Writing a novel

Worldbuilding 101

After plot and characters, worldbuilding probably comes in third for most important aspect when writing a story. It creates the setting, it influences and shapes the plot, and it defines character. And it’s not unique to fantasy. There’s the whole speculative fiction bag, in which it’s central, but even in contemporary fiction, all of these things need to be researched and studied and maybe included. That’s a pretty big deal.

Not to mention, it’s fun.

These are all the things I consider when I start building my novel’s world:

Writing a novel: world building 101
Yep, all of this. And that’s just what I came up with in 10 minutes.

Fun, but life-sucking. You could probably make a living building worlds (must be a job out there somewhere for this). It’s worse than social media for sucking the time out of your day. And you might have less to show for it afterwards.

A novel’s world, setting, flavour, is a massive part of the story. Think of the Hunger Games and Panem, Northern Lights and the Magisterium. It’s not just the sweeping world that factors in, but all the little details, too. These details will raise your novel from a floating structure to a diverse, well-woven tapestry.

A really good example (although it’s not a book) is the Final Fantasy series. The worlds themselves are vast and the game producers write in hundreds of subplots and mini-games. Even if only a fraction of that is seen in one book, the rest of it will influence the story.

For this series I’m going to examine a number of aspects of worldbuilding, looking at sources of inspiration, key factors and tips. Because who doesn’t love a half-decent tip? (I make no guarantees that these tips will be anything over an eighth decent. If that.)

These are the principal elements of worldbuilding:

All of these impact each other and each one can spin out and before you know it you’re in a BLACK HOLE.

Next week I’ll start with Topography and go on from there (and hopefully still have time left over to, you know, actually write).

6 thoughts on “Worldbuilding 101”

  1. Thanks Nate!

    I think you’re right, game writers and concept artists are the only roles I could really think of who’d focus on worldbuilding. Video games are probably your best bet. Sorry I couldn’t help more!


  2. It’s great you’ve pointed out that Worldbuilding isn’t just for fantasy or scifi writers as it really does come into play for any story teller. Even if your telling a story in a modern setting you still need to develop the specific world that your characters live in.

    I’ve pondered quite a bit on the “Worldbuilding job” front. The closest I can think of is a writer for a video game as studios sometimes hire writers to produce a world bible. However those jobs are really rare so my other thoughts are a level designer for a video game, a concept artist or an adventure writer for an RPG. Those are the closest jobs I can think of. Do you have any others?

    All the best,
    The World Building School

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