5 Ways to Set Yourself Up for World-Building Success

5 Ways to Set Yourself Up for World-Building Success

Fictional worlds like Middle-Earth, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Narnia have captured the hearts of many with their intricate details, and quite simply their vibe.

Middle-Earth is beautiful and mystical, Hogwarts is awesome and magical, and Narnia has talking animals for crying out loud!

The idea of creating your own secondary world can seem overwhelming, and the daunting size of the project may have you procrastinating to no end.

To overcome your initial nerves, treat world-building as a fun side-project. An enjoyable hobby.

With these tips, you’ll become a world-building master in no time!

#1 – Don’t try to do everything at once

There are a lot of things to consider when creating a world from scratch.

Races, cultures, flora, fauna, types of government, political situation… And that’s the tip of the iceberg.

However, it’s important to not let the sheer number of elements that go into a world overwhelm you.

As with every stage of the editing process, make sure you cut world-building into bite-sized pieces and set goals you’re sure to reach to set yourself up for success.

#2 – Treat world-building like planning for a holiday

You could even pretend you’re actually taking a trip to your secondary world!

Which foods are available? Which customs do you need to be aware of? Where will you be staying?

Which animals might you encounter, both adorable and ferociously dangerous? What kind of nature can you expect?

Approach world-building with a sense of curiosity and discovery!

#3 – Work from the inside out

Don’t feel like you have to get the big picture ‘right’ before you can start thinking about the details.

The details are what it’s all about, in the end.

What is it that made you fall in love with the fictional worlds that hold a special place in your heart?

How can you use that knowledge to build your own world?

Consider mundane tasks and day-to-day objects and occurrences that will make your world come alive.

What does a calendar look like? What’s considered formal wear? What’s the temperature like?

By starting with the details, you’ll automatically end up asking bigger questions.

#4 – Consider the world through your characters’ eyes

You want your world to go beyond the story you’ll be telling in your book, but you want to pay particular attention to what the world represents to your characters. Especially the main characters.

Take Falyrin, the world my current WIP is set in, for example. Humans, speaking animals and non-speaking animals live together.

One of my characters considers speaking animals the elite, the upper class of all beings. To her, this makes Falyrin a world that is polluted with non-speaking animals and, to a lesser extent, humans.

One of the other characters considers the exploitation of non-speaking animals as ridiculous, and considers Falyrin in its current state as an unfair world to live in.

When writing and world-building, I’ll have to consider how to best showcase these different perspectives, highlighting different aspects of Falyrin in each case.

Switching perspectives in this way can help you consider elements of your world that you had not considered before.

#5 – Make it a world you love

Maybe the most important world-building tip of all: Make sure you create a world you love.

Don’t feel like you have to adhere to specific rules or like you have to create the next Middle-Earth.

By all means incorporate elements you love from other worlds, but make sure they make sense in the world you’re building.

Don’t add them just for the sake of adding them.

Fictional worlds don’t have to make sense in the grand scheme of things. They just have to make sense internally.

Take Discworld, created by Terry Pratchett. It’s completely bonkers, but it works because the characters inhabiting it make it work. Because he makes it work.

Willow Editing blog post - 5 Ways to Set Yourself Up for World-Building Success

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So go on, then! You’ve got a holiday to plan! 😀

Do you have additional world-building tips? Share them in the comments below, I’d love to hear them!

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