Hello, I’ve returned.
After much contemplation on what topic to cover, I decided to do a post on world building. Not the type where you actually create a world with your bare hands out of clay or something like that, but the type where you create an imaginary world for your piece of fiction.
All those fictional worlds and alternate realities that we’ve grown to love in all the variations of storytelling had to start somewhere, right?
I actually have a few worlds that I’ve created for my own books, so I promise I know what I’m talking about. However, just because these methods for creating fictional worlds worked for me, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will work for all those interested in creating their own fictional world.
The first thing I recommend is to start by observing the world you live in right now. Do you live in the middle of nowhere? The middle of a huge city? Is your typical view of farmers’ fields or do you see brick buildings shadowed by towering trees? What about the people? How do they speak? What do they speak of? How do they dress? What kind of animals would you typically encounter? Wild animals or pets? Dogs or birds? Where do people go during the day? The night? What is the air like, the average climate? What feelings does this place around you invoke?
After all of these questions, and more, have been answered about the world around you, it’s time to begin considering how your fictional world will differ from what you typically experience. I don’t recommend straying too far from what you know, but definitely do the best you can to create someplace only you can imagine. Maybe you’ve only changed how the people act, or maybe you decided to change the way the plants look. Perhaps you chose both. Maybe you’ve changed the time and era too. Making something familiar in a different way will give the world you build a memorable twist. I’m sure most everyone can think of a story they encountered where the world was similar enough to make the story resonate, but different enough to put the audience to rest that it couldn’t happen here.
Once the basis of the new world is hashed out, it’s time to get specific. Sometimes you have to go through the pains of insignificant tasks most people are going to ignore, such as naming the money, naming the streets, naming the countries, naming the animals, and naming things in general to start. (Always the hardest part, by the way).
After that, it’s time to begin thinking about the customs of the world, the little things that would make the populace tick, what kinds of foods are available, and how the technology or magic functions. (The latter option will expand into repeating the past several steps, depending on if your world is science fiction or fantasy … as a predominantly fantasy writer, I would know.)
Most importantly, world building should not be rushed. It took me months to put the pieces of my world together, and I spent every waking hour (and some dreams) agonizing over the details. Yet, I’m still putting some of the pieces together, several years later.
It will take time to create a world as extravagant as Star Wars, for example. But I promise that it will be worth it if you love storytelling as much as I do. The good news is that none of us have to start from scratch—we each already live in worlds that others could never imagine on their own.