The Lore of a Story

So I recently got a revise and resubmit request from an agent (woo!), and she was kind enough to provide incredibly detailed edit notes. I mean, like wow. Of course she is right on her criticisms, and I’m so excited that the story will be stronger for it.

But one note tripped me up: she wanted to see more lore about one aspect of the story.

Lore? Like, folk tales and writings and all that? But this book has excerpts from books and stories at the beginning of every chapter! What does it mean?!

And so I delved deeper.

Lore is, basically, the backstory , cultures, and history of your characters and world. It’s not the current story, but it can be how the circumstances led to the current story. Think of it as part of worldbuilding.

What kinds of things can we develop as lore?

  1. As mentioned above, it may be writings from the world, such as religious texts, science books, folk tales (or fairy tales), fliers, etc. Pieces of literature from the world itself. Also, if these are used in the book and placed as small excerpts at the beginning of a chapter or the book itself, it’s called an epigraph.
  2. The history of your world is also key lore. For example, in my R&R book, the history of the people is violent against magic wielders, particularly on a specific day 1000 years ago, and that shaped the way magic wielders are viewed now as well as changed the economy and independence of the country as a whole. History, or even the history that is written versus the truth of an event, can shape the very lives and circumstances of both the characters and the plot.
  3. The religion and mythology of the world. Religion plays a huge part in a lot of cultures, and these background beliefs will often dictate the way individuals and governments respond to events. Even a lack of religion will have its own effect.
  4. Character backstory may also be part of the lore, just focused in to a specific person. Knowing and understanding what your characters have faced can truly help you create realistic reactions to events in the plot and their interactions with other characters.
  5. The stories people tell can also be lore, such as local legends (or not-so-local legends), superstitions, folk tales, and fairy tales. Unlike the epigraphs or actual writings I referenced above, here I simply mean the information that people talk about and know in their day to day lives but may not necessarily be established by traditional religion or government (like a religious text would). What led to the development of these stories and superstitions? Are they grounded in truth? What happens if someone deviates from what they’re told to do through these stories?

Lore can refer to a wide range of worldbuilding, and it can be overwhelming. Some writers even get stuck in loops of just creating the background information and never quite getting around to actually writing the story. But if you focus in on which aspects are important for your story to progress and your characters to develop, you’ll find you have a richer sense of the world and more interesting writing.

Personally, I love creating the stories the people believe and sometimes how they view their worlds through a religious lens, both of which are major lore focuses in my R&R novel.

Do you have any bits of lore you love to read and/or write about? What are your favorites? Which ones bore you? Let’s chat in the comments!

And until next week, keep writing. 🙂


If you want a little extra reading on lore and story, check out this article on the Odyssey!

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