The Art of Worldbuilding
One of the most important jobs of a writer is to draw your readers/viewers into a world that is completely believable — a place where they can explore both the familiar and the unfamiliar, and get lost in a world full of awe and mystery that they don’t want to leave when the time comes.
The art of worldbuilding has become increasingly difficult as the years have gone by due to how many writers are creating fictional worlds. Many of the aforementioned worlds are direct carbon copies of the works of Tolkien, Lewis, and other great fantasy/sci-fi writers. This does not mean, however, that creating a world that stands on its own is impossible. Far from it, in fact. Here are some tips and details for you, as a writer, to take into consideration when you create a world of your own:
Draw a Map.
I start most of my stories by drawing a map of the world in which they take place. This quickly gives me a sense of the people (clothing, economy, etc.) that inhabit the different parts of said world, and the difficulties my characters may face if, and when they enter such places. Although creating a map of your own is not needed for novels set in our own world, taking a look at a map of the city, state, country, etc, of where your story is set will give you a good idea on how to give life to it.
Create a Mythology.
Again, this pertains mostly to those who are writing fantasy or sci-fi, but can be applied to stories set in the real world. Create a religion/mythology complete with deities, traditions, rules, and the like. Doing this will allow you to get a good idea of what the characters who follow a particular religion are like. When it comes to stories set in this world, choosing a belief for a character to follow has the same benefits.
Create a Social Structure.
Out of all the fantasy/sci-fi/dystopian stories I have read or seen, there are very few that have the same kind of social structure that we currently have. When you start creating your world, take the way your social structure works into account — doing so will help involve your readers. The structure of society (including the roles of men and women) has changed from 100 years ago, and it will change again another hundred years from now. Your world should be the same.
A great example of unique social structures can be found in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive where only women can read and write, but also must where a sleeve over their left hand as a form of decency.
Devise a History.
There has never been a fantasy story in which the world the reader is visiting does not have some sort of history. When writing your story, create a history of your own. How did the land get split into the countries that exist presently? How many kings has a certain country had? What major conflicts have occurred before we were allowed a glimpse into the world?
While you are creating the history of your world, make sure you are not making it clean and simple. Real history has never been such, so neither should the history of your world, as it suspends any sort of belief in your reader.
These tips, of course, are only the beginning of creating a world for your story But, if you take them into consideration, you will be well on your way to creating a world that will draw your audience in.
A 21-year-old native of Michigan, Evan Morgan is an aspiring author and screenwriter. Coming to the video production school, Center for Creative Media in 2014, he now lives in East Texas amongst a dangerous number of books.