 PM »
It's my standard answer: write it well and I forgive everything.

In the abstract, there's no way to choose deep or wide, for those terms are themselves abstractions. Define them one way and one wins; another way, the other wins; still another way and we argue over beers until the wee hours.

In the examples given, the fault--if fault there be--isn't with the world building, it's with the writing. Per above.

Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Wide Worldbuilding vs Deep Worldbuilding
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2020, 05:54:32 PM »
Ok, I'll help and not say it all depends on how it's written.

However, thinking about books I've read, I feel I like both different types. Sometimes I'd like to know more details about a world, but others I like to have a sense of more than just what's in front of me, so to speak.

Or do you mean authors going off on tangents in different books?

For example, Bennett's Divine cities trilogy. You read book 2 and it's set in a completely different part of the world as book 1, with not exactly 100% different worldbuilding, but still a good 80% addition. When I started reading I was annoyed, I wanted more of book 1, but then I ended up preferring book 2's setting. And then 3 is again different...
Is this then a case of "wide worldbuilding"?

It's not bad, but I think I prefer depth, then.

And then you've got Malazan, which goes both deeper and wider - sometimes too wide, hehe
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Offline Bender

Re: Wide Worldbuilding vs Deep Worldbuilding
« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2020, 12:12:06 AM »
I'd choose wider. New setting, new geography, new cultures, I love books with a expansive world. As long as there's justice done (not flaky) I don't mind if it's not covered in intricate detail.
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Offline cupiscent

Re: Wide Worldbuilding vs Deep Worldbuilding
« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2020, 12:21:30 AM »
Bennett's a fascinating example here, because I feel like superficially it looks like "wide" but actually it's doing deeper - because Bennett's setting/worldbuilding is actually "the world dealing with the death of the gods" and he uses three different views to look at that from multiple angles and go thematically deeper. It's all within original scope and it feels cohesive and coherent because it all supports and is in conversation with itself.

Similarly, I feel like the shifting settings of Lynch's Gentleman Bastard books are building up thematic resonances and going deeper on the world even as they seem to go wider on specific setting. A lot's going to depend on how that all comes together, but from what we've seen so far, I'm feeling positive on that.

One of the reasons I have stalled on reading Martin is because Dany just seemed to be faffing about on the other side of the world unconnected to "the real story". (If hers was supposed to be "the real story", or if there were supposed to be stronger thematic/world links between the various strands of story, Martin needed to have done that better.) And part of that is the big disconnect in geography and cultural/thematic stuff going on. Basically, I don't feel like he really had his whole-world thematic concept/setting figured out ahead of time, and it shows.

I am certainly the sort of reader who prefers to see a few ideas really explored deeply than a plethora of shiny ideas zipping around. One of my common criticisms of YA fantasy is that it is idea-heavy, but exploration-lite. This isn't always the case; in my recent reading, Claire Eliza Bartlett, S Jae-Jones and Sarah Tolcser spring to mind as YA fantasy authors who really delve into their concepts and deliver very satisfying books. But I know there have been books recently where I put them down (with great force) when yet another thing showed up to clutter up the conceptual landscape. So it's not just a geographical thing - opening up another section of the map rather than exploring this one - but a conceptual thing. I'd prefer to explore the nuances of one type of magic, rather than having three different sorts of magical ability flying around.

Offline Peat

Re: Wide Worldbuilding vs Deep Worldbuilding
« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2020, 02:33:42 AM »
Bennett's a fascinating example here, because I feel like superficially it looks like "wide" but actually it's doing deeper - because Bennett's setting/worldbuilding is actually "the world dealing with the death of the gods" and he uses three different views to look at that from multiple angles and go thematically deeper. It's all within original scope and it feels cohesive and coherent because it all supports and is in conversation with itself.

Similarly, I feel like the shifting settings of Lynch's Gentleman Bastard books are building up thematic resonances and going deeper on the world even as they seem to go wider on specific setting. A lot's going to depend on how that all comes together, but from what we've seen so far, I'm feeling positive on that.

One of the reasons I have stalled on reading Martin is because Dany just seemed to be faffing about on the other side of the world unconnected to "the real story". (If hers was supposed to be "the real story", or if there were supposed to be stronger thematic/world links between the various strands of story, Martin needed to have done that better.) And part of that is the big disconnect in geography and cultural/thematic stuff going on. Basically, I don't feel like he really had his whole-world thematic concept/setting figured out ahead of time, and it shows.

I am certainly the sort of reader who prefers to see a few ideas really explored deeply than a plethora of shiny ideas zipping around. One of my common criticisms of YA fantasy is that it is idea-heavy, but exploration-lite. This isn't always the case; in my recent reading, Claire Eliza Bartlett, S Jae-Jones and Sarah Tolcser spring to mind as YA fantasy authors who really delve into their concepts and deliver very satisfying books. But I know there have been books recently where I put them down (with great force) when yet another thing showed up to clutter up the conceptual landscape. So it's not just a geographical thing - opening up another section of the map rather than exploring this one - but a conceptual thing. I'd prefer to explore the nuances of one type of magic, rather than having three different sorts of magical ability flying around.

I think Bennett is a good example of wider *and* deeper, because as you note everything he does builds on the core conceit. For me, for Bennett to be wider rather than deeper, he'd have had to have a book in the series about a totally different set of gods doing totally different things.

I also agree that concepts can be just as big an issue here - I focused on geographical as that was on my mind when I came up with this, but concepts are definitely an issue.
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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Wide Worldbuilding vs Deep Worldbuilding
« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2020, 09:15:07 AM »
That's a great take on the issue: does the extra world-building contribute to the core concept, or is it just an interesting (or not) extra?

Thanks, that was super to read.

And Peat, I hadn't realised you were trying to focus on the geographical - I mean, I thought that it would also be extra scenes, explanations, habits, and so on.
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Offline S. K. Inkslinger

Re: Wide Worldbuilding vs Deep Worldbuilding
« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2020, 09:32:22 AM »
Nay, I prefer wider to be honest. Look at the examples, who cares about how goblins are treated anyway? It doesn't seemed relevant to the plot in any way whatsoever. If a book decided to pull off something like that I'd probably DNF'd it.

Offline Peat

Re: Wide Worldbuilding vs Deep Worldbuilding
« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2020, 12:46:24 PM »
That's a great take on the issue: does the extra world-building contribute to the core concept, or is it just an interesting (or not) extra?

Thanks, that was super to read.

And Peat, I hadn't realised you were trying to focus on the geographical - I mean, I thought that it would also be extra scenes, explanations, habits, and so on.

Geographical is where it started, but anything worldbuilding counts - I'm still testing out the validity of the thesis. I think that this "does the extra world-building contribute to the core concept, or is it just an interesting (or not) extra" is very heart to the core of what I'm getting at.

Offline isos81

Re: Wide Worldbuilding vs Deep Worldbuilding
« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2020, 01:25:55 PM »
Can't I take both?
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'Yes' said Caladan Brood. 'You never learn'

Offline Nora

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Re: Wide Worldbuilding vs Deep Worldbuilding
« Reply #10 on: September 18, 2020, 03:59:20 PM »
I'm not sure I see or perceive the difference, truly.

I think it's more that some authors are expensive and detailed in their world building, while others do more side references and hint at things and leave them unexplored. I understand how one might feel 'deep' while the other is 'shallow', but tbh I only tolerate 'deep' worldbuilding if it's extremely well written.
I'm not 14 and starry eyed over the lord of the rings anymore. I want my stories to be about characters in specific situations, how they evolve as they go through it, how they plot their enemy's downfall, etc. I don't want to know about the way the different goblin tribes braid each other's hair in their spare time.

I like stories where the worldbuilding is a total tease, like in Sunshine, where the many "bad spots" where people can't go are attributed to "the voodoo wars" and that's IT, you never hear a single line about the voodoo wars, you're left to totally imagine it, it's wild.
Other stories, like the City trilogy from Bennett, as cupiscent pointed out, have amazing lore that's well explored and rests on very solid concepts, and is very well delivered.

I don't look up new things to read based on the type of worldbuilding it contains. Never did, never will, if the book is good, I expect the worldbuilding to be good, period. I genuinely don't care what type it is past that.
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Offline Lu Kudzoza

Re: Wide Worldbuilding vs Deep Worldbuilding
« Reply #11 on: September 18, 2020, 05:39:44 PM »
It's not about wide or deep. It's about the drama that moves the plot forward. If you can create more drama for the plot by delving deeper into a subject then you're doing it right. If you can create more drama around the main plot by widening the world you're doing it right.

The reason Daenerys on the other side of the world didn't work in A Dance with Dragons is because it didn't move the plot forward which made it boring. Nobody cared about her fighting the Sons of the Harpy because we wanted to see her moving toward Westeros (which was what the main plot wanted too).

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Re: Wide Worldbuilding vs Deep Worldbuilding
« Reply #12 on: September 19, 2020, 04:30:15 PM »
I think I prefer wider worldbuilding. Going to new places is almost always more interesting to me than hearing about the history of just one place. Though so long as it is relevant to the plot, I'll gladly take either one. Both, if it's possible.
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