Monday, August 10, 2015

World Building(Blocks)

Into the Realm of World Building!

The biggest payoff of comprehensive world building? The more you KNOW your world, the easier it will be to weave setting and voice into your text without the dreaded info-dump.

There! My number one take-away. :) Read on if you want to know more about the world building techniques that got me going.
This level of world building is new to me. My last fantasy took place solely in the woods. As a geeky kid who spent a lot of time in the woods looking under rocks, catching toads and such, that world came pretty easy-peasy. But with this WIP, I've got castles, taverns, stables, and a plethora of other places where I *wish* I spent more time. I started this story with a cast of characters and a basic plot, but when I tried drafting a chapter outline-- I couldn’t.  I didn’t know the world I was dropping them into. To complete an outline, I realized I needed more detail in four areas; what became my very basic world-building blocks: geography, history, technology/magic/paranormal, and culture. 

4 STEPPING-OFF points that got me started: 



This is was the first area that tripped up my outlining. I have two feuding parties. Were they a day’s-ride away from each other, or a week-at-sea away from each other? I needed a map. I tried drawing a map.  I learned this is not my forte.  Luckily, sites like Wikipedia really helped with this one. It turns our very own planet has plenty of inspirational islands, continents and borders- both geographical and political. The accompanying articles on Wikipedia also provide lots of ideas for goods, trades routes, locations for cities, etc.  

Whether you’re on a space station, pirate ship, horse carriage or land speeder, it helps to know where you are, where you’re going, and what could stop you.  


As previously stated, this WIP has two feuding parties, so history is a big one for me. Knowing the background and points-of-view of both parties is important for authentic voice and story continuity. 

There are likely very unique circumstances that led all our protagonists to where they are in life. Generally speaking:
WHY is their world the way it is? WHO is in power? WHO wants to be in power?

I drafted a timeline for my world, it’s very over-arching and dates back about 300 years, because that’s when my inciting incident (aka feud-fuel) occurred. I also needed to chart out the political/social hierarchy of the two groups.  Nothing is concrete, of course. Much of this “structure” could change by chapter three. :)

Technology, Magic, and the Paranormal

As Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Paranormal/Horror writers, we dabble in the fantastical because it’s FUN. Mermaids, psychic aliens, cursed relics—these things are imagination candy. That said, there should be boundaries, right? It’s no fun if a protagonist can cast a spell to save the adventure party whenever needed. Magic should probably come at a cost.  Same with technology. Most readers like a nugget of reality to draw on. In Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton gave us dino DNA encased in amber. In Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card allotted for the passage of time on Earth while Ender traveled through space. In The Monstrumologist series, Rick Yancey creates a frightening balance between myth and science. 
"The Monstrumologist" by Rick Yancey (2009) Simon & Schuster. 

Will the gods play a role in your world?  Aliens? Bacteria? If so, become an expert. It’s about consistency in your writing, which leads to the reader buying in. The more familiar you are with these elements, the easier it will be to drop details into your story without the dreaded info dump.  


This is where you can fill a notebook with cool and unique nuggets that make this world your own. Think slang, clothing, food, art, music, social structure, values, customs, religion. My experience was that bits of culture presented themselves to me while I hammered out the above three areas, but once I had a better grasp on those elements the ideas for culture really started coming. 

But maybe for you, the cultural mores of an imagined society are enough to build your world around. What works for you? Is there a book you think epitomizes excellent world creation? Share with us below! 


  1. These four points are genius! And always present in the books that sweep me into their worlds. Thanks so much for sharing! By the way, Rick Yancey's 5th Wave series is seriously awesome. He's a master at world building! :)

  2. Yes!! 5th Wave is amazing. Yancey is amazing. Did you hear they're developing The Monstrumologist for a movie? That is going to be intense.

    1. Thanks for telling me! I didn't know! So excited!!! :)

  3. I loved this post and am very anxious to read your WIP. :) World building can be extremely tough, especially when the environment exists inside your mind. These are great tips on conveying that world with words. Thanks so much for sharing. :)