Just kidding. World-building is not solely applicable to speculative fiction writers. Many of the below world-building tips are helpful to any and all types of writers, so pay attention.
You're building a world? Then Build. A. World. Not a few towns. Not two or three races. Not one religion, history, terrain, currency. You have the power to create a universe, a way of life, and you're going to settle with making a faded, incomplete blueprint? Absolutely not. Go big or go home.
Our world is incredibly diverse. It's overwhelming to think about trying to replicate that in a story without writing an entire history textbook. As a fantasy writer who's creating her own world, I feel for you. Thankfully, I have a list of points you'll want to address in your world-building to help your world feel as fascinating and real as possible:
2. Think about setting. I have an entire post about different non-forest settings you can use in your fantasy world. Try sprinkling several of them throughout your world. No matter what Star Wars tells you, worlds don't have to have just one main terrain. I mean, I love you Star Wars, but what is your problem? Sand planet (Tatooine, Jakku). Rain planet (Kamino). Metropolis planet (Coruscant). Hawaii planet (Scarif). Unless you have a specific reason for making your world all one type of terrain, I'd suggest trying a bit harder.
3. Think about religion. I don't care if you aren't a religious person. Your world needs to have some semblance of a religion. And I don't care if you are a devout religious person. Your story can't just have one religion that is a copy of your own. That's not how this works. Religion is an elemental part of all cultures. There are countless religions out there. They affect the way people eat, sleep, relate to others. It seeps into government, judicial systems, and education. You can't just ignore something this important in your world building (or shave it down into something very narrow). You need multiple religions. You need splinter groups within each religion. You need prophecies and moral codes. If you don't know anything about religions (or are only familiar with your own), then I recommend this book on world religions to give you ideas.
4. Think about currency. Does this world run on a barter system? Paper money? Coins? Some technological "Pay through The Cloud" mumbo jumbo? Take note of how your currency changes from place to place. Money systems are very diverse and, frankly, very confusing. You don't have to have a detailed outline, but it is important to touch on the fact that your entire world doesn't just conveniently run on one type of currency.
5. Think about past times. What do people do for fun? Do they play sports or just sit around and tell stories? The way people spend their free time is very telling. It reflects their culture, and, thus, enriches your world building. Also, sometimes it just looks cool:
7. Think about health. There is a disturbing shortage of sick people in most fantasy and sci-fi settings. You can't just pretend they don't exist. How does healthcare work in your world? Are blind people consider demon possessed? Are the physically crippled given intellectual jobs? Are all sick people just shipped off to Elsewhere? Please elaborate.
8. Think about government. Who rules who? Do you have kings? Queens? Presidents? Dictators? A republic? How do people obtain these positions? IQ tests? Blood right? Killing the former ruler? So many options. People are always struggling for power, criticizing the people who are in power, or just stepping back and pretending like it's none of their business. It's common in our world and, thus, it always seems incredibly odd when fictional worlds don't address power systems.
9. Think about magic/technology. Chances are, your world either has magic or technology, or, if we're getting really crazy: both. Either way, these systems should be fleshed out. Can anyone use magic? Is technology only for rich people? Make up rules.
10. Think about food. Do you have any idea how many speculative fiction books I've read where nobody ever eats anything? Too many. I don't know about you, but I want to know what people eat in space. I'd also like to know how people in fantasy novels seem to survive on bread alone. Please tell me what kind of foods exist in your world.
Now that you have this point to think about, I want you to write down a little bit for each section. Next, connect the pieces. How does religion affect your world's food or past times? Do certain species have a difficult time communicating with others? Does the government control your magic/technology? Are some settings more ideal for certain races? How do all of these things connect to your plot, main character, or conflict?
Ask questions. All the questions. Get to know your world as much as possible. However, not all of this information needs to go into your story in an incredibly detailed manner. Avoid allowing your world-building to become so out of control that it obscures the plot. Your world should be pushing along the story, not holding it back.
There are a lot of other aspects to think about when world-building. These are just a few to get you started. Do you have some points to add? Please leave a comment below! And don't forget to tell me about some books that had excellent (or horrible) world-building.
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