As writers, we’re told “Write what you know.” That can be interpreted several ways. Does it mean write based on your experience? Yes. Does it mean you can only write characters exactly like you? I hope not… (Talk about a ‘send in the clones’ situation…)
Does it mean we have to write things in the current year’s real time? We can, but we don’t have to. There are successful historical fiction, science fiction, and fantasy genres after all.
It doesn’t mean we have to limit ourselves to extant worlds either.
There’s more than one world in fiction…
If we want to write about a detective in a superhero universe, the character doesn’t have to be Batman (or Batgirl…). If we want to write science fiction; Star Wars, Star Trek, and Battle Star Galactica aren’t the only options. There are fantasy worlds other than Middle Earth.
Actually, with the exceptions of Thieves World, which was initially created by a group of authors as a shared world, and the world of Conan the Barbarian, and please don’t ask me why that one works (I don’t know!), I’m fairly hard pressed to find a world that holds together with multiple writers working across time.
Movies, television, and internet series can work with multiple writers, but there’s (usually) a central core that keeps things together. And we can see what happens when that core is altered.
Borrowed worlds can be problematic
The worst offenders seem to be those who try to shoehorn their personal beliefs and ideas into the worlds of others. This results in ‘kinda-sorta’ writing. Words are written, but the authors haven’t put work into world building, and have often ignored or misunderstood the rules of the world they were writing in.
We all have to start somewhere and world building is an art. But if you’re writing in someone else’s world, you’re playing with their creation. If you won’t respect the world they’ve built, you’re also disrespecting the creator (creators) of that world.
If we’re respectful of the rules, we might learn something from writing in another author’s world. We might develop our skills for working within a defined system and finding creative answers within that system.
But if we’re rewriting the system, why are we doing it?
If we’re doing it because we ‘sort of know’ the system, that’s lazy (and usually sloppy…).
When writers disagree with a world’s rules and mess with them just to ‘stick it’ to the author (or the fans), that’s not writing in a world that’s pushing an agenda. If that’s your goal, why not just say so straight out? (Being a @$@#@!!! Isn’t persuasive, no matter who you are)
If we’re willing to take time to meddle with the rules of a world properly, why not use that time to create our own?
Consider that question, dear reader. Why not build a world of your own? Or, if you’ve built one, what was the experience like?
What are your thoughts about world building and world borrowing? Leave a comment if you like. I’ll be returning to the topic myself soon. See you next post.