An Insight into World Building from Curtis Jobling

Today’s guest post comes courtesy of author, Curtis Jobling, who is the ideal person to shed a little light on how to create believable alternate worlds in our fiction. He is the designer for Bob the Builder, with its world of talking machines; creator of Raa Raa the Noisy Lion, full of adventures set in the Jingly Jangly Jungle; and author of the fantasy series, Wereworld, an epic journey of fantasy and horror.

Here’s what he has to say about World Building:

“World building” is an expression that one often encounters in reviews of fantasy novels, be they good or bad. In my opinion it’s a given that, as a genre, the best fantasy books have a convincingly realised world. Never underestimate roleplaying games – that’s where many contemporary writers learned their craft. By the time I’d hit high school my friends and I would get together a couple of times a week and we’d play roleplaying games. I would often run them, and that’s where I cut my teeth with world creation. It was never enough that there were prescriptive games to play – I always had my own stories to tell.

Nekro covers

WEREWORLD is very much in the mould of the classic, fantasy setting. It’s a world where the royals, the nobles, the ‘blue bloods’ are known as the Werelords – shapeshifters who can change into different kinds of beasts. Each of these lords rule over different realms, providing an expansive backdrop for our lone wolf young hero to adventure through. It comes as no surprise that in the US the series has been tagged ‘Game of Thrones for teens featuring werewolves’, as Martin’s writing has had a big influence on me, his own world building conceived on an epic, vast scale akin to Tolkien. As a middle grade to teen writer, I don’t have the luxury of adult fantasy writers. I can’t indulge myself with over elaborate descriptions of my world, so words are at a premium to play with.

It’s sometimes suggested that it’s easier to write a story set within the real, contemporary world. That really isn’t true, but there are some elements that provide a challenge for the fantasy writer. We all know what a giraffe, the Eiffel Tower and the number 20 bus look like. The fantasy writer needs to find a way of describing alien elements to the reader in a snappy fashion, while keeping the story moving. Who and what lives in this world? What are the politics that shape the world? Would a map help the reader find his or her way around this world? Just a few of the quandaries a fantasy author needs to consider.

To write a convincing fantasy tale while keeping one eye upon the patient target audience can be a challenge. My first drafts are usually a fair few thousand words over the count, resulting in trimming the work back until it’s sleek and streamlined. The old editorial adage ‘less is more’ holds true, helping to quicken the pace. Another lesson I learned early on in my writing was to remember what’s important for the author to know and what’s important for the reader to know. They can be two very different things. Rich descriptions should have their time and place. There are moments within my own writing where a place can breathe, where the reader can soak in the world. That doesn’t have to happen on every page.

Read more about Wereworld on the official website:

About the Author

Curtis is the author/illustrator of numerous picture books and designer/creator of award-winning animated shows such as Bob the Builder, Frankenstein’s Cat and Raa Raa the Noisy Lion. His acclaimed Wereworld series of fantasy horror novels have been published by Puffin since 2011, the sixth and final volume having been released in October 2013.

Follow Curtis and his stream of blather on Twitface: @CurtisJobling

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