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  • Writer's pictureBritt Leigh

Magic of Worldbuilding

On some of my most challenging or stressful days, I turned to books whose covers held an enchanted world. There, I could escape from the problems I was facing and join a magical school or discover a way to escape a haunting labyrinth. Even though the characters’ problems were always bigger than my own, I somehow felt comforted knowing that I could turn to them whenever I needed them. While I largely tie these emotions to incredible character development, there is something to be said for the captivating worlds in series like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games.

“The author creates a world in every book they write; the reader brings that world to life in their imagination.” – Peter Amsel

The worlds you create are a central focus to the allure of your story. Before your fingers begin typing the first chapter of your novel, you’ll want to write a bit about your world. Essentially, your goal is to create your own reference material to use throughout your novel. Keep in mind that if you’ve described your world well, you likely won’t pull every detail from your world’s reference material into your novel. Instead, you’ll choose the most compelling pieces to include and let your readers’ imaginations do the rest. Here are a few tips for things to consider as you develop the world of your novel.

1. Take a walk through your setting. What do you see? Smell? Taste? Utilize all your senses to build a robust world that connects and feels realistic to your reader.

2. Don’t make assumptions. Even if it’s a world-renowned landmark or city, there will always be at least one person who isn’t familiar with it. Don’t make the mistake of assuming your reader knows specific details about the world you’re describing. Paint the picture, regardless of assumed knowledge.

3. On details. Balance with details is key. You’ll want to include enough small details to draw your reader into the world, but not so many details that your book becomes a retelling of your reference material. Additionally, you’ll want to spread your details throughout the story. It’s important to avoid information dumps at the beginning of your work.

4. Don’t skip the history. How did your world come to be? Has it been like this since the beginning of time, or did a major event drastically change its culture or landscape? This is especially important for authors creating new worlds. Readers need to know how the world came to exist to understand its complexities.

5. The final touches. Don’t forget about key aspects of any world such as culture, language, political climate, societal norms, etc. These smaller details will bring your world to life and build deeper connections to your reader.

Now for the twist. All the planning in the world won’t necessarily prepare you for the plot detours your novel might take as you begin to write. While having a solid understanding of your world is important, it’s equally important to avoid attachment to any specific details. Writing is a messy process that evolves continuously over time. Keeping an open mind about your story's direction will help you build both a strong world and a strong story.

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