Let me start by saying that worldbuilding won’t be super important for every writer. Depending on genre and writer interest, worldbuilding might not have even been something that you’ve considered.
If you’re writing a contemporary set in the modern-day, sure maybe you don’t need to worry about it. For everyone else, this might be important to consider.
Worldbuilding is found most often in fantasy or sci-fi for the purposes of this article we will be exploring the topic through those lenses.
Almost like home.
Every world you build will have something in common with earth.
I’m not only saying that you can’t make an entirely new world, but I am saying that you shouldn’t try to. When it comes to writing a book, you need to consider the readers learning curve.
If you make a world that is too different from the one that the reader is familiar with you’ll will end up spending most of your book explaining anything and everything. The reader doesn’t want to get bogged down with explanations, the more they can take at face value the better!
Your reader doesn’t want to feel like they are preparing for an exam. They want to join your hero and feel at home in their world for a while.
How not to overshare.
There is a writing technique among worldbuilders that is called the ‘iceberg theory’, which means that a writer should only show about 10% of the worldbuilding that they’ve done.
You should know your world well, but your reader doesn’t need to know it as well as you do. Knowing more than you are sharing about the rules of the world can bring authenticity into your book when rules that are never mentioned are consistently followed.
Do not fall into the trap of putting all of the iceberg above the water.
Oversharing is one of my most common downfalls, I put a lot of research into my stories, and I want to show it off. Unfortunately, that makes the story boring and filled with information that is irrelevant to the plot. I ended up deleting a whopping 1000 words from a short story of mine, now that doesn’t sound like a lot until you realise that the story ended up being 2500 words in total.
I removed almost half of my short story because I was so focused on making it believable that I forget the reader wasn’t interested in learning about the ins and outs of cannibalism. They just wanted to know if my protagonist got eaten.
Don’t panic pantsers!
While world-building might not be a relevant practise for your first draft, you can still use world-building to backfill the information required to make your world seem real.
An illusion of an iceberg can be created by looking at some of the situations that might be unlikely within your book and writing answers into the story on your second draft.
You can also discovery write your journey, plot and characters and then rewrite your story to include some elements of worldbuilding that you would have liked to explore more.
Work with your readers
Readers want to be immersed in a new place. They want to believe your world is real. It’s your job to help convince them that it is.
A good rule of thumb for building a convincing world is to consider three questions that your readers may ask about the world that you are making, then give them four answers. Show your reader that you’ve put thought into the way that one thing works so that they will trust you when you introduce new ideas to them.
If you show the reader that you’ve really thought about how the world works they are more likely to get sucked into an immersive reading experience.
Trust has already been built between the author and reader so the story can now flow unhindered. This is good for readers and writers alike because it means that the in-depth explanations are now over. The characters can move on, the plot can advance, and your reader won’t question every little thing that happens in your novel.
How do you build a world?
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, you want to build a world that is familiar but different. You can do this by choosing aspects of our world and slightly changing them. You want to select aspects from two different settings: the physical environment and the cultural context.
Physical settings are things that would exist even if humans didn’t. We are talking about plants, animals, weather etc.
Cultural settings are things that are impacted by humans. Languages, customs, food, fashion, sports, dating… all of these things can be slightly different in your world. Considering these things will help you build exciting plot points.
I would recommend taking two or three cultural settings and one or two physical settings and begin changing them. Consider what would happen to your world if you changed any aspect of your current lifestyle! The possibilities are endless and exciting!
The most crucial aspect of world-building is to make sure that you pick things that interest you as a writer! We, readers, want to explore the world that you’ve created! I want to get excited about your politics or world religions. I want to talk a walk under your glowing blue trees or taste the fruit that knocks people unconscious! Have fun with your world! We want to have fun with it too!
As always, I cannot wait to see you on the bookshelf!