If you’ve attempted to write a fiction novel, you’ll know world building is challenging! Especially when it comes to fiction such as fantasy and sci-fi where reader expectation is high (along with your stress-levels).
Today we’ll be looking at a few elements of worldbuilding to consider as you write or revise your novel.
Before we begin
I’m still learning, aren’t we all?
So why read what I think about worldbuilding? There’s plenty of wonderful resources you can look at for worldbuilding tips (I’ll be linking to these at the end of the post). So why me? I’m in the process of revising my YA fantasy novel so many of the topics I mention in todays’s post are topics I’ve been thinking about in recent times.
I wanted to share what I’ve learnt so far, and use this post as a place for fellow writers to share what they’ve learned!
I hope you find these tips useful, and if you’d like to share your thoughts on worldbuilding, feel free to comment on this post.
Soft vs hard worldbuilding
Hard worldbuilding is what many people think of when it comes to fantasy or sci-fi. It exists when there are rigid rules for how the world functions. the Lord of The Rings is a classic example of this.
Soft worldbuilding, the rules you’ve established may not be specifically outlined to readers, which gives more flexibility in how your world functions.
An example of ‘soft’ worldbuilding can be seen in Harry Potter. Though the wizarding world functions with magic, the novels do not provide a historical accounting for the existence of magical powers themselves. The characters engage with magic, as a fact of their existence without justifying or explaining its intricacies.
Neither soft or hard worldbuilding is better, though arguably hard worldbuilding may be more time consuming.
Why is it useful to consider if you’d like to use soft or hard worldbuilding?
Deciding which approach to take early in development of your book will assist in clarifying your world. Offer consistency to readers by deciding how this world will be presented, and how the characters will engage with it.
What level of explanation will you need for aspects of your world?
Language & Culture
Minor details can add a lot of depth to a world. In fantasy or sci-fi language can be a great way to distinguish the world of your book from worlds the reader may be familiar with.
Questions to consider:
What derogatory terms or cuss words are used in this world?
What is the religion of this world? What language is used to invoke good luck? For example: ‘First to the key, first to the egg’ in Ready Player One or Mortal Engines ‘For Querks sake’.
Challenges & Conflict
What does this world need to survive?
What are the struggles of those living in this world? What do they want as a world, and what needs to happen for that to be acheived.
The answers to these questions provide opportunity to introduce conflict into your world. You may choose to start your book development by creating the world. What conflicts could affect your fictional world may result in your plot development.
Yes, nothing is new. The terror of creating a world that already exists can be enough to stall writers in their tracks.
Often this problem is made worse by the comparison tendencies when discussing literature. How many books have you come across described as ‘the next Hunger Games‘? I know I’ve seen a few marketing campaigns using this tactic.
Comparing can be helpful, it lets fans of one series know they might like this book too. But too often, it ends up with disappointment and unfair expectations on often what seems to be a debut novel.
This blog post has hopefully given you a few questions to consider as you consider worldbuilding in your novel. There’s so much on this topic, that many writers more qualified than I have put together.
If you’re interested, check these out:
The Writers Edit: The Ultimate Guide To World-Building: How To Write Fantasy, Sci-Fi And Real-Life World – The Writers Edit regularly produces excellent content relating to all things writing craft.
Want to learn more about worldbuilding and creating maps of your fictional world? I enjoyed visiting The Worldbuilding School.
Still wondering where to start? I recommend visiting Neil Gaiman’s website. I found this essay particularly useful and entertaining.
Good worldbuilding isn’t easy! As I stumble my way through what sometimes feels like endless plot holes, I’m convinced of this. But with each revision, things get a little clearer. A little more exciting.
So keep writing! Ask questions and explore.
If you’re a writer, what do you think about when considering worldbuilding?
If you’re a reader, what makes a great world in a book from your perspective?
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