On Worldbuilding: 10 Tips for Building Your World!

By IYWP Intern Ashton Hooley

#1: Read!

This, of course, is less a tip specifically about worldbuilding than it is about writing in general. To improve your writing and learn more about techniques a writer should always be reading. They go hand-in-hand! If you do wish to explore worldbuilding directly, then I recommend books and films heavily involved in worldbuilding, such as Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, or One Piece. This tip is at the top because reading is vital to any writing!

#2: Be imaginative, break loose from our reality!

This is mostly self-explanatory: be as creative as you want! This a time where you can think up completely new ideas, new entities and monsters and mystical beasts, unique “magic systems”, and so on. Use your imagination and really break from the “norm”, so to speak.

#3: Start small

Worldbuilding on a large scale takes a lot of time and effort, a lot of planning, so jumping into a large novel-sized world with no experience will end, inevitably, in failure. So, before you start larger projects, take your time and practice. Write short stories and pieces of flash fiction. Build a strong creative voice and learn what you like and don’t like. Become more familiar with yourself and the process. Once you legitimately feel ready, then you can try to start a larger project!

#4: Plan everything

Just as with tip #2, you want to be very cautious about getting ahead of yourself! Just as you shouldn’t create a world that would involve a larger and more tedious project, so too should you not start writing without knowing exactly, detail by detail, the world you will be writing. The world influences the story so much that by being unprepared and not having your world fully fleshed out, your story will collapse in on itself. So plan everything, including the small details!

#5: Don’t leave any stone unturned

This is a byproduct of the last tip. Do not leave out a single detail when building your world, whether it’s from scratch or otherwise. Somethings that you might think insignificant probably aren’t as unimportant as you think. The small details are what’s going to make your world immersive and believable. Think about these: food and drink, religious beliefs of your world’s people, jobs specific to your world, clothing, weather conditions, notable people of your world and why they’re so known, literature, furniture, etc.

#6: Draw your world!

This is a tool to help you visualize. Even if you’re not a great artist, I recommend you try it this tip out. In the long run, having maps and scenes/settings, fantastical creatures, and perhaps clothing specific to your world all drawn out will be very beneficial when you go to write. They don’t have to be too detailed, or even “good” drawings, they just have to be foundational.

Map of the Island from The Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann David Wyss

#7: Character Building!

It is entirely possible (and I have seen it before) for a writer to create this splendid world, but totally forget about making compelling character for the world. Do not forget that you need characters that are just as enticing as the world itself!

#8: Perspective

Your story needs to have perspectiveand this will most undoubtedly come from the characters. As you know, the people of your world should have common held beliefs, religious followings, political climate, and this should shape your characters (especially the protagonist) and be included in their character building. By doing so, you will inevitably shape the perspective of your story, for the beliefs of the characters will shape the narrative itself.

#9: Conflict

Now, by combining tips 7 and 8, you get conflict. A world is never without conflict, and the characters in your story should be the causes of the conflict in your story. From tip #8 we get perspective as the characters are given beliefs to follow. These beliefs (usually, but not always) tend to be pronounced and distinguishable from the mainstream beliefs of the world. Because of the characters’ different views and opinions, conflict, both internal and external, can be created and developed in the story. In your world, never forget the conflict!

#10. Write!

Once you feel confident in your world and characters, just start writing! Hesitating can be good to make sure you are wholly ready for diving into the writing process, but being too reluctant or scared to write, though a prominent hindrance to writing, can be very detrimental. Just start writing!

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