Interesting Worldbuilding Advice for Writers

I was listening to the excellent podcast, Writing Excuses, when one of the hosts dropped this excellent gem about worldbuilding:

Pick one unimportant thing in your story and explain the heck out of it, and pick one important thing in the story and don’t explain it at all.

Quote was attributed to author David Farland.

At first glance this seems counterintuitive, and I’m not sure that it can be applied to all stories, but it does posit an unfamiliar way to develop unique details for setting in a story. For example, check out this random game trailer:

This story could explain why water (the unimportant thing) is important, but leave the main event (the world-shattering apocalyptic event) unexplained. The story might develop around water being scarce and its impact on the characters rather than retreading overused post-apocalyptic scenery. Readers and aspiring writers, what do you think?

Added bonus: Here’s an excellent resource for second draft revision from C.J. Cherryh.

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