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        The Essential Guide to Worldbuilding [from Book Editors]

        • calenderDec 12, 2022
        • calender 6 min read

        Have you ever wondered how science fiction and fantasy writers create such iconic, nuanced, rich, in-depth, detailed universes? We’ll give it straight to you: phenomenal worldbuilding. SFF fiction is extremely rooted in setting, so the more detailed the universe is, the more gripping your novel or story can be. Obviously, this takes loads of work. But don’t worry—we’re here to give you a lowdown on worldbuilding basics.

        Read on to know more about how to start worldbuilding, worldbuilding steps, worldbuilding templates and resources, and worldbuilding elements. 

        Transform your fictional universe with our expert editing services!

        What is worldbuilding? 

        Very simply put, worldbuilding is the process of creating a fictional world. For writers, this means thinking about and devising various aspects of their fictional universe. This includes geography, society, culture, ecology, science, and even language—from its mechanics to how characters interact with the environment.

        While world-building is a process mostly used mostly in science fiction and/or fantasy writing, it is a key to providing readers with an immersive reading experience and can be used in any genre of writing. 

        Worldbuilding automatically strengthens your story

        John Truby, in his book The Anatomy of Story, wrote, “A great story is like a tapestry in which many lines have been woven and coordinated to produce a powerful effect.” It’s a pretty cliched analogy, but Truby makes a great point here. 

        Think of it like this: your story world is a character of its own. It has its own life, far beyond the confines of your characters’ personal lives. It gives context and provides value and reason for the choices that your characters make. Giving your story an in-depth insight into your world’s history and culture makes your creation real and is also really effective in moving the plot along. 

        Worldbuilding elements 

        There’s this adage: writing is the closest you can come to playing God. That’s exactly what your task at hand is. You are the master of this world, its omniscient, all-powerful creator.

        But don’t worry, we’ll take you step-by-step.

        1. Geography and ecology 

        Having a physical understanding of where a story is set really heightens the reading experience. Geographical locations are the most corporeal element of your story world. Stories cannot happen in abstraction, right?

        Every story happens in a given place at a given time. So, you must ensure to strongly convey the sense of the place in which your story unfolds. Practically speaking, make geography your best friend—if you haven’t already. Here are some of the things you can think about: 

        • Climate
        • Flora and fauna
        • Landscape and terrain 
        • Sources of water 
        • Natural resources 

        Make a map, if you can. This can help you visualize the landscape of your world and understand the physical distance between towns, cities, and kingdoms.

        2. Society and politics 

        Fictional or real, every person lives within a society. And societies are pretty complex. Since larger socio-political issues like class struggle and misogyny are explored in novels, giving an insight into your story’s social and political setting gives your story context, as well as a justification for your characters’ choices and actions. 

        This might be the most complex endeavor you have ever undertaken, so here are some things to start off with: 

        • Society: social hierarchies including classes and class divide 
        • Economy: resource collection, money 
        • Political structures: governments, government structures, power politics, power relations, and clashes. 

        Identify points of conflict within these societies. If you are writing social science fiction or writing about war, for instance, think about how social struggles affect your characters and their worldviews. For example in The Hunger Games, a lack of resources and neglect from the Capitol prompted Katniss to revolt against her government and eventually become a symbol of resistance. 

        3. Culture and History 

        Stories do not occur in a vacuum. They are the results of long traditions of history and culture. Any world would be incomplete without its own history and culture. They are the bedrock of human life and your characters will look one-dimensional without such a context: 

        • Art and entertainment 
        • Relations 
        • Myth and legends 
        • Food and drink
        • Significant historical events + how they have shaped/changed your characters’ lives (Eg: war and change in regimes)

        4. Language 

        It is one thing to come up with a constructed world for a series of books (or even a book). But it takes a tremendous amount of effort and dedication to come up with a language for it. Some of the most seminal works of sci-fi and fantasy have done exactly that. Elvish, Dothraki, and Doublespeak are all examples of constructed languages (or conlangs). 

        5. Science and Technology

        Are science and technology crucial elements of your universe? 

        Do you have robots? Do your characters time travel? Is your universe intergalactic?

        Whatever the case is, you need science. Don’t defy basic elements of science like gravity and mechanics. Even if you are going beyond current science, make sure you back it up with more science. Make sure you have strong reasons for deviating from current scientific trends. 

        Even laypeople can tell something is off, and readers will be put off by a lack of consistency. You don’t have to be explicit about these things, but make the mechanics of your universe evident enough to ensure that there is no cause for question. Logical consistency (even in fictional universes) is key. 

        Two Approaches to Building Your World 

        There are two ways you could go about building your world: 

        1. Inside-out: If you have a premise, you must create a world that will enable you to realize it in writing. So, your story will affect the world you build from the inside out. Begin with the largest setting elements that impact your story and build outwards to the smaller ones.

        2. Outside-in: If your ideas for a fictional world come before the story, you need to start from the outside in. Figure out geography, the general mechanics, and other systems that you want to be writing about. As your world becomes more and more detailed, you can then think about potential stories within your world.  

        General Worldbuilding Guidelines

        • Remember that your world is independent of your story. What this means is that your world, as worlds generally are, is much larger than the story of the characters that you are writing about. The focus may be on your character(s), but the world around them is far from static. What you as a writer need to ensure is to make sure that your characters do not function in a vacuum. Don’t lose sight of your story’s characters and other dynamic elements.
        • Don’t defy the scientific laws and restrictions you have laid down. Without proper explanation, lapses in the logic of your fictional world tend to put off readers instantly.
        • Account for causal relations in your story. A good story must be air-tight from the beginning. With proper research and worldbuilding, you can achieve both.
        • Show different aspects of your world instead of info dumping. An excess of information can make the text sound technical. But you’re writing a story, right? Weave your details within your story: drop subtle hints about your world rather than writing about it directly. The goal is to make your reader think: this could have happened.

        You can use these worldbuilding tips help you to create an engaging fictional world for your stories. Once you complete worldbuilding and writing, the next step is editing. PaperTrue offers expert editing and proofreading services that can help you perfect your work. 

        Here are some other articles you might find interesting: 

        Found this article helpful?


        Chetna Linkedin

        Chetna is a child of the internet. A writer and aspiring educator, she loves exploring digital media to create resources that are informative and engaging. Away from the writing desk, she enjoys cinema, coffee, and old books.

        One comment on “The Essential Guide to Worldbuilding [from Book Editors]

        1. Phyllis M. Johnson, PhD says:

          I appreciate the guidance this blog provides!


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