19.20: How to Make Worlds Feel Big Without Overwhelming the Reader (A Close Reading on Worldbuilding: Focusing on Scale)

Season 19 | Episode 20
27m | May 19, 2024

How do you use language and scale to focus your writing? Today, we think about scale and movement across vast spaces. What do characters’ movements tell us about empires and also—force? We talk about Martine’s incredible work establishing an empire across time, not (just) space. We read aloud some of Martine’s writing, and try to understand exactly how they work, and what they’re doing to build the novel’s world. 

A refresher on why Worldbuilding is essential and some working definitions of how we want to talk about it. After the break, we discuss why we chose this book and highlight what it does well. As always in our close reading series, we distill each text’s elements into approachable steps for you to take in your own writing. 

Thing of the Week: 

Softboiled eggs in an instant pot: 1.5 cups of fridge-cold water. Add 2-6 eggs onto the little trey. Pressure cook for low on one minute, and then release the pressure after 90 seconds. Remove the eggs (use tongs!), and put them in a bowl of fridge-cold water for one minute. Now, try them! If thye’re too runny, then for your next bath, increase your wait time for pressure release by 5 seconds. If they’re too firm, reduce the wait time by five seconds. That one variable: how long you wait before releasing pressure, is the only one you need to worry about. (Does this resonate with our study of worldbuilding? Maybe? DM us on Instagram and tell us what the metaphor or analogy is for you! @writing_excuses ) 


Take one of your works in progress, and write three paragraphs, each describing a different kind of scale: 

1. A scale of time

2. A scale of place/ space

3. Emotional scale (fear, joy, ambition, sadness)

Here’s a link to buy your copy of “A Memory Called Empire” if you haven’t already:

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Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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