April 22, 2016 by KWills
I’m currently reading Pao by Kerry Young, and one thing that stands out is how well she knows the places she writes about. Without a word of authorial explanation, she takes me thousands of miles away, to a place unlike any I have in my own experience. It’s clear that she has done her research, and that deepens her story.
At the same time, she doesn’t show off her knowledge. There’s no point at which the plot is stalled, or the narrative broken, just to let Kerry Young prove to the reader how much research she has done. This balance is a tricky one, and seeing it achieved so well has made me think about how to present my fantasy land to readers in a subtle but effective way.
My world-building is usually pretty thorough. I know the Land of Fragments inside-out, including many details that will never come up in the story. Somehow, I need to convey that familiarity to the reader without info-dumps or narrator intrusion. Fortunately, there’s a lot of travelling in the story, so I can have characters experience the places they go through, and mention contrasts between each place and their own homes. Also, there are children in the party, who can be taught about anything the reader really needs to know. And, yes, this means it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to describe the finer points of the ancient trading system – but seriously, when has there ever been an adventure story that featured trade?