Thoughtful Thursday: The Importance of World Building

Thoughtful Thursday
It is time for Thoughtful Thursday and the bookish questions that pop up while I am reading. Please share your thoughts on the bookish question of the week. I am curious to hear what you have to say! There are no wrong answers. Alright, on to the question!

How important is world building for you? 
Is it more or less important than characters, plot, or something else?

I recently finished Divergent by Veronica Roth and The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. If you saw my review on Divergent yesterday then you know I didn't love the book. I thought the characters were great and the plot was good, but I couldn't get my mind wrapped around this idea of factions. It didn't make sense to me, and a result of this was that I couldn't get completely lost in this book. I have also read The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken recently (my review should be out next week). This book also had some world building problems, but unlike Divergent, I could believe that teenagers were getting special powers and that they were being sent away to labor camps in order to protect society. Although Divergent's Tris might have been written better than The Darkest Minds' Ruby, I got lost in Ruby's tale. I fell for her story hook, line, and sinker, while I just felt annoyed with Tris (even when she was just acting like a typical teenager).

I must admit that my polar opposite feelings about these two books shocked me. As a kid, I read a lot of generic fantasy stories. There was nothing special about most of these books except that there was magic, princes, princesses, and dragons (back in my day there wasn't the huge number of YA books, I had to choose between books that were a bit too young for me and books that were a bit too old for me). Okay, I did love the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede but mostly everything else was pretty bland. I enjoyed reading these books because the characters were fun and they went on adventures. The authors typically didn't spend too much time discussing their worlds, because the worlds were fairy tale generic. This brings me back to my original surprise of not liking Divergent because I didn't like the world even though the action was pretty awesome. When did world building become so important to me? Seriously, this has been happening a lot recently. A few months ago, I read The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson. Although I didn't love the book, I thought that the world building was awesome. The magic system involves chalk and geometry. I loved the world building so much that I know that I am going to read the next book in the series. No question.

I should point out that I am not a total servant to world building. I read Ringworld by Larry Niven this year, and it was not my favorite book. The world building is very carefully crafted; however, the characters are not great. My husband who has read more Niven than I have says that when Niven co-writes books they are quite good but Niven's world are great and his co-authors focus on the characters. This is all to say that I don't read books just for world building, but I think it is one of my top priorities in a book.

So what do you think? How important is world building for you? Are characters, plot, or something else more important? I focused on science fiction and fantasy books, but I would love to hear about your opinions regarding world building in contemporary fiction too!


Chanzie said...
December 12, 2013 at 4:57 AM

Awesome post Pamela. Honestly I never considered world building until I started blogging and read other reviews which referred to it. Like you said I think it boils down to a combination of things. Sometimes other aspects can make up for a lack of world building.

Chanzie @ Mean Who You Are.

Angelicreader said...
December 12, 2013 at 5:56 AM

Hi Pamela,
Me again ;) I was so waiting for this weeks post!!!
anyway - I haven't read the divergent books yet, and now I am a little scared too. In books that are set in a completely different world then that of our current reality it needs to be well thought out and described. World building is probably the most important aspect of the story.
Thank you for bringing it up!

Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer said...
December 12, 2013 at 8:53 AM

Great post Pamela, world building is important to me. I love the how and why of it all. I love when an author is able to make me accept a world no matter how crazy or unfathomable it is to me. Dystopian worlds always fascinate me because they follow extremes. I find that fear of chaos, war etc can lead mass amounts of people to submit to things.

Tabitha (Pabkins) said...
December 12, 2013 at 8:43 PM

I think its a delicate balance. World building IS important to me, but you can't give me too much and you can't give me too little. Some authors will drown you in the world and just tell you too much and leave nothing for show. Where others don't give you anything and just expect you to take everything on faith, face value whatever, hello suspend my belief and reality without anything to back it up ...i think not.

It also means alot to me to click with the writing style and characters. I know what you mean about The Rithmatist. I have to say that is the only book of Sanderson's that I have read thus far that I haven't loved. The world building of his is always spectacular but his YA character I just did not love but things evened out and I rated it a 4 because I still love his writing style and his world. The kid is more of a kid instead of a teen in my mind and I'm sure we'll see him grow up.

If I'd gone in expecting more of a middle grade feel (which is what I think we got with The Rithmatist) then I think I would have enjoyed it more. He should have been like 14 based on the way things were reading/going.

Tanya Patrice said...
December 13, 2013 at 7:10 AM

I like what Pabkins had to say. I completely agree with you about the World building in Divergent. But it really didn't go into in depth explanation behind it until late in the book, so I still liked it - but it prevented me from loving it. And things went downhill in book 2 as far as I'm concerned. What really throws me is when the World is detailed in how it works, but not in the why - like science fiction that's a wee too light on the science part - that irks me too.

Chantelle said...
December 15, 2013 at 10:56 AM

Great post Pamela! I think world building is important in fantasies and dystopians, I mean if you don't believe in that world, and the details of that world, you won't be able to lose yourself in it and hence the story. However I agree with you that world building isn't my top priority, in fact, if there's too much world building I usually lose interest in the book. I prefer a plot or a romance to drive a book rather than world building, as extensive world building can often become tiresome if you read too many fantasy books- too many unique worlds/rules/societies to properly keep track of, especially if you revisit them all once a year since they're mostly apart of series.

Unknown said...
December 16, 2013 at 12:12 AM

I don't always think about world building either. I think if a book is doing its job, you won't even notice it. :)

Unknown said...
December 16, 2013 at 12:14 AM

I did the linky thing this week just for you! Now, I just need to come up with enough questions, so I can post them in advance, so you don't have to rush. I am going to try to do that this week.

I enjoyed your comments on your site! :)

Unknown said...
December 16, 2013 at 12:15 AM

I really enjoy reading about dystopian worlds too. I just saw Catching Fire, and it reminded me how interesting the idea of the Districts are. The concept was so well done that it seemed like that world could happen.

Unknown said...
December 16, 2013 at 12:16 AM

Great points. I agree that I can get pulled out of a book, if an author spends too much time talking about the world and not enough about the characters. Ringworld by Niven is famous for that. The world he created was spot on and well researched, unfortunately the characters are a bit dull.

Unknown said...
December 16, 2013 at 12:20 AM

You are spot on about the importance of the why. A lot of books focus on how a society works but neglects to mention why a society would choose to take a certain path. I hate when the answer is just "because." It is why I got frustrated with Divergent. I understood how the factions worked, but I didn't get why this society chose the factions. Yes, it is explained later, but in my opinion, it was a bit too late.

Unknown said...
December 16, 2013 at 12:29 AM

You are quite right, world building is such a delicate balance. Authors need to be able to handle walking a tight rope for a living. One false step and the book falls apart.

I agree with you that the Rithmatist felt a bit young, but the world was pretty awesome. This was the first kids' book that I have read in a long time in which I felt that the kids were playing second fiddle to the adults. I am hoping the next book will be a bit better.

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