And those are good things.
I'm not saying that every fantasy writer needs to spend as much time world building as they do story telling, but I am saying that it is essential to, at some point, put a real mind to world building--especially when it comes to the natural part of your world.
I live in Minnesota. We have deciduous trees (oaks, maples, birches) that drop their leaves in the winter, and we have a few coniferous trees like pines that stay green. It rains anytime it wants to March-October, and snows anytime it wants to September-May (and yes, I did just overlap those by several months--Minnesotans know). And if I was writing a typical fantasy novel, which are usually set in similar climates (England, the East Coast of the U.S.) I could go with this knowledge. Hot days with a chance of rain, freezing cold with a chance of snow. Heatstroke in the summer, hypothermia in the winter. Water, water, everywhere--lakes, streams, ponds, and precipitation.
I wouldn't need to do any research to build that world. I live it.
But my fantasy novel is more reminiscent of Africa than Minnesota, and that took research.
Did you know that there are two rainy seasons in the Serengeti? A short one and a long one?
It also doesn't rain all day there, and the Serengeti doesn't get as hot as I thought it did, even if the dry season. But that's why research is important. Watching Wild Discovery every Wednesday when growing up just didn't prepare me to create a realistic world for Adrienne and her compatriots.
"But wait!" you say. "This is my world. It can rain if I want [it] to!"
And you're absolutely right...to a point.
As long as it doesn't break the reader out of the story.
The trees in my Serengeti-esque setting won't drop their leaves for new ones at the turn of the season. If leaves in the Serengeti turn brown and fall off, that means the tree is dead or dying, not getting ready for a long sleep. Lakes and streams might dry up, but they won't ice over. Any animals that hibernate will be doing so because of the dry season, not because it gets too cold.
And it's never going to get dark at 4 in the afternoon unless there is a storm coming or some sort of apocalypse happening.
Hurricanes can't go far inland, lakes are formed (mostly) by glaciers and therefore are more prevalent in areas that once had glaciers, and climate is determined by more factors than the imagination of an author.
And little details can make a big difference. Tips of the hat to reality will make your story more believable without the reader even noticing. And if your reader is a climatologist or geographer, maybe they won't leave a scathing review about inaccuracies in your world's physical creation (okay, I have never seen this, but sci-fi writers are always getting ripped on for the impossibility of energy shields around space ships or whatever so it could happen).
I can create my own animals, develop my own landscape, and make my characters look any way I want them to, but to me the effort to make small details accurate are well worth it. To me, a believable climate with believable weather is worth opening up an encyclopedia.
What details do you focus on when building your world? What details--if a writer gets them wrong--are most likely to jolt you out of your state of suspended disbelief?