World Building in Fiction

This is post I originally wrote for my Goodreads page, I thought I would reproduce it here

In this post I thought I would cover one my favourite aspects of the writing process, building worlds.

World building is something every writer does, it is not a science fiction specific task. It involves imagining the space your characters inhabit and giving it enough detail so it feels real in the readers mind.

Our imagined worlds can be as big or as small as the story requires.

Space Opera usually requires whole galaxies, while some genre novels require much smaller settings.

Even historical pieces require an element of world building as we need think about our protagonists immediate surroundings.

A well constructed world will live and breathe like our own. Worlds like the The Westeros in a Song of Ice and Fire amd Arrakis in Dune has a potential to be as much a character as the imaginary flesh and blood ones who inhabit it.

So what does a good world need?

Well it needs believable locations, locations need to be in keeping with the feel of the story. It also needs to meet the requirements of the story, characters need places to go and interact.

If you need an economy and political system then you’ll need to think about how it works. The level of detail will be dictated by requirements of your story. In some cases it can be broad brush background colour, in others you’ll need to cover the smallest of details. A good political system can be a very useful tool in weaving a complex plot and avoiding black hat/white hat characters.

History is important, just how did your world come into being. This is less important for contemporary or historical fiction (our world is your characters world). For fantasy and sci-fi you absolutely need to consider past events as characters will be been involved in them – again in GOT Robert’s Rebellion is an event that continues affect many characters.

Finally the devil is in the detail. It’s small passing touches that give world real lived in feel. It can be slang words, currency, common proverbs, specific foods, drinks and even fashion items that shape the feel of the world.

A well built world is the anchor point for your story and it often help make unbelievable events believable.

In my next post I’ll describe a little of the world of the Cygnus Vale and how I constructed Mira’s world.

Have I missed anything? Feel free to comment below.

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