Writing Process - Preparing

WFC Panel: The Best of All Possible Worlds

world building panel wfc
Blurry picture of the panel for the win!

Saturday began much better than Friday had. Having attended five hour-long slots on Friday, with a mixture of enjoyment, uncertainty and “this isn’t really for me”, I was pleasantly surprised by Saturday morning. It began with The Best of All Possible Worlds at 10am.

Panellists were: Hal Duncan, Robin Hobb, Ellen Kushner, Patrick Rothfuss, Robert Silverberg, and Adrian Tchaikovsky. 

My Notes

I wrote the most notes of any panel on this one, and I’m not typing 6 pages of notes out, so here’s a snippet:

– Tolkien was the “beginning” of building fantastic worlds in fantasy. “If we didn’t grow up reading him, we grew up reading those who did.” I thought this was a lovely sentiment – that even those people who haven’t read Tolkien have probably read a book that was partly inspired by or just written by an author who has. For the record, I’ve read the Hobbit.

– Tolkien was a geek/enthusiast for linguistics.

As soon as this was said, I thought “of course!” but had never actually thought of him that way. Patrick Rothfuss then spoke about how he is a geek for currencies, as that’s where roads/cities come from (trade). He said the book is his job, and the coinage system is his hobby.

This began my thoughts on what I’m interested in; where my passion lies. 

In general life, I’m a linguistics nerd. But in my writing, I’m really not. So this is a “to be continued” as I learn which part of writing and drafting really excites me. I know that I can’t help but tinker with the plot/storyline of things, but I don’t know if that’s a passion. I have a feeling it’ll end up being magic systems and how things “fit” together. On Connections. How does that biological ability fit in with this magical ability? 

– Place versus Character: Where to Start

This was an interesting debate about where you start. Hal Duncan starts with the character’s voice and the world comes via discovery, not ‘building’. Robin Hobb begins with the character, and then the social aspects; jobs, location… Ellen Kushner commented that it’s all smoke and mirrors and that we don’t really know; to which Patrick replied that he did!

– We discussed the intensive aspect of world-building ~ some authors only work out the main aspects, plus details of their favourite bit; while others want to know it all on a detailed level. There was a comment about model train set buildings possessing a particular kind of crazy. I’d say most writers also have their own version of crazy.

– Patrick Rothfuss commented that culture is dangerous because we absorb it like language; it’s exuded and then taken in.

Did you know there’s not a single active female character (I believe 3 females are alluded to) in The Hobbit?

– You don’t fire arrows. You shoot them. 

This was a lengthy discussion about language. “Comrad” sounds Russian and breaks the flow if you’re world is set in… France. Names matter (Mozart the Barbarian anyone?)

– I don’t remember the context but I’ve also written this:

Person: “I own that cow.”

Dragon: “I ate it. Sue me.”

[ EDIT: Daphne has reminded me – it was Robin Hobb talking about sentience. Thanks Daphne!]


This was my favourite panel. I enjoyed the comments so much I went out and bought Patrick Rothfuss’ book and looked up the other panellist’s work. This was a decision based on how well they sound like they know what they’re doing (even the people who says it’s smoke and mirrors – they’ve obviously done that well enough!) and because I want to support them.

Do you world-build or “discover”?

Do you have one aspect of the story/world/characters that you research as a hobby?

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