Worldbuilding: loosely defined in Joe’s dictionary o’ the brain as having the power of the gods and abusing it for your own entertainment.
That’s right, boys and girls! Today we’re gonna talk about one of the coolest things about writing: worldbuilding! Beware, though, as the building of worlds, neigh, universes is fraught with danger. It is a maze unlike no other. It’s not just dissecting one made up person’s psychology. It is developing a functioning, believable setting in your reader’s mind and it is very, very, very easy to get lost in there. Welcome to the danger zone.
While attending Full Sail, I had an amazing class called Discovering New Worlds taught by a very smart man named Tom Lucas. (The dude is amazeballs. Check out his site here.) I’ve always loved the concept of building a world or even a universe, but I always had a tendency to get stuck. However, Tom being the excellent instructor that he is, taught me how to do it without getting lost. Today I’m hoping to impart a bit of that knowledge unto you. So let’s get to it!
- Establish some rules – Every world has rules and if you consistently break those rules you will find that your reader will not only lose trust in you but they’ll also never bother reading you again. Every world should have rules whether that world exists in a realm of magic, some far-flung planet light years away, or set in contemporary times. Make them, follow them, and profit.
- Don’t get lost – As I said before, it’s very easy to get lost when worldbuilding. I warn you now, though, that getting lost in the details will do more harm than good. First of all, you start painting yourself into a corner when you put in too much detail. You may come up with a plot twist that’s genius but you can’t use it because it interferes with your intricately detailed world. Second, while the setting is a major character, it should always, always, always be second place to your actual characters and their development. That’s why people read stories…to identify with the characters, to see a bit of themselves in the hero or heroine. You should absolutely make a great setting but you should also remember a great setting isn’t why people come to the show alone.
- Put emphasis on the big things – Is your world lorded over by a star-spanning empire or a magical ruling class? I want to know about that! I want to know about the politics, religion, culture, transportation, and commerce of your world. Those are what I believe you should be focusing on when fleshing out your world.
- Don’t make comparisons to the real world unless that’s where your story is set – Please don’t explain your world by comparing it to the world we live in. People read stories to escape reality, not to be shown how much our reality sucks next to yours. It also breaks the immersion of the reader and that’s a story killer.
- A lot of worldbuilding happens as you do the work – Again, don’t forget you’re trying to write a story. You can spend months on world development but if you have no story then what are people going to read? You must, must, must keep a balance. Also, keep in mind that while you write your story a lot of worldbuilding developments will happen as you do the work.
You’ve taken the first steps to creating your own universe.
Again, these are just a few tips but they will get you started. I love worldbuilding and I will most likely post a lot more on the subject in the future. Do you have any tips that may help someone? Share them with us! I love learning new tricks and tip as well.
Fly safe out there. o7
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