Scripters, it’s time for us to talk about my favorite writing topic: world building.
Let’s confess – for many writers, those two words are like poison laced daggers to the heart. I can see you now – your hands are sweating, your heart is racing, and even your temple is thumping.
Building a well-developed world that is as real as the one we are blessed to live in, can be daunting. It is the painstaking duty of the author to undertake crafting every little detail. Often, most of what is created won’t end up in the pages on your novel – but crafting them is still necessary.
It’s the iceberg above and beneath the waters concept. You develop the entire iceberg. However, you’re well aware of the depth beneath the waters, while readers will only experience the glory above.
World building comes with the art of defining the world’s governments, technologies, religions, cultures, geographical land structures, means of living and growing, the magic that flows through the world, the histories of war and natural disasters that have shifted and changed the world, and much more.
It can be an overwhelming task indeed, but your quaking shoulders can rest easy. With your precious sanity in mind, I hope to give you a world building blueprint that consists of an epic guide to building your world from scratch.
So that’s our goal here. Is to understand what world building is, should you have never heard of the term before, which approach to world building is best (and I do mean like Bob the Builder style), and then we’ll break down exactly what to address in your world building so you can craft your best story.
It won’t be easy. Doing this is easier said than done. But every arduous effort will be worth it. Let’s get started, Scripter.
What Is World Building and Examples of Great Worlds
Before we dive in, let’s get a little bit more clarity, shall we? What exactly is world building anyway?
Most would define world building as: the art of creating a new fictional world. Not to overlap with setting, world building often denotes that the world being created is brand new.
Therefore, it must be built like so. There are fictional/fantasy worlds that are built within our current world, so not much has to be done if most of the world is based off our current one in terms of gravity, matter, galactic dimensions, and so on.
However, if the world is within ours in an era far into our past or future, then you still have the responsibility of crafting this new world. It just won’t be as extensive as others crafting brand new, otherworldly worlds (say that 5 times fast, ha!).
Let’s take a quick look at some phenomenal examples of worlds that were built.
Examples of Built Worlds:
If you ever find that you need inspiration, be sure to get acquainted with the following worlds to guide you through your world building process.
Middle Earth – The Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien
Narnia – The Chronicles of Narnia – C. S. Lewis
Westeros – Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin
The Four Worlds – The Four Worlds – Angela J. Ford
Prythian – A Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J. Maas
Elledelle – The Fènix Resistance – Stephanie BwaBwa
Randland – Wheel of Time – Robert Jordan
Star Wars Galaxy – Star Wars – Various
Oz – The Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum
2 Ways to Approach World Building
Let’s talk about the 2 ways I fancy approaching world building. You can go about world building either through: Micro Building or Macro Building.
Now, what does that mean? It’s fairly simple.
You can either build your world from the inside out, crafting the small details of the world, until you reach the greater elements. Micro building.
Or, you can build your world through the reverse build. By approaching the greater elements of your world first, and then building all the way down to the tiniest details that are of great relevance to your world. Macro building.
And just to be clear Scripter, to a degree, everyone has to do some sort of world building in order to define the normal world of their characters and to craft adequate setting for the plot.
Every writer does have to compose the elements of which their characters are from, presently live, and will go to, etc. But not everyone has to build a brand new world to the likes of Middle Earth (WHEW – doesn’t that take off like 50 kilos of pressure?).
You as the author need to define what is of greater relevance to your story, and world build accordingly.
Bonus side note: Determine the foundation of your novel – character or plot driven.
If character driven, extensive world building may or may not be for you. What I mean by this is, if the story simply follows your character around, it’s not often, where they’re bouncing around to and from having great detail, matters.
But, if your narrative is plot driven, world building is important because the different elements of the world will fuel the plot. Without the cultures, governments, occupations, allies and enemies, history, wars, specific landscapes, legends, languages of the world, and so on, not much of the story can be told.
World Building Breakdown
When looking at world building, think of our actual world. We live on a planet. And there are continents. And countries. And villages. And cities. And towns. And communities. And cultures. And different languages. And religions. And economic status. And gender roles. And global affairs that affect local affairs. And wars. And natural disasters.
Depending on where you are, there are presidents or prime ministers. Kings or sovereigns. There are unique governments. And councils who help these governments. There are branches to government.
There are different religions, and deities. Cultural rituals. Sacrifices.
I mean, the list is endless. And when it comes to building your world – it’s much the same way.
Before the pin pricks return to your hands, here’s what to tackle when you begin to build your world in 6 macro sections:
- Geography and Cosmology
- Government and Society
- Culture and Religion
- History, Intersocietal Affairs, and Natural Disasters
- Fantasy Species and Unique Supernatural Beings
We’re still breathing easy, yes? Good. It’s not too bad once broken down. Now, here’s a greater extensive list of what to build for your best well-developed world, Scripter.
Geography and Cosmology
- Space and the Universe
- Origins and Beginnings
Government and Society
- Civilization Genesis and Structure
- Public Works
- High and Low Class Status
- Communication and Language
Culture and Religion
- Social Norms
- Religion and Moral, Ethical Standards
- Holidays and Festivals
- Fables, Legends, and Myths
- Figures, Symbols, Motifs
- Culture, Visual, and Artistic Style
- Relationship Dynamics
- Food and Cuisine
- Fashion and Lifestyle
- Death Practices
History, Intersocietal Affairs, and Natural Disasters
- Historical Events and Natural Disasters
- International Conflict and Accords
- Present Technology
- Past and Future Technology
Fantasy Species and Unique Supernatural Beings
- Creatures, Beasts, and Others
Now that it’s all broken down, isn’t it much easier to build your world? If you remove the overwhelm that comes from not knowing what to do, and what to build, the task of world building actually becomes simple.
The next, and your greatest challenge, then becomes making time to build your world.
Face it like a champ, and get started. World building is a necessary part to the functionality, stability, and reality or your world for your characters and for your readers. Be sure to tackle it with a sense of urgency, and most of all, don’t forget to have fun along the way.
It’s an amazing and exhilarating experience. Be sure to let yourself experience this as you build your world. Happy building, Scripters!