Writing Advice

Help for Authors and Writers

Revealing my novel’s world

I’ve created a marvelous world for my novel. Should I write an introduction explaining it all?

For the love of God, and all that is holy, no. A thousand—nay, a million—times no. Never, ever start a story with a detailed description of your world.

Yes, I know. It took you a long time and a lot of work to create it. You’re proud of what you’ve created, and eager to show it to other people.


The reader arrives at your page wanting a story, not a history lesson, and certainly not a lesson in politics, society, or (God help you) geography.

The story. The story is the thing. You reveal what you reveal of your world through your story, and only to such an extent that (a) is necessary for your story and (b) your history comes up in the course of your story. You’re a storyteller. Everything begins and ends with the story.

The world informs the story, it sets the stage for your story, it creates the setting in which the story unfolds. But it is not the story, any more than the stage where the play takes place is the play itself.

Starting your story with a description of the world is as tedious and counterproductive as starting your play with the architecture of the stage. (In fact, in writing circles, there’s a name for this: it’s called the “Tour of the Enterprise,” from the tedious way the first Star Trek movie and many badly written fanfics start out with a literal tour of the Enterprise.) Your reader will find your story more engaging and interesting if oyu set them down in the world and then let them explore, learning new things about the world as the story goes along.

If you want to keep your readers, please don’t infodump at the start.