This is such a can of worms I’m about to open.
Every time world-buildings comes up, I’m perplexed. Where does one start? Do I have to pave the story’s road with cold hard matter, or do I start with (made-up) facts? Is it appropriate to leave it out and start with the smoke and mirror games right off the bat? Do I make up everything, do I invent the wheel? Do I use maps? Do I? Do you?
How much is too much?
How much is too little?
Distant whimpering and desperate howling echoes from the dark corners of my writing space, followed by an exasperated, heavy sigh- you got me, dear reader, this is my kryptonite.
Once I get started and feel comfortable, I enjoy every quirky little difference and every reassuring similarity to my “home” world. I feel at home in every storyverse I make up, so much that I rarely think deeply about it.
My instincts tell me this world, too, is like an onion, composed of different layers of different meanings, truths, and different concepts of rules that shine through from time to time.
This article will lead you down the rabbit hole of worldbuilding, as I understand it. Don’t get too excited, it’s highly subjective, and my opinion only. In later parts of this article, I will show you how I usually go about building the worlds to my stories.
Worldbuilding is crucial and tedious work, yes. I try to wing it every time I can. You’re allowed to call me lazy, okay? I have no shame.
Not so long ago, it dawned on me that most of my sci-fi and fantasy stories are set in the same (my very own) storyverse. Before I can spitball a fine strand of logical/meaningful event line, I should create the origin idea cluster. I seemingly need the concept equivalent of backstories for ideas. The story seeds have this fertile area around them that needs exploring to pinpoint the storyline with the most drive and impact.
Maybe it’s just my need to comfort my characters, that there have been happy times, or that they are not my sole victims, that what I do to them, I do to most other characters too. Well, I’m the villain in most stories. I’m the personification of an unjust destiny! Muahahahaha!
Someday, they all might find a way to unite, to form a militia, arm themselves, and hunt me down for fun or revenge- which is also labeled fun. Cold, iced fun.
They will be laughing.
I’m sure, dear reader, you heard about the plotter and the pantser, about the engineer and the gardener of stories. Those two concepts of writer species describe the way a writer goes about creating their story.
The plotters plan it all out, cackle a bit for the air of the evil geniuses that they are, and set their ideas into motions like a swiss clockwork.
The pantsers are more like confused scientists who woke up in an alien environment that somehow resembles their world. S/He explores the fantastic weirdness of the new situation and stoically proceeds with their daily routine because what else is there to do?
There is a combination of both strategies, the plantser – because, in reality, there are no black and white, only different degrees of grey.
Dear reader, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I am a gardener of fictional events. I’m a daydreamer of all trades. I’m the leaking chaos reactor of (sometimes) made up what-ifs.
This is the point of view you will be enjoying, so adjust your expectations accordingly.
Let’s start with the definition. It’s usually the best place to start.
Worldbuilding: or world·build·ing [ wurld-bil-ding ]is the process of developing a detailed and plausible fictional world for a novel or story, especially in science fiction, fantasy, and video games: Drawing a convincing map with boundaries and landscape features is a natural starting point for world-building.
Worldbuilding is the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe. Developing an imaginary setting with coherent qualities such as a history, geography, and ecology is a key task for many science fiction or fantasy writers. Worldbuilding often involves the creation of maps, a backstory, and races (if one is writing speculative fiction), including social customs and, in some cases, an invented language for the world.Dictionary.com
There is an overwhelming abundance of information on the world wide web and analog media on Kindle, Youtube, Google, Writer’s Digest, and Wikipedia. Take a look!
The flood of checklists, questionnaires, tips & tricks is overwhelming, and every writer needs to find a way to pick out the cherries for themselves.
I am sure most writers have their favorite atmospheres of art, music, or literary worlds they would spend the majority of their remaining days with (or in) if they could. However, the expanding monstrous wolds that suck the reader and the writer are hungry, intricate, and vivid imaginations. They are dancing on the edge of a volcano, ready to jump into the dangers of the story’s event horizon – skinny dipping like nobody’s watching.
How does one grab the reader and dunk them into the waters of the story’s river?
How does the writer not drown or get lost in that world that they built?
I fear that there is no easy answer to that, but you can join me through my process. You might find helpful or interesting notes.