Writing Hacks: Creating Whole New Worlds

Posted on May 02, 2017

Good writers can tell a story, but great ones take you to where the action is happening. This is where world-building comes in.

A writer is simply a photographer of thoughts

World-building is the process of creating, well, the world in which a story takes place. World-building is important especially in the fantasy and science fiction genres since these stories generally don’t take place in reality. However, well-built worlds are still important for stories set in the real world.

A well-built world allows audiences not only to read the story but to live it. It helps make the story more grounded and relatable. It also makes it easier for you as a writer to be consistent with your work. It’s a long and tedious process, but it’s definitely worth it.

There are many sources and templates that can help you in world-building. Here’s a short guide to get you started.

  1. Decide on your base world

    Before you get started, you have to decide on a few things. The level of world-building you have to do will depend on how fantastic you want your world to be.

    Minor world-building is for stories set in actual locations. You’ll have to do mostly research since you need to be accurate.

    Intermediate world-building is for stories set in alternate realities. Alternate realities take elements from the real world and combines them with elements from the fantastic world. This is popular among writers of science fiction. With alternate realities, you can get away with some discrepancies, but generally, things still have to realistically make sense.

    Advanced world-building is for stories set in imaginary worlds. This is for fiction in the fantasy genre. Although you can get away with a lot of things since you mostly made all of it up, imaginary worlds rely on details more than anything else to make them more realistic. You’ll have to come up with your world’s geography, language, culture, religions, politics, customs, lore, and history, to name a few.

  2. Decide on a time period

    Now that you have a base world, it’s also important to decide on a time period.

    Setting stories in the past requires the most research. Even if you dabble with fictional history, there’s still a certain amount of research you’ll have to do to make it accurate.

    Stories set in the present require the least amount of research. You only have to take elements from your surroundings and incorporate them in your story.

    For stories set in the future, projection more than research is required. You’ll have to take what we have today and think about possibilities. Just be careful not to go too overboard with your predictions of the future.

  3. Find an anchor

    Think about which element of the world you’d like to get started with first. Then, have all your other elements come from this. This will help make all your elements consistent with one another.

    If you’re fascinated with languages, you can start with creating a language for your fictional world, just like what The Lord of the Rings author J. R. R. Tolkien did.

    As writers, we all have different skills that can aid in our world-building. Start working on a single element and make it solid. This single foundation can then be the basis of all the other elements.

  4. List down questions

    If you’re having a hard time focusing on a single element, you can take a different approach. List down questions about the different aspects of your world and answer them. Doing this accomplishes two things: build a consistent world and build your confidence about the world you’re creating.

  5. Do your research

    Regardless of the type of world you build and the time period you choose, research is required. Your choice of genre and level of world-building should never be an excuse for loopholes in both the universe and the story. Moreover, good research is a mark of a good writer.

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