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Details are Everything

posted May 6, 2016, 12:14 PM by Ben Kreucher   [ updated May 6, 2016, 12:25 PM ]
I've been there, hammering away on the keyboard for hours at a time, words flowing like rain through a gutter.  It's amazing, wonderful, some of the best stuff you've ever written.  My advice: Don't look back and read it until you get to the end.

I've also been there, staring at a blank page for hours at a time, words stopped up like a clogged drain.  It's awful, depressing, everything you manage to write down, you erase because it's abyssal, shameful, terrible.  My advice: Don't look back and read until you get to the end.

Of course, there are times when that advice needs to take a backseat.  And that's when you're world-building.  Everything's going great, you're writing 10,000 words a day, and it's pure poetry.  All of a sudden, you write a line that breaks the machine.

How can that happen?  Try having your protagonist eat cheese in a world without mammals.

When you write a novel where the main fauna happens to be dinosaurs and mammals are few and far between (not to mention tiny rodents)--except humans--you need to take a step back and rethink a few of the things we take for granted every day.

Without sheep, there's no wool (or mutton)
Without cows or goats, there's no milk or cheese
Without pigs, there's no pork (or bacon!  ...not a world anyone wants to live in; but seriously, you can make bacon out of any meat.  And, there's the possibility of raptor jerky, so...the better question is, who wouldn't want to live there?)

Who could say no to that face?


In a world ruled by dinosaurs, you might consider temperature.  The weather may lean more toward Florida than Michigan, for example.  Does that limit the types of food you can grow or which flowers would bloom when?

Bottom line: world building is hard.

So, instead of fretting over the details, write without looking back.  Get the idea out.  Get to the end.  Then, get out your red pen.  If you must--like I do--take notes while writing.  Mark areas where you know you'll want to go back and substitute "mutton" for "Protoceratops steak".

The largest creatures are reptilian and avian; perhaps you find yourself wondering how people got there or perhaps you don't really care because dinosaurs are inherently cool and reading about someone riding one is a lot of wish fulfillment in one story already or perhaps you're disenchanted from the start, after all, mashing humans and dinosaurs together is too easy, too awesome and, you know, somehow the author will ruin it.
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