Game of Thrones’s sixth season bothered me on a number of levels, and the show has really been heading downhill since Season 1. I understand that when making a television show, some things from the original books need to be cut—that’s just the way things are—but there’s a huge difference between cutting material that’s not essential and taking shortcuts at every opportunity, no matter how detrimental to the story. The worldbuilding in the show really started to bother me during Season 5, but it wasn’t until Season 6 that I could put my finger on it: Westeros is small.
World-building is one of the most important and most difficult things that an author must do. In fantasy, world-building can be anything from elaborate Tolkien-esque building of an entire universe, to simply attempting to explain how magic works in your world, or explaining the culture or political structures of certain magical creatures. These sometimes seemingly minor details can add so much depth to storytelling.
However, many times I find world-building tends to be forgotten by authors who aren’t creating a whole new world. The idea that urban fantasy or modern fantasy doesn’t need as much world-building, because these magical characters live in our world, shows a lack of understanding of basic storytelling. TV shows and movies are the worst offenders when it comes to world-building, often relying some on special effects and fast-paced action scenes to tell a story, and as a result the viewer leaves entertained, maybe, but lacking insight into the world and characters they have just visited. Even books sometimes suffer from this. It’s been said by many authors that less than half of what you write or know about the world you created doesn’t end up in the actual book, because it would distract too much from the actual plot. Obviously, TV shows, books, and movies are not meant to act like history books; they are supposed to entertain, so sometimes the world-building gets put aside for action or romance. No matter how good an author is at balancing world-building and moving the plot forward, unanswered questions about how a universe works will always come up.