Your Worldview Will Sneak into Your Novel

The Concept of “World” in a Novel

A novel’s “world” is the general impression readers absorb from the interwoven effects of plot, characters, authorial tone, atmosphere, and setting. Writers impart this vital yet elusive quality as their own worldview inevitably pervades the work. The process is partially inadvertent and the resulting worldview may differ somewhat from the worldview purposely expressed in the work. For example, authors who write religious thrillers may or may not be religious people themselves. An unbeliever’s attitude towards the clergy may lack the sympathy of a believer. We pick up the author’s “true” worldview by sensing their way of presenting the story. We detect subtle philosophical clues such as what an author chooses to emphasize and how they go about ordering events and tying the story together.

Yggdrasil by Oluf Olufsen Bagge 1847

Yggdrasil, the world tree, was the Nordic symbolic representation of the world. These days, worldview varies on an individual basis, but always has an underlying humanness shared by all. (Image: public domain)

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Virginia Woolf’s Moments of Being

Ground breaking author Virginia Woolf is certainly one of the most respected writers of the twentieth century and any current writer, whether mainstream or cutting edge, can improve their work by learning something about her unique abilities. What was at the heart of Woolf’s unusual approach to writing? She once said, “I have some restless searcher in me,” indicating that a process of discovery was the basis of her life and work. For what was she searching?

Young Virginia Woolf, 1902

Woolf believed even trivial incidents can have intense emotional significance. She treasured certain moody moments of being and used them to great effect in her work. (Image: public domain)

We find the answer in Woolf’s first novel, The Voyage Out. Her young impressionable protagonist, Rachel Vinrace, takes ship for South America on a vessel owned by her father. During the voyage, her interaction with an odd assortment of passengers radically broadens her horizons. She has come from a secluded life in a London suburb, but exposure to challenging intellectual discourse and stimulating new ideas starts a process of rapid growth. She quickly transcends the limitations of her stuffy upbringing. She has begun an exciting psychological voyage of self-discovery.

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