Lucas Horn World Building

I’m rarely surprised when a trip unexpectedly turns into an important lesson in writing. Since taking on this writing journey, I’ve learned something from cars, dinosaurs and books. So it was inevitable that I’d find a lesson in world building while visiting Disney’s World of Pandora.

First, I’m not a fan of Avatar or James Cameron for that matter. I vaguely remember watching Avatar a few years ago and having an enormous dislike of it. Needless to say, the idea to endure my worst fears (families and long lines) to experience the newest Disney attraction, was not my own. I’m also taking extreme liberty with my use of the word “experience” since the crowds made it feel more like a DMV rather than a fictitious world.  Nevertheless; by pointing my camera in the right direction, and downing several Snow Leopard Vodka Drinks from the bar kiosks throughout Animal Kingdom, I was given the illusion of being transported to Pandora. (After all, isn’t day drinking one of the few perks for adults at a theme park?)

Disney is an absolute expert in world building, and Pandora was a shining example. The “world” was full of colorful plants, floating rocks and strange, but believable, animal sounds. If the sights and sounds weren’t enough, Disney even created an aroma for World of Pandora. As I walked around the “world” I noticed a distinct aroma of green peppers. I later realized the green pepper smell (which I’m sure is not green peppers) was actually getting pumped into the area. All these small details came together to help visitors believe they were in Pandora, not Florida.

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This is where my inner writer found inspiration. Well, this and Epcot… I love Epcot.

On my novel journey I’ve seen tons of information about the importance of world building. It is an essential part of any author’s writing process. It doesn’t matter what the story is, the setting is as important as characters and dialogue. As authors, we need to transport our readers into our novels through setting and world building. It isn’t just about giving your characters a place to walk around or call home. It should be an experience, one that readers can’t forget and want to come back to over and over.

Until recently however; I’ve neglected my story’s setting. Instead, I made the rookie mistake of focusing solely on plot and hoping the rest would “just work”. This resulted in a story that appeared to have direction, but could have taken place just about anywhere…possibly even Pandora. This would have left my readers confused, and as a result, uninterested in my hard work. Luckily, I was able to realize this major flaw. I started making changes to my novel before leaving for Florida; paying attention to setting and location. Thankfully, the trip came at a perfect time.

There really is no better place to understand the true meaning of “world building” than Disney World. Their Imagineers are an amazingly talented team of people who do a great job bringing books and movies to life.

My experience with Disney parks happened late in my life, so much of the “magic” is lost on me, but the creativity is not. I suggest my fellow writers take a trip to Florida at least once in their adult lives and experience the creativity. Like me, you will never have a doubt about the importance of world building again. And, if that doesn’t work, have a go at the Snow Leopard Vodka.

Happy Writing!

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