Discussion Time: Why World Building is So Important to me in the Books I Read

When I write my reviews I split them into parts, focusing on the different aspects that make up the story; the plot, the characters, and for sci-fi and fantasy books the setting. It’s not something I look for in contemporary books, but seeing as I mainly pick up fantasy releases the setting is really important to me.

If I go back to why I read in the first place one of the reasons is to escape, and I can’t do that if I’m constantly being dragged out of the story because the world building is too flat. For me, for a book to get more than a three stars rating, it needs to have an incredibly developed world, one that I can fall into, lose myself in.

Why World Building is So Important to me in the Books I Read

Why World Building is So Important to me in the Books I Read.

When it comes to the world building my favourite books are by authors like Laini Taylor. Her debut book, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, created such an amazing picture of Prague in my mind, one that was breathtaking, beautiful, and bursting with magic. The way she wrote the city, hiding the incredible amongst the winding streets, made me want to visit Prague myself just to experience it all first hand.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone Series

It was the same with her latest release, Strange the Dreamer. It took me a while to fully lose myself in the story because the writing was heavy, but the world building was so wonderfully written that even when the plot was slow the setting kept me as hooked as much as the well developed characters did.

Strange the Dreamer

Every author has their own way of developing the worlds they create, and what works for one may not work for another. Last year I took part in NaNoWriMo and started working on my WIP, and as much as I love her books I could never develop my world like Laini Taylor develops hers.

Still it’s the detailed worlds, the intricate ones, that stick in my mind. V.E. Schwab created incredible worlds in both her Shades of Magic and her Monsters of Verity series’, and although both ended leaving me with more questions than answers I never once felt that the worlds in her books were shoddily developed. The questions I had left just begged for a sequel book/series.

shades-of-magic-uk-series

Monsters of Verity Series

Pierce Brown created a whole universe; his Red Rising series contains history, politics, and mythology, and we travel all over the galaxy with Darrow, from Mars, to Lune, to the moons orbiting Saturn and Venus. There’s so much crammed into his books but it never took away from the plot or the fast-paced action, it just added to the story and it’s part of why the Red Rising Saga is one of my all-time favourite series now.

Red Rising


There have been plenty of books I’ve picked up where the world building has been lacking, and I’ve never been able to rate these books too highly because even if they had a great story and amazingly developed characters the world building is just as important.

Magonia sounded like an incredible book, but when I read it I thought the world building really flat. The author barely scrapped the surface of this world in the clouds with pirate ships and people who struggled to breathe the air on Earth. I was left with more questions than answers but unlike V.E. Schwab’s books Magonia didn’t feel properly developed, and the questions I had felt like they should have been answered in the story.

magonia-series


My need for well developed worlds is one reason I’m surprised that I love the magical realism genre as much as I do. All the books I’ve picked up that fit within that genre have all been incredible, and most are favourite reads of mine, but there is very little in the way of world building. They have incredible settings don’t get me wrong, but the only development we get beyond that is that it’s ‘magic’. For some reason through, for me, it works.


Like I said earlier part of the reason I read is to escape. I want to forget about my life and my problems for a few hours and fall into a world where magic is real and I get to experience dangerous adventures alongside my favourite characters. When it comes to the fantasy genre the world building is just as important as the plot and the characters, but it seems that if anything is left behind, more often than not, it’s the world building.


Now Onto the Discussion Part of This Post:

How important is world building to you?

Do you mainly read fantasy, where the world building needs to be well developed for you to lose yourself in the story, or another genre like contemporary where the setting doesn’t have as big a focus in the story?

What books have you read where the world building has been really well developed and written?

What books have you read where the world building hasn’t been well done? Did it effect your enjoyment of the other aspects of the story?

Let me know in the comments below.

Advertisements

87 thoughts on “Discussion Time: Why World Building is So Important to me in the Books I Read

  1. Worldbuilding is maybe one of the more important parts. I love the story, characters… but there’s lack of world structure? Yep, my rating may go lower.

    Honestly, I can even love some infodump because I don’t feel like it’s slowing the story, but actually giving me more info to understand the universe where the story is set.
    I’ve mixed feeling on the authors you cited. Like, I got many details but at the same time I felt like I needed more

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I almost feel like if the world isn’t developed enough then nothing about the book feels real. No matter how amazing the plot and characters are if the world isn’t there I’m not there for it.
      I have read some good info dump world building books. I guess there’s a fine line between giving the info to enable us to understand the universe and giving us too much at once. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah I absolutely love Taylor’s world building! And I definitely agree about how amazing intricate world building is. and yeah it can be noticeable when the world building isn’t as well developed. At the same time, I really agree about still loving magical realism novels- I will admit that I can be quite forgiving when it comes to world building, because it’s not the most important thing for me too. It can really work for me too. I do really agree that it’s an important part of the fantasy genre though.
    Fantastic discussion! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As much as I love world building there are some times when it isn’t needed as much but doesn’t take away from the story. I’ve seen it in books other than magical realism ones but I see it most often in magical realism. It’s kind of the exception to my rule of needing amazing world building to completely love books you know? πŸ˜€
      Laini Taylor is the queen of world building, and yeah so important in the fantasy genre.
      Thanks so much. πŸ™‚ ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I mainly read fantasy, so world building is really important to me. If the world doesn’t seem realistic or fully fleshed out, then it’s hard for me to see anything that the characters do as realistic either. Some series that I think have really great world building are Throne of Glass and the Grishaverse. Both are so intricate and complex and make it really easy to just get lost in the stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, that’s an interesting point and actually I hadn’t thought of it like that before, but you’re right sometimes when the world isn’t developed correctly it can affect the development of the characters too can’t it?
      Oh the Grishaverse is one of my favourites in terms of world building (and in terms of everything actually) that’s definitely a series I’ve got lost in a few ones now! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Let me just say that this is a FANTASTIC discussion post, I love it so much! 😍 I’m a huge fantasy lover and always appreciate good worldbuilding, because that’s what I like most about this genre: there’s a lot of potential to great a vivid, detailed world that will suck you right in. A well developed world definitely boosts a book’s rating for me. It can happen that I enjoy a book with a bit less worldbuilding too, but then everything else has to be PERFECT and I have to be incredibly attached to the characters!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so so much Caro. πŸ™‚ Yeah I read a book recently where the world building was OK-ish, but the names were so similar it ended up being too confusing and I just couldn’t get into it, which is a shame because it did affect my enjoyment of the rest of the book a little.
      Same here, I’ve rated books higher because I loved the world building but I’ve never rated a book too highly if the world building hasn’t been well written, no matter how amazing the plot or characters are. πŸ™‚ I think a perfect book needs to be perfect, and that counts for world building too. πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I definitely dislike confusing worldbuilding, it always keeps me from fully enjoying the story … I just cannot do that when I have no idea what’s going on 😦
        Me too! πŸ™‚ I feel like weak worldbuilding is something that definitely affects the story, even though the characters might be great!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah that happens to me with a fair few sci-fi books. If there’s too much technical speak I lose interest.
        You need all three to have a good book, even though world building tends to be what falls in the wayside the most. πŸ™‚

        Like

  5. I love this post, Beth! Worldbuilding has never been really THAT important for me — if it’s done badly or if there’s a lack of it in a genre that really needs it (like fantasy), then it’s a problem to me. But otherwise, it’s not one of the biggest determining factors in my rating for the book, if that makes sense? But reading your post, I can really relate to a lot of what you said! Especially about reading to escape — having really well-developed, immersive settings help us feel like in a new world. Great discussion! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much May. πŸ™‚ That does make sense, I guess when it comes to reading we all look for different things don’t we? For me world building has always been a huge part of it so I need to see it well done in whatever book I happen to be reading. In the end as long as you enjoy a book does it really matter what aspect you enjoyed more than any other?
      Yeah, too many times I’ve been pulled out of a story because the world building hasn’t been well done.
      Thanks so much. πŸ™‚ ❀️

      Liked by 1 person

  6. World-building really is important to me as well – I read to escape and, whenever I pick up a fantasy book, I want to escape in a whole new world. That’s why I am endlessly fascinated by Schwab and her world-building skills, it’s just so, so, well done and believable and filled with details and I am always in awe of her talent for that.
    I have to say though that I mostly read contemporaries, as you know, and world-building does not matter as much in these kind of books – it’s often character-focused and I love that so, so much. I also have to say that, in fantasy, when the characters are well-developed and we have tons of focus on them, too, I can… maybe forget the fact that the world isn’t as developed, or I can try haha πŸ™‚
    Lovely post! πŸ™‚ x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s the main point of fantasy isn’t it? To escape from our world into one full of magic and adventure. Oh Schwab is an incredible world builder, honestly her books always leave me wanting more and yeah I’m the same. If I could develop a world similarly to Schwab I’d be beyond thrilled with that. πŸ˜€
      I love a good character driven book too, and I get what you mean because sometimes if the characters are so incredible developed it’s almost like you can escape through them and their journey and experiences rather than the world itself, and then the world building becomes almost secondary to the character development.
      Thanks so much. πŸ™‚ ❀️

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh I can do nothing but agree with you Beth. The fantasy genre is my portal and dreamscape. World-building is such an important factor to the success of a fantasy, at least in my opinion. While the characters and plot development might be spot on, the world in which these characters live and where these fantastical events take place should also be extremely well developed. And this doesn’t always mean highly detailed and thoroughly explained. Sometimes it’s the way a world is written that makes it seem singular and more magical than it actually is. Case in point, Laini’s descriptions of Prague, a very real place turned into a fantastical wonderland simply through the author’s imagery and diction. As you said, a well-established world within a book works like an escape, and when the world is lacking in description or when it’s potential is wasted (i.e. Magonia) then it just snaps me back to reality, which defeats the purpose of my picking up a fantasy in the first place LOL. I think magical realism also works because it pushes the bounds of reality just enough to allow us to escape for a bit πŸ˜€

    Wonderful discussion topic, Beth ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great to hear. πŸ™‚ Yep, I read fantasy to escape from my boring life where there’s no magic so I need amazing world building so I can escape. Ideally you want all three to be amazingly developed, and I guess if you can only pick two it’s world building that falls down a little bit which is why I think I’ve discovered more books with crappy world building than crappy characters you know?
      Yes, when it comes to world building I don’t think there’s an author quite like Laini Taylor, from what I’ve heard she made so many people want to visit Prague to experience it after reading her writing. Magonia was a big disappointment for me, the potential was all there but it just didn’t deliver in be end.
      Ha, yeah I love magical realism for other reasons as well.
      Thanks so much Azia. πŸ™‚ ❀️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It does seem as if plot and character seem to override world-building in most cases, doesn’t it? But yes, all three brilliantly developed would be so ideal. And luckily, we’ve been graced with a few of those in a few last year releases and some this year as well!
        And I wouldn’t doubt Laini had that much influence. Her descriptions were so vivid and touched with just the right amount of magic πŸ˜€
        And there’s so much to find in magical realism. I really do need to try to read more of it though!
        No worries πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think when it comes down to it plot and characters are more important than world building, but in fantasy books especially world building still needs to be focused on. Yeah we really have.
        I can’t wait for Laini Taylor’s next book, Muse of Nightmares is top on my most-anticipated releases list, and definitely read more magical realism too. It’s just a brilliant genre. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yeah, world-building becomes essential in fantasy, but plot and characters should almost always be strong, too. At least, if you have those, the story can still work. But it’d still be nice for the world to be just as strong and sometimes, even more so!
        Oh I can’t wait for Muse, either! I hope it’s phenomenal. And that cover is to die for πŸ˜€

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I just recently started Strange the Dreamer, but I’m already so impressed by Taylor’s world building! I can picture everything perfectly and totally have an understanding of what’s happened in the world, and know that the questions I still have will be answered. Also, the world building in Red Rising was so amazing, I was totally blown away. And Schwab’s world in ADSoM was also amazing! It was probably my favourite part of the series! Great post! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Strange the Dreamer is brilliant. The world building is quite heavy, and it took me a while to get into the story because of it, but when I finished I couldn’t fault it because I could see everything so clearly in my mind.
      Pierce Brown is the same and while it’s not so immersive in V.E. Schwab’s books I love the way she develops her worlds, they always leave me wanting more.
      Thanks so much! πŸ™‚ ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I rely on world building more often than not with reading. It is that immersive quality that draws me in and offers a form of escape or release, which is why I too favor fantasy and scifi. I have learned to find this in complex characters and character driven novels as I age and my tastes change, but solid world building will always hold my heart. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When it comes to escapism there’s no better genre for me than fantasy, simply because of the worlds the authors can create. There’s no limits and I love reading something completely new you know? I do love character driven novels too, but my first love is always going to be fantasy and solid world building. πŸ˜€
      Thanks so much! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I don’t tend to read fantasy that often, but those that I have read have all had incredible world building which adds so much to the story. I agree that if the world the story exists in is flat or unconvincing then it’s really difficult for me to enjoy the rest of the book. I love V.E. Schwab’s world building, This Savage Song was amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah it’s hard to get into a story when you can’t see the world clearly in your mind because the world building is lacking. I always find it pulls me out because I can’t picture what the characters are doing you know?
      Yes V.E. Schwab is one of my all-time favourite authors and I think a big reason is because of the worlds she creates. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m totally agree with Laini Taylor writing, she build an amazing worldbuilding. Another author with a great worldbuilding is S.A Chakaborty, The City of Brass is amazing!! And Tomi Adeyemi’s Children Blood and Bone!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my god yes I totally agree with you on that. The City of Brass was one of my top reads of last year. I fell in love with the story, the characters and the world. Even though I wasn’t completely in love with Children Blood and Bone (great book, just didn’t quite live up to the hype for me) the world building was amazing. πŸ˜€

      Like

      1. It was my fav book of last year too!! I’m so excited for the sequel this year. Ahh so sad that you didn’t like CoBaB, that book will probably be my top read this year!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It was still a good read overall, and I can definitely see why it’s probably going to end up being your top read of the year, I just think it was too hyped up and in the end it couldn’t live up to my expectations you know?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I know what you feel. That’s totally me with STD, it’s great but somehow couldn’t live up to my expectation.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I love reading fantasy and the experience is definitely enhanced when the world building is done well…. but sometimes, I’m okay with it not done so well if there are great characters… most of my favorite books are the ones which have characters I fell in love with 😍
    However, if you want some absolutely wonderful wonderful world building, you should try the Divine Cities trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett… this is one series I would recommend just for the way the world, it’s history and mythology is written!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah a couple of people have mentioned that as well. Character development is an important part of the story as well so if it’s well done at the expense of the world building it’s not so bad as long as the world building has a solid base you know?
      Oh, thanks for the recommendation. I love books with incredible world building so I’ll be sure to check out the Divine Cities trilogy. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thats true.. if the world building is ok and not totally ignored, I can definitely enjoy good characters…
        I hope u’ll love the trilogy too… I feel it’s not talked about enough 😊😊😊

        Liked by 1 person

  13. World building is very important to me too, I just feel like there’s something missing if it’s just about the characters and not even one bit about the world. There is nothing wrong with doing introspective writing and less plot and world focused stories, but it just doesn’t work for every genre in my opinion. Especially in Fantasy and SciFi, you need that info about what’s going on in the world you are in.
    I really like Schwab’s world-building and she did a fantastic thread or youtube video about that once. She said there are mostly two kinds of world builders, the ones that open a door to a room and let the reader in or the ones that only let the reader look in through the window. She’s the latter and she likes that style because while the reader can observe and see certain things, they will never get the full picture like a person who gets let into the room. It helps her break her own rules when it comes to magic, because it doesn’t have to have the same logic as a world where everything needs to be explained and follow certain guidelines. I found that whole talk very inspiring.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah there needs to be a good balance between the world development and the character development as well. I think it’s OK to focus on character development a little more than world building as the book continues but you need to have that basis to build on.
      Oh I think you mentioned that thread/YouTube video before, where she just offers readers a glimpse through the window into the world. It’s definitely an interesting idea, and the fact that it allows her to break her own rules is probably helpful at times as well. Also I’ve found it leaves me desperate for more from her books and her worlds. I’m always left needing more information but not feeling lost in her worlds you know?
      I need to check that talk out. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  14. This is a very well written post! I love reading fantasy because I read to escape and fantasy world offer a lot of opportunity for that πŸ˜€ I love exploring the world, not just the physical, but also the cultures, languages, and people. One of my favorite is the Grishaverse, the countries are based on real life places, but Bardugo created different cultures, languages, customs, even folktales! I looove the Prague in Daughter of Smoke and Bone, reading the series make me want to visit Prague sooo bad! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much. πŸ™‚ Yeah there’s so much opportunity for escapism in fantasy, it’s why there needs to be good world building so we can escape into the story.
      Yes, I love the Grishaverse, and all of Bardugo’s stories which are still very much fantasy but have inspiration in the real world too. Oh I went to Prague after reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone, it’s incredible there so I hope you make it there one day too πŸ™‚ ❀

      Like

  15. I read a ton of fantasy and agree with you about world building. When its done well, I usually love the book. However, I will say that if the author builds great characters and their world building is just a little flat I may love the book just as much because the characters are so great. Not every writer can be Tolkien. Lol. I have written, or tried to anyway, a YA fantasy and it was really hard! So, I really appreciate when its done well. Great discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I get what you mean. πŸ™‚ Granted I won’t rated a book as high if the world building is as flat but chances are I’ll still enjoy it if the characters at least are amazing. πŸ™‚
      I’m trying to write YA fantasy too, and it’s so hard isn’t it? I can see the world so clearly in my head it’s just getting it all down on paper that’s hard.
      Thanks so much. πŸ™‚ ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  16. world building is so important for fantasy/scifi especially. i feel like, you have to make the readers feel like they’re actually in new world you’re introducing them to. for me, if a fantasy book can make me forget what i’m reading is a fictional world, then they’re successful in building their world.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. oh my god this entire post reminds me sm of Captive Prince trilogy, the world building was so welll done?????? all I need in my life arE BOOKS WITH MAPS, that’s when you know things are about to get real and I’m prepared to offer my soul c:
    also amazing discussion as always you are so amazing I’m always in awe of your posts???? ❀

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I too read to escape and ready mostly fantasy. So good world building is important to allow myself to do this. If the world isn’t very developed or certain things haven’t really been thought through/ don’t make sense that this kind of throws me out of that world/ story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it takes me so much longer to get into a book with rubbish world building, and I find myself not interested in the story when I can’t picture the setting in my mind you know? the whole point of escaping in books is that you can see where you’re escaping to, so you need good world building. πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I often read fantasy. I think one of the best examples of world building is Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion. She constructed a whole world with multiple countries, languages, and religions on just one book. It’s one of my favorites. There are other books that came after it in the same world, but it wasn’t initially written to be the first in a series.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ohh, I have read that one but if you’re saying it’s one of the best examples of world building I definitely need to check it out. For me my best examples I included in this post, I just love the way authors like Laini Taylor and V.E. Schwab have created their worlds (and it probably goes some way to explaining why they’re my favourite authors too!) πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Agreed really, I’ve been unable to enjoy various fantasy novels lately because of unconvincing world-building. In that sense it’s easier to write an immersive contemporary novel, as the author doesn’t have to worry about creating a believable world from scratch, but of course the contemporary genre comes with its own caveats and requirements.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, in contemporary I’ve almost found that the character development is more important than anything else (not that it’s not still important in fantasy books). Although I still think you need decent world building in contemporary books too, it’s just easier because you have the real world to work with you know? πŸ™‚

      Like

  21. I don’t often read fantasy but worl building is important in other genres as well. I like to get a feel of the setting. Recently i read a book where i wasn’t even sure what country it takes place up until half way in. it was quite annoying

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yeah, even in YA contemporary books I’ve read I like there to be decent world building. Some of my favourite contemporary reads have had incredible world building. God that must have sucked, and I can see how it could have jarred the story a little you know? πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  22. While I agree that world building is super super important for the enjoyment of the reader (I’m taking a class on called Fantastical Fiction and that’s 99.9% of what we work on), I find that I’m okay if world building is lacking if the characters are fantastic and really well developed. On the other hand I can also fall for books just for their world building even though the characters aren’t that great. Obviously, having both in a story is the best but, so long as one or the other components is there then a story is good to me. Now having both crappy characters and a less than stellar world building is the makings of a terrible book, end of story. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I think I get what you mean, ideally you want a book that has both; amazing world building and great characters, but if one of those is exceptional I can still really enjoy the story even if the other one is lacking.
      Ha, yeah, any book with crappy characters and crappy world building would be lucky to get more than two stars for me (the plot would have to be stand-out exceptional to forgive that!)
      Thanks so much. πŸ™‚ ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  23. In a fantasy I like a bit of worldbuilding, but I don’t like too much of it. I just want to get oriented with the place so that I can understand the story, but not so much that it distracts me from the story. So I would say, just enough to understand the world, not pages of description.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I get what you mean, as much as I love world building and need it to be done well there can be a fine line between a well developed setting and info dumping. The latter always leaves me more confused than not! πŸ™‚

      Like

      1. I get distracted too easily. I’ll be in the middle of writing something down, someone will come over and ask me a question, and before you know it an hour has past, my note is unfinished and I’ve forgotten what I was writing! πŸ˜€

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.