Monday, 28 February 2011

Some Tips for World Building

World building isn't just the preserve of the fantasy and sci-fi fraternity (though they seem to spend more time on it than anyone else, to the extent that it can even become a problem. See below.) Every story needs a place to happen, and that place is somewhere that you, as the author, either select or create. So get the most from it. Here are some things to remember:

  1. Your 'world' can be any size. World in this sense does not specifically refer to a planet sized space. Take the classic sit-com set up of a single central space with maybe a few shots outside in the second series once the budget goes up a bit.
  2. It should reflect the themes of the story. The world you create is not an inert backdrop, but a situation in which your characters exist. It offers ways to express themes, from the formality waiting to be punctured of Wodehouse's country estates and clubs to the fantasy parodies of the Discworld. 
  3. Even the real places are created worlds. The cities and towns you write don't have to follow their real examples perfectly, but even when they do, the overall world is as much about people, background, and the things you choose to focus on as simple geography.
  4. Can you reduce the essence of your world to a single line? A lot of people play about with maps, and endless sheets of extra work, but a world that grabs your attention will often have just one fundamental thing at its heart. If you can identify what that is, you will often be much better placed to create a coherent world.
  5. Try not to create it separately. You see a lot of gamers do this. They create a world the way they would for an RPG, and then try to put a story in it. Except that half the time, it isn't a story that fits. Create the right world for your story, instead.


Wendy Tyler Ryan said...

I get so downright #$^#$ at a book that has an extensive map and list of characters you can't pronounce in the first ^*%% page! I can't write fantasy that way and I won't.

Susan Kane said...

no matter what genre we write to capture, creating a tangible world is the challenge. Whether it is fantasy (your genre) or recollections of 1950s (mine), making that world believable is incredibly hard. Good luck. Susan