World Building


Every work of fiction needs to be grounded in a world of some kind. In fantasy or science fiction, world building is a crucial aspect of the storytelling process, more so then any other genre. The world needs to be built to allow the reader to understand where they are. Getting it right can take your story from one dimensional to multi-dimensional. Here aresome things to consider.

  1. Basic Elements.

Provide visuals for your world by dropping them in to suggest where your characters are. Avoid the info dump by going into detail about your world for paragraphs at a time – this is boring and slows the story down. Instead have your characters experience the setting rather than just describe it. Use the hour, date, weather, physical objects, people, animals or the characters five senses to describe what’s around them. Ask yourself: How does my character interact with this world? Interweave all the elements into your story to move the narrative forward. Make the interactions believable and supply enough of them, and your readers will fill in the rest.

    2.  Roles of the World.

Make your world subservient to what you’re trying to create. It can be used to move the story along and make it more believable. Weather is a classic way to indicate emotions and echo what is going on. A sunny, warm day creates a completely different feel from a raging thunderstorm with hail pelting down. Where you place your character is a house or building says a lot about the character and their situation. Your character’s attitude toward a place can create mood and shift based on how they see the world. Time is an interesting medium that can be used to speed up or slow down a scene. Physical descriptions of how your character sees the world and elements in it can provide an emotional aspect to the story. Emotional interactions with the character and their world create strong connections and don’t require much of the world to do it.

    3.   Opening.

The first few paragraphs should give a sense of your world, not be only about your worldbuilding2world. Putting action, dialogue or an event into the first page will grab the reader’s attention and provide an opportunity to drop in bits of your setting along the way. Try to keep the pace up, provide some tension and weave in elements of your world so the reader will see where they are right along with the characters.

     4.   Research.

You might think this would have nothing to do with you and the world you’ve created, however whether you’re going back in time, forward, in outer space or on another planet you want your story to feel real to your readers and research can accomplish this. If you’ve made up new technology or created an ecosystem unique to your world, having its foundations set in something familiar your readers can relate to will go a long way toward a suspension of disbelief.

     5.   Rules.

You’ll want to decide on the rules of your world before you even begin writing so you can create consistency. Once you’ve established something, keep it the same throughout your story. If you choose to break a rule, you need to explain it. An example would be your world has gravity, then half way through the story it doesn’t. You need to be clear why that established rule has changed. The level of details around your world’s rules depends on your style and who you’re writing for such as your audience or genre, but it is essential to maintain those rules from beginning to end.

    6.  Symbolism.

The names of characters, places or objects can be symbolic to the story you’re telling. Do you want the names to stand out or be more subtle? What about items used or that your character is seeking? How does your character find them? Are the symbols part of their daily life already? Symbols can be used to tap into your reader’s experiences and what they know. They are generally tangible and observable. Repetition of symbols is a great way to emphasize something important. Use the rule of three, your character can interact with a symbol three times to make it significant to them and the story. They will often show up at the beginning of the story, the climax and/or emotional high points.

World building can be as complex or simple as you choose, however no matter how detailed you are it’s better to show your reader your world then to tell them about it.


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