World-Building is for Everyone

honing the craft tips and tricks world-building May 09, 2021

Post written by Katie Wall

As writers, we tend to talk about ourselves as belonging to one of two camps: plotters or pantsers. While there can be pros and cons to both approaches for the writing process (and we advocate for a middle ground), we strongly believe that world-building is a step everyone needs to take before they start writing.

Why do we think this? Because for a world to be successful, it needs to…

  • Have integrity to stand on its own without contradicting itself.
  • Have sufficient complexity in the relationships between the world and those who inhabit it.
  • Be dynamic in how consequences for decisions and events play out within it.

What do we mean by integrity, complexity, and dynamism?

Integrity, when it comes to world-building, comes down to being able to avoid contradictions in the elements of your story: character, plot, setting, etc.

Complexity, on the other hand, results in the world feeling believable and alive. A world without complexity is a world that feels flatlike a photograph or painting as opposed to the real thing.

Dynamism refers to cause and effect. Given the integrity and complexity of the world, the cause and effect relationships between everything in the world need to be taken seriously. This gives the world a feeling of motion and liveliness.

For those with either plotting or pantsing tendencies, world-building is essential to ensure that these three components are present.

If a writer dives into telling a story without first establishing the rules of their world, it is so easy for them to…

  • Contradict themselves as they writeon a story, character, or setting level.
  • Create a ton more work for themselves during revisions/editing.
  • Limit their understanding of their characters because they don’t understand the context in which their characters grew up.
  • Write settings that are flat or disconnected, since they aren’t facets of a larger world.
  • Confuse their readers with a magic system or technology that just doesn’t make sense or isn’t complete.

So whether you define yourself as a plotter or a pantser, do your future self, your characters, and your story a favor and take the time to build your world before you start writing!

If you’ve never built a world before or if you’ve always done it on the fly, the thought of world-building can be daunting. That’s why we  created our mini-course One-Month World-Buildingto walk you through the process and eliminate your overwhelm. Check it out!

If you’re stuck with your world-building, check out Andrew’s one-on-one world-building consultations. These consultations can address aspects of worlds such as magic systems, histories, and foundational parameters (laws of physics, etc.).

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