Once upon a time, I wrote THIS post discussing world building in Light of the Moon. And then THIS post, which appeared on Smash Attack Read's wonderful blog (go check it out). The main idea in both of those articles was that world building should be a quiet whisper of what is actually happening in the story. Mainly, we should see the world through the character's eyes. I still think the "show rather than tell" approach is a great way to go, but I can't help but think there is so much more to world building than that.
I'm a firm believer that certain literary things have greater impacts if they are done quietly. Certain topics are better felt than lectured upon (see THIS post about diversity in Marie Lu's Legend). Certain elements of diversity are better understood through action rather than instruction. The point of this whispered theory is this: A reader will feel more, understand more, and be involved more if a character is taken on an emotional journey rather than simply placed in the middle of the action. For me, this is very true. I connect more with characters who grow and develop through the story. I understand more if they show instead of tell.
I think this approach can also be said in reference to world building.
Once upon a time I said this: "For me, world building is about creating characters that are able to show things about your worlds you cannot."
Now I say this: The world you create should be as alive as your characters. It should live and breathe and be a character itself.
The world should be detailed, real. Through the character's eyes, the world should come alive because it already IS alive. And we should see that as readers. We should feel the impact of the world instead of read a lecture about it. World building is incredibly important. It can make or break a novel. World building is a character. What do you think?
Of course, there are exceptions to every rules, especially when it comes to writing.
Go break some.