Whether you are writing high fantasy or futuristic sci-fi novel with your own touch on the world. The world-building process is a thorough process of constructing a world that feels authentic and extraordinary.
But it can be overwhelming and intimidating. Especially if it’s your first book that you are writing. Either way, world-building feel like writing an encyclopedia so that you can get down to writing a story, using it. You are probably dying to get done with your world-building process and not mess it up.
In this post, you will find everything summarises regarding world-building. I have also listed a few tools and resources to help you perfect your skills. So let’s get started.
World-Building Types And Categories
Set up the type of world you are writing about. What is the genre of your story? Is it urban fantasy or historical fiction? Knowing the genre your story is set in helps to break down the categories for your world-building. Two categories of world-building are the alternative reality and the imaginary world.
1. Alternative Reality
As the name itself gives a hint. The alternative reality begins with the ethics of our world. It has the aspects and rules that are favorable to the actual world. Not that the alternative reality is exactly the same as the actual world. But the aspects of the world (such as natural elements from the cosmos, gravity to geography, and other elements like humans being on the top chain and science being a relevant part) are inspired by the actual world.
This type of world-building is famous for science fiction, historical fiction, etc.
2. Imaginary World
The imaginary world has less to do with the actual world’s limitations. It is entirely created by the author’s mind. The imaginary world can be mild, with the lower fantasy and magic system to extreme details of higher fantasy and vast universes. It is not bound by the elements of the existing world. Your imaginary world can have no humans or humans that breathe nitrogen and it would still make sense. That’s not to say that an imaginary world only has assured elements and magic. It can have scientific factors too but on your terms.
Next, you have to decide the method that you will use to build your world. There are two famous methods that you can use.
1. Outside-In Method
In this method, world-building starts with the creation of the universe and mapping the world out. We start big and slowly approach the minor details. For example, creating the solar system, then earth, then continents, then countries and cities, etc.
The cycle of detailed outside-in ends at the core of your story. Which town your story takes place in? What is the geographical nature, the population and technology are like? Which character is the centre of the story or more especially your entire world?
2. Inside-out Method
While planning your book with the Inside-out method, you will start with your story and then spread the world building as you approach it. Your primary focus will be the centre of your story, AKA your main character, and then slowly you start mapping the world. This method limits the detail of the world to only the story. So if certain parts don’t really affect the story then it’s okay to leave the details to the reader’s imagination.
While your novel might not include all the things, the world-building checklist ensures that you have everything covered so you don’t leave something flat.
- Nature and Climate
- Government and Politics
- Transport and Communication (Languages)
- Foreign relations
- History and Wars
- Religions and Rituals
- Ethic values and limits
- Races and Groups
- Social differences
- Inhabitants (Characters)
- Gender roles
- Water resources
- Summary: Just like you outline the plot of your story, or create a summary of where you want to go with the story. Creating a summary of elements of your world-building can be helpful so that you won’t lose track. Your summary doesn’t have to be detailed or unchangeable, but just enough to give you an idea of what you have in mind.
- Ask questions: Asking questions to yourself about the things you are not sure about always clears up your path to your novel’s destiny. Is your story character-driven or setting-driven? What is the pace of your world-building? Does the architecture of different areas align or are they contrasting?
- Set the mood: Your world-building has to match your plot and your character’s nature in society. Every element of your story should feel like it belongs. Every piece needs to fit. And okay, maybe I’m going overboard with it, but it won’t change the truth. So set the mood the best you can. Give the places convincing names that fit your world. Build routines. Make your gravity, make sense.
- Minor details: While big and major details of every piece of your world-building might look magnificent. Small details sell your world as real. It’s no secret that showing the smallest things in the vast range always impacts the readers at the right point. If there is a war going on or a riot has broken. Showing the building that blasted might not have the same impact as when you make the readers witness the crying of a small kid by his mother’s body. If you use the same method with world-building, it’s bound to make itself useful. Always keep in mind that the small details that you show readers have to be the kind that really catches the attention because of its uniqueness.
- Set rules: A world without rules is no world at all. But seriously, the rules are that spicy combination without which your dish is going to be a bland disaster. And every rule has to matter if you are revealing it to your readers. Now I know that realistically it might not make sense to you cause we live in a world that has a lot of useless rules. But if you are going to add some useless one in your book, just remember that real life is not a 300 pages book where you have to pack an entire universe with a blasted start and end. But your book sure as hell might be.
- Do your research: This is not the kind of tip where you hear it one time and go live happily ever after. It’s the most important tip you’ll ever get in writing a book. Because writing a book is all about research. Especially on the topics that might impact a certain part of your audience or readers. If your book has an influence from some place or fact or religion or culture which it surely is going to have if you live on earth. Then doing your research and educating yourself is the best you can do.
- Simplicity: If your world is a complicated web then what you can do to make your readers appreciate it using the thread of simplicity to engrave it. You don’t want to make your world so complicated that readers end up tired to the point that they refer to the pillars as rocks. Pillars are important than rocks, so state it like that in your world.
World-Building Tools And Resources
World-building tools and resources not only assist you through it. But they help in making your intuitions sharp so that you know what points and elements you want in your world building.
- World Anvil: World Anvil is known for its rich method of helping you organize your world. They have a set of different world-building tools which help you create, organize and store all your world setting. You can create your free account at any time and start using it.
- Inkarnate: So while World Anvil let you explore your ideas with your words and ideas. In Inkarnate you can make a map of your world using your imagination. They have a huge library of assets to explore. Inkarnate has a free version and a pro version with extra features.
- Plot Factory: Plot Factory is an overall story planning software where aside from making your own universe you can create your characters and write your story with your plot organized in one place. In the free version, you can create one universe. They have other paid versions too with different offers and more universe flexibility.
- “World Builder: A Workbook For Your Fictional World” by Lashelle Alee Galbraith: This Workbook covers everything you need to know about world-building. It guides you through in-depth details on every section of world-building from your universe to religions and cultures.
- “Fantasy World-Building: A Guide To Developing Mythic Worlds And Legendary Creatures” by Mark Nelson: This book specifically talks about putting your world together beautifully. The book has eccentric graphics to guide you with methods and settings of world-building. You can get the digital copy of this book on the RedShelf for 5.82 dollars now.
I have tried my best to simplify the complication of world-building in this post. I hope it was helpful and just what you needed to encourage yourself to create the world that you have in mind. If you have any questions or any advice and suggestion for your fellow writers, just leave them in the comment section. Share it with all your friends that are struggling with getting that universe done.