My last article on deep worldbuilding left me wondering: Is depth really better than breath? Should depth be the default prescription for all kinds of worldbuilding?
Exploring the full depth of a concept makes for a story worth telling. Jumping between a dozen or more ideas, each one as shallow as the next, results in… what? A story that’s sub-par and generic at best.
But is depth the universally wiser choice?
Certainly, going deeper does a lot of worldbuilding for you. You follow a single storytelling thread; every aspect of your story you unearth connects to the rest, forming a coherent whole. Which is just a fancy way of saying “meaningful.” Readers love meaning because it helps them make sense of fiction.
And here’s the real insight. Breath isn’t necessarily worse, as long as you manage to find meaning in how all your concepts mesh together. That meaning isn’t a given. You need to put in extra effort to make every idea a part of the whole and not assume that it will make sense to the readers.