Worldbuilding: Crafting Immersive Settings in Fiction Writing
Hey, padawan! Got your pancakes? Got your favorite writing compression gloves? Perfect. Now, let’s dive into the wondrous, whimsical world of… well, worlds! World-building, to be precise. Let’s set the scene for the uninitiated: world-building is the art of creating a fictional universe that doesn’t just serve as a backdrop, but as a living, breathing character in your stories.
Every setting you craft, every mountain range your characters traverse, every society they interact with, are all part of world-building. It’s a lot like hosting a pancake baking party – you’re setting the stage for your characters to shine, while making sure the environment is just right to keep the narrative flowing.
World-building isn’t just about drawing maps or deciding whether there are three suns in the sky (although that’s fun too!). It’s about grounding your reader in your world, giving them a concrete location to anchor their imagination. It’s about creating a world that serves your story, influences your characters, and, most importantly, captivates your reader.
Yet, some don’t realize that world-building isn’t just for epic fantasies and science fiction. World building is used when you make a fictional small town for your two love birds to meet. World-building is found in every story that’s set in a fictional place. Even if there aren’t dragons!
World-building! Physical Appearance: The Look and Feel of Your World
Imagine this: you’re dropped into a new city with no map, no idea of the weather, and no clue about the terrain. Confusing, right? The same goes for your readers when they dive into your story. They need to know what your world looks like, feels like, and how it influences the narrative.
Is your world a sprawling metropolis? A quaint, small town? Or a vast wilderness with diverse environments? Your world’s physical appearance influences everything from your characters’ clothing to their means of transport. So, don’t skimp on the details – the devil’s in them, after all! That’s what really makes an excellent and immersive story, the details.
This can be things the types of plants found, or the architectural design of the buildings. As above, these types of questions are critical in all stories. Because your fictional small town can be known for beautiful tulips or fragrant roses. This is where world-building comes into play, making these decisions.
If your story involves travel, you may need to create multiple countries or even planets. Each one should be as unique as a fingerprint, with its own languages, natural resources, and cultural practices. Don’t just build a world, build a universe!
Inhabitants: Who’s Living in Your World?
Next up, we have the stars of the show: the inhabitants. They’re the ones driving your story, so it’s important
to know who they are, where they came from, and how they interact with each other and their world.
From humans to aliens, to mythical creatures, your world could be home to a vast range of beings. Consider the social structures among them: is there a class system defined by wealth, power, or some other factor? Are there alliances or conflicts between groups?
Remember, your world should feel as alive as ours. This means detailing the inhabitants’ lives right down to their resources, their struggles, and their triumphs. The more lifelike your world, the more immersive it is for your readers.
This may seem like it’s only for those writing epic fantasies, but really this is fundamental story stuff. All stories need background characters and secondary characters to make them seem more alive. That small town lover story? It would be super boring if it were just the two lovers… or would it? A ghost town with only two inhabitants might be super fun.
I digress. That small town would be a lot more charming with a quirky barista, a grumpy old sheriff, and a broody teenager!
World-building History: The Past Matters, Even in Fiction
What’s a world without a past? As boring as a party without cake, that’s what. Just as our world has a rich history, so should your fictional one. The past informs the present and influences your characters and plot.
Consider the major rulers, key events, and changes they brought about. Did they have an impact on the political or religious landscape? Were there environmental disasters, wars, or noteworthy events that shaped your world? You don’t need to know every tiny detail, but having a robust understanding of your world’s history can add depth to your story and provide opportunities for foreshadowing and plot twists.
Again, this is just as critical to consider in contemporary stories and epic fantasies. Your small town should have a history, even if it’s not a central plot point. The characters can lounge in the shade under Sr. Reginal, who founded the town. It can even be incorporated into the name of the town. It’s these little details that will both enrich the story and make your readers fall in love.
Common Pitfalls in World-building
Alright, fellow builders of worlds, it’s time for some real talk. Despite our best efforts, sometimes our worlds fall a bit flat. This often happens when we build our world’s half-heartedly. Without authenticity, our worlds can leave readers wanting more. You know that feeling when you enter a room and something just feels… off? That’s the vibe a poorly built world gives off. So, what can we do about it?
Especially if you’ve made unresearched assumptions. A small town high in the Colorado Rockies, that never snows. A quaint European town with a huge supermarket. While fiction is fiction, you’ve got to do your research to ensure that it’s not so blatantly dumb readers leave you in the dust!
Well, the first step is to ensure you fully understand your world. Know its nooks and crannies, its politics, and its hidden secrets. A well-understood world is a well-written world. Secondly, ensure your world-building serves your plot and characters. Your world should help to propel the plot forward and facilitate your character’s growth.
Finally, remember to have fun with it! Readers can tell when an author is enjoying themselves. Let your passion for your world shine through your words. You’re not just building a world, you’re crafting an experience.
Conclusion: Creating Immersive Worlds
And there you have it, wordsmiths! A little glimpse into the art and science of world-building. It’s not just about creating a setting for your story; it’s about constructing a living, breathing world that captivates your readers and enhances your narrative.
World-building isn’t for those 100,000 word books, it’s for every little story in between. You could even make the argument that even stories taking place in known locations like New York still have some world-building because of the side characters and background. Spend some time to craft the perfect world for your manuscript, because it’s well worth the time!
Remember, a well-built world is like a good party: engaging, immersive, and leaving your guests (or in this case, readers) wanting to stay a little longer. So, grab your pen, put on your world builder hat, and let’s start crafting some unforgettable settings!
Before you go, I’ll drop a few links if you’d like to read more about world-building! First, is I have accumulated a word document full of all sorts of amazing questions you can ask about your world to really flush out your world building. Next, I have to point you to the master (in my mind) of world-building, Brandon Sanderson!