“I was just glued to each page. I was so connected to the characters and found them as real as my next-door neighbor. The theme ripped my heart out at the big finale. And yes, the setting… That world was one to reckon with. I felt like I was there right along with the main character in their lush environment.” – Your Future Reader
Hello writer friends, wouldn’t you love it if someone described your book as such? I know I would.
Welcome back, my friend, to My Story Process Series. The last few weeks we’ve gone over How to Start Your Story and How To Brainstorm Your Perfect Characters. Check those out first and then pop back here for an in-depth article on the expansive, never-ending task of worldbuilding!
World-Building For Me
Now, I must admit, world-building is not my strong suit. Sighs, characters have always been my favorite so even now in WIP, I’m having to put in some setting because it’s all CHARACTER.
So, FYI, I was quite intimidated even writing this article. However, I shall try to put my process down in writing for y’all to glean some wisdom from. (hopefully, winks)
Now, after I got the idea for my WIP, I wrote down a few ideas and then just… started writing. I needed to purge the first three chapters and see what I was feeling. However, after that, I ended up going back and creating a world I felt fit my story. Honestly though, even though I’m almost done with editing, I’m still coming back and adding details… As I said, it’s never-ending.
Okay, Eden, cool. NOW HOW DID YOU CREATE YOUR WORLD?
Fine, here is my five-step process. Enjoy!
Step One: Vibe It
This might sound ridiculous but it was definitely helpful and always kept me focused on my main goal. Now, obviously, world-building will look different for each genre. Science fiction is worlds away (literally) from contemporary. But these overview rules can apply.
When I was creating my WIP world, I first did a brain purge for the setting as I did for my characters in the last article. I also was writing a science-fiction/dystopian so I knew sort of the feeling I wanted.
For example, I like to reflect on the characters in my world. If my characters are more fighters then the world will either be suited for such an environment or not. There might be battles going on all the time or it would be a land of peace and my characters would feel out of place.
Remember, world-building should always bring out your theme and characters. Think of creative ways to use the world to grow your characters!
So when I say vibe it, I mean, pick a few words that you could describe your world. Just overview words that will help you stick to the narrow path and create a realistic world.
For example, extensive, whimsical, dark, magic-filled, and technology–based.
Normally, I get out a white piece of paper and some pretty pens. Then, I start doodling words and ideas. Normally, my ideas just flow and I can start to see the world beneath my fingertips.
Step Two: Base It
Sorry to burst your bubble, but NOTHING is new under the sun. I’ve found it best to find time periods, cultures, or fairy tales that you’re drawn to and sculpt your world based on them.
You’re not going to be taking everything, but it’s nice to have an inspiration point.
For example, I wanted my story to be a sort of Modern Rome. There are no gladiator games and people are not wearing togas, but the culture and attitude are similar. They’re also using science-fiction technology I created, so it’s quite different. However, when creating my world, it was helpful to have something to research and a landing point for ideas.
Remember, the masters do this too. Lord of the Rings is based on medieval times. Harry Potter takes place on Earth and J.K. Rowling just included the magical world of Hogwarts. I can name countless stories based on the French Revolution, Medieval Times, and Ancient Times.
Trust me, it’s hard enough to create a world on your own that’s expansive and seems like it’s been there forever. Using real-world experiences and inspiration will extremely help you to create a world that’s believable.
Step Three: Name It
I just had to include this.
And I mean, it’s kind of obvious. But combine all the letters and name your countries, capitals, islands, and territories.
And also, for the sake of your poor readers, MAKE THEM READABLE. I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to read aloud a word and sounded like a baby spurting out her first sentence. Just sayin’.
I named my country because it meant something that described the world.
Step Four: Draw It
Yes, for those mappers out there, I see you. I honestly love this part. Get out all your awesome art supplies and see where your world takes you.
This part also really can describe your story. Why are these countries broken up like that? Does this sea make passage difficult? What are landmarks that are important to people? What different types of cultures live here? What are the weather conditions? Do they affect the people?
Yes, it’s awesome and nerdish. The best things usually are. 😉
Step Five: Detail It
This step is the most important and will play the biggest role in your story. You are now going to detail what your countries act like, look like, and what is their relationship to one another.
Remember that fun journal I told you about? In mine, I broke it up into several sections.
Geography and Nature: My map, where I put in length, borders, names, and landmarks. Yes, I know I’m such an overachiever.
Population: It is always helpful to know how many people you’re dealing with
Country History: Yes, I did detail a backstory for the country and its relationship with others. I know, I know. I also talked about the government in this section and weather conditions because they are a big deal in my story.
Natural Resources: Kind of obvious… but it’s crazy when you realize how important it is. I mean, that’s how the real world works.
Fill out this chart!
A gesture of respect:
National games, flowers, birds, anything:
Timeline: It’s helpful to get all those dates straight! Trust me, it’s my continual problem with my WIP.
Ask questions like:
What people groups live there?
What does the government look like?
What is the relationship with all the different countries?
What are the weather conditions?
Do people have supernatural power? Are they in control or are they hiding?
Are there any wars going on?
Are the people fairly treated?
Is there any religion?
Any cultural customs?
Do people have different languages?
Do they have ways of addressing people?
Do they have unique terms in their vocabulary?
Any built-in prejudices?
How does my main character fit into this world?
Remember, you could have the most creative setting but no one would truly connect with it. As humans, we’re drawn to humans and identify with them, not with landmarks and dirt. We connect with people.
Alright, my friends, we just went through how I created a world to reckon with. (fingers crossed)
Always remember, in creating your world, you are resembling your creator who just spoke and actually made the Earth around you.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.Genesis 1:1-3
Okay, friend, go check out the articles from the last few weeks if you haven’t already! Then, hit the reply button and tell me what YOUR world is like and what was your inspiration.
See ya next week and have fun making a world to reckon with.