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For Writers,  Writing Tips

Simple Guide to World Building in Creative Writing

The worlds of Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter are some examples of stories that capture the importance of world-building. You find yourself immersed in their worlds with unique characters, entire fictional languages, and extensive histories.

Some of these worlds seem so complex, that it’s daunting to try creating something similar. Don’t get overwhelmed thinking you need to create something as detailed, though. These worlds are developed over multiple books, and often over different platforms. If you are wanting to write a novel or screenplay, you just need to build up the basics. You can continue to add as your stories grow.

In this post, we’ll look at why world-building is important, and how you can build an immersive world, and I’ll also leave a free world-building guide at the end!

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Why World-Building is Necessary

Before diving into the ‘hows’ of world building, it’s good to know its importance. World-building refers to the unique world that your story takes place in. It includes the history, locations, rules, and characters of that world.

All of these elements work together to create an engaging world that your readers can get lost in. With shallow world-building, stories can seem unrealistic, disconnected, or boring.

Genres that require extensive world-building include science fiction and fantasy. These can include magic, monsters, mythical creatures, unique worlds, space settings, entirely unique histories, humanoids, aliens, robots, advanced science, etc.

How To Build an Immersive World

When gearing up to begin world-building, it’s important to note a few pieces of information: genre and time period.

Knowing the genre of your story can help guide you in which elements of world-building to focus on. For example, a fantasy story may require more information on the mythical creatures that inhabit your world, while a story set in space may include advanced sciences and detailed location descriptions.

You can usually break stories into four time periods: past, present, near-future, and distant future. With stories set in the past or present, you often don’t need to explain the world history as it’s usually similar to the real world. However, stories that take place in the distant future require some information on the events and history that led to that world.

Once you know the genre and time period, you can more easily begin world-building.

Research

To get a better idea of the world you’re trying to develop, it’s best to start with a little research. If your story takes place in England in the Middle Ages, look into the lifestyle of people at that time. What clothing did they wear? What foods did they eat?

Some other things you may want to research:

  • locations
  • environment
  • society
  • religion
  • technology
  • magic
  • geography
  • climate

You don’t need to do hours of research. Just getting some information for key elements of your story is usually more than enough. The more you understand the workings of your world, the more realistic and believable it becomes.

Main World Elements

I like to break world-building into four main categories: locations, characters, history, and rules.

Locations

Locations contain buildings, cities, rooms, landscapes, etc. If your story takes place in space, locations might include a spaceship and a distant planet. Try to find inspiration for what these places might look like. Use Google, Pinterest, Instagram, and similar places to find some inspiration.

Characters

Characters can be a challenge to write. And, while they are somewhat separate from world-building, they are also connected. The people that make up your world are crucial to its story and having an understanding of them is imperative.

For more information on character creation, you can check out these posts:

History

The history of your world may be entirely different than the history of our world, so it’s good to note any important historical events that may be relevant to the plot. There may have been a new world war that you’ll want to add to your story. Creating a rough outline of events can be beneficial when you begin writing your story.

If you are writing a post-apocalyptic story, you may want to create a series of events that led to the apocalypse.

The more you understand how these events took place, the easier they’ll be to write.

Rules

The rules your world follows are necessary to know so you avoid plot holes. Especially when including magic, the way the world works and what is possible probably differs from our own. However, there still should be some rules of what is and is not possible. And, it’s important to lay these out ahead of time.

For example, your story may include characters that can breathe underwater, but only if they have a special necklace on. Once they take off the necklace, they can no longer breathe underwater. Or, time travel may exist in your world, but only forward time travel. Backwards travel is impossible. In this case, you’d know you can never write a character going back in time.

These rules and guidelines can help your story feel more realistic and help readers follow along.

Guide to World Building

I’ve created a free world-building guide for you to follow while developing your world. You will receive the download once you sign up here:

Simple Guide to World Building in Creative Writing guidebook

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