Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Umberto Eco on world-building

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When I wrote The Name of the Rose, I spent a full year, if I remember correctly, without writing a line…Instead I read, did drawings and diagrams, invented a world. This world had to be as precise as possible, so that I could move around in it with total confidence. For The Name of the Rose I drew hundreds of labyrinths and plans of abbeys, basing mine on other drawings and places I visited, because I needed everything to work well, I needed to know how long it would take two characters in conversation to go from one place to another. And this also dictated the length of the dialogues.

If in a novel I had to write “while the train stopped at Modena station, he quickly got out and bought the newspaper,” I could not do so unless I had been to Modena and had checked whether the train stops there long enough, and how far the newspaper is from the platform (and this would be true even if the train had to stop at Innisfree). All this may have little to do with the development of the story (I imagine), but if I did not do this, I could not tell the tale.

Umberto Eco, On Literature

Written by nevalalee

April 9, 2011 at 12:00 am

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