First drafting progress: Worldbuilding

As a pastime I have researched a lot of online sources over the last couple of years on worldbuilding. Youtube essays and discussions, articles, you name it. All this is an added bonus when creating my universe now.

When a writer creates a world; (usually) from scratch based on different sources, there have to be some elements familiar to us, the consumer. Because we want to relate to the world and the characters in it on some level. 

As a creator worldbuilding helps me set the rules for my story. What is possible and what is not. All to create a place that is understandable for the reader. Worldbuilding also enables me to tell more stories, because there is this cool or defining moment that I want to show or be more than a mere noteworthy event on a timeline. Like how the War of the Ancients trilogy in the WarCraft Universe build on the (many) Night Elf characters we meet and events we hear of in WarCraft 3: Reign of Chaos. Or all those legendary Elven names from the Lord of the Rings mythos.

Creators intent

Off course it is always up to the creator itself how much of the world is depicted. Which parts are shown and which are not. [have a look at this essay if you want to learn more] This is the tricky part when doing adaptations in another medium. Because comics emphasize other aspects of a story then a book or a film. 

Having said this, I do firmly believe in creators intent: How you are supposed to experience the product. That’s why I like work in its original language, because creators intent is something that can be lost when even just translating a work into another language. This is why anime dubs have big issues here. The creators intent or lens from which the story is told is (partially) lost to fit the perspective of the Western viewer of an Japanese story. There are a couple aspects like the voice talent/actor which can be hugely detrimental because it doesn’t seem to (completely) fit the character on screen.

Insert to explain:

 I think one of the reasons is cultural, another character nuance.

  1. With cultural I want to point out different customs that are so integrated in (a) society that those cannot be carried over. I seriously had my doubts when I heard that hollywood bought the film rights to the smash hit Your Name because you cannot take a definitive Japanese story and setting and translate it 1 one 1 and put western actors in a western setting. My thoughts back then were that it probably could be done via a Native American myth/folk tale; and it seems the creators are taking this route, which stems me mildly positive.
  2. This cultural difference carries over in character nuance. When translating or dubbing a work of fiction you are also dealing with the nuance a character (voice) brings. This can be with just changing the name to not make it resemble something completely different inherent to that country. This is less of an issue with the written word than the spoken word. When you read a book and the main characters name is for example translated from Bilbo Baggins to Bilbo Balings it does not change his voice because that is something the reader creates in his head.

However when it is spoken like in a tv series it can get pretty bad pretty fast. In the Dutch version Avatar: The Last Airbender the character name Aang is sounds like Ong and the character name Toph like Taff. If it are just minor things like this then it wouldn’t be as big of a problem. But usually the voice of the dubbed language is not an accurate portrayal of the character of the original. When talking about the Dutch dubs I think a reason is that our voice talent pool is actually not that big. At least, not with the ones that can provide a matching or better quality to the original.*

But this also is the case for USA dubs. Gundam Seed springs to mind but also Samurai Champloo, which I recently finished. I was surprised that Steve Blum did the voice of Mugen. I personally think Steve’s voice is too low for the character, especially when I see the character in a heated discussion. And Mugen is kind of a hothead, so that’s why I feel this way.**

This may be unintentional but to me definitely hurts worldbuilding. Especially when a viewer (like myself) is there to suspend disbelief. Plus I am a writer, so character voice matters (perhaps even more) to me than the average viewer.

So what about my world

I am not sure how my world will translate. I’m currently writing in English, and am mixing some foreign words into the mix. I don’t know if they will hold until the final draft or in a possible (Dutch) translation. That is a question for later. 

I am slowly creating an expansive storyworld with history and events that have led up to this moment when this story is taking place. 

Currently I am organising all my notes in one place: WoldAnvil. It’s just to try it for now, but I find that it (so far) works better and has more features than other (free local) tools I’ve tried so far.It is still a work in progress, but here is the link to my page if you’re interested. If you feel inclined, artwork and help is always appreciated. 


* Note that this may has changed over the last couple of years  but I usually do not watch dubs, especially Dutch dubs.

** Please go watch the first episodes of the series on Youtube and create your own opinion. They are there both dubbed and with subtitles.