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The Wonderful World of Worldbuilding

As a writer, you have the power to create a new world. Creating a new world has the power to teach you more about the one you live in. - Shirin Tomlin

Stepping into another time, place, or realm is an exhilarating rush that comes with opening a great novel. It activates a sense of wonder and creativity that is often lost in the mundanity of our day-to-day, and provides a common source of joy that avid book-lovers can all agree upon. When you are transported, and there are no reasons to doubt the new world's existence or laws, you are experiencing the brilliance of a master worldbuilder.

We're here to discuss the concept and why it's so important to the novel writing process. But get comfortable, because world-building is something you'll need a lot of patience to take on.

Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will the world in which your characters exist.

What is Worldbuilding?

Worldbuilding is just as simple and complex as it sounds. You know what this world is made of (for the most part), including chemicals and elements, people, wars, nature, religions, buildings, and tons and tons of emotions. Because of your existence and experience in this world, you have a general frame of reference to start with.

Worldbuilding supports your story's arc and development, whether you decide to make it normal for people to fly to work, or if the book is set in the past when the internet didn't exist, everything must co-exist within the framework you define. When you take worldbuilding into your own hands, the only pieces from this world that are critical to take with you are the type of conflicts, logic, reasoning, and emotions that people experience. Everything else is up to you, architect.

No matter the scenario, you're going to have to understand and research how some things work so your readers aren't distracted by the minute details and mechanics. Trying to understand concepts that should just click, or reading duplicate explanations becomes frustrating to the reader -- but hopefully, your editor will stop you before it gets that far!

Worldbuilding should be an ongoing process throughout your book's development. This process is most prevalent when you begin character development (another ongoing task). As you define relationships between characters, their goals, motivations, strengths, and weaknesses, you may find a need to add or remove an aspect of your world. Don't be discouraged, this is all part of the process and helps to keep your readers immersed, and your world more interesting.

Where do you start?

Worldbuilding begins in your outlining phase, and many aspects of your world won't have a direct call-out in your book. You don't need to spell everything out to the reader, so long as the rules in the background make sense.

It makes no difference to your outline whether you begin defining a place, character, tool, substance, or conflict first, so long as you keep the parameters flexible and don't define too much or too little in the beginning.

Consider the Harry Potter collection; new challenges arise for Harry and his friends because of something they find out about Harry's past, stumbling upon new magic or spells, or capabilities of the different characters.

By consistent worldbuilding, there is an opportunity to take rules from the past and add more nuance so the story keeps integrity while becoming more unique and interesting. The more you find out about the magical world of wizardry and witchcraft, the more the world is being developed.

If you're too rigid with your guidelines, you'll pigeonhole your characters and steer further away from your plot. You don't want to realize that a turning point you've been planning has too many laws of plausibility to abide by that you lose impact. On the other hand, if you don't have enough parameters, you can lose the reader in trying to make sense of the world when they should be focused on the storyline.

Avoiding this can be done by committing to a constant retooling of rules throughout your book. This is where writing aids like Obsidian and Joplin shine with their backlinking saviors. Working with programs that have backlinks allows you to recall any detail in your book so you don't have to spend hours sifting through pages and paragraphs to confirm.

Having the right tools makes it much easier to flip back and forth to modify details as more ideas come to you. You can learn more about outlining and writing your book with tools like these in our next quick read, "Writing your first book".

Why is worldbuilding so important?

In short, worldbuilding ahead of your writing gives you a framework to tell or expose to the reader at the right moments. If a hint about your world takes place in the background of the first chapter, you're able to create a sense of intrigue about your world that the reader now has to wait to find out. But as we mentioned, without enough world-building, readers will have a harder time becoming immersed in your novel.

What comes next?

After you've written your first draft and your worldbuilding is done for this book, you'll want to enlist the help of editors. We will explore the wonderful world of editors in a future quick read.

Stay tuned, and subscribe to be notified of each new release.


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