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Fiction Series: Worldbuilding Basics

Whether your story is set in a small town or a complex fantasy realm, you need to map out your 'world' before you start writing your novel.

Why? Because readers want the story to feel real! They want to get lost in your fictional world.

Here are five worldbuilding tips for your next novel:


1. Place

Where is your story set?

If your story is set in the 'real' world, you'll need to plan out the area your character lives in (or the area most of your story takes place in). If your story is set in a fictional world, you'll need to go even deeper.

Your readers will want to know:

  • What country is the story set in?

  • Where in that country?

  • What are the buildings like?

  • Is it a lower or upper class area?

  • How do people travel, and what do people do for fun?

You also want to consider nature and terrain, and how they affect the world. Is it a dry desert, or a tropical island? A story in either of these settings will be vastly different.

2. Time Period

When is your story set, and how does this affect the plot and characters?

In a real-world story, this will have a big impact as we know society has changed so much throughout human history, even just in the last 100 years. Every period in our history has its own culture, fashion and language.

It's also important to look at where your plot fits into the history of your world - especially if the world is fictional. Is it set after a war that changed society? Have the people only recently developed technology?

How does the world's past impact its present, and what will happen in the future?

3. Culture

The society within your world might be just like real life, or it might be totally alien. Either way, you need to know how your characters interact with, and are impacted by, culture.

If you want to write a realistic world, you need to know the special customs of the people, how the government works, and why things are the way they are.

You should consider:

  • Slang

  • Fashion

  • Arts

  • Technology

  • Food

  • And anything else that helps flesh out the world!

4. Issues and Dangers

The problems your world faces might be the driving conflict of your story, or may just enhance it. These issues and dangers can be anything from monsters, to dangerous terrain, to corrupt governments.

Don't give your world a lot of issues and dangers just because you want to, when they won't affect the story. If there are monsters living in the mountains by your fictional city, are they a threat? Has your MC dealt with them before? Will they actually appear in the story? If not, they probably aren't worth mentioning.

However, dangers in the world can be a great sub-plot. The MC might need to navigate through an ocean filled with mermaids to reach their goal. In this case, it's a great addition!

5. Where does your MC fit in?

Now, this is the most important part. You have your complex world ready, and probably know your plot and characters, but how does it all come together?

Your main character needs to have a purpose in the world you've built. Maybe they're going to rebel against a dystopian society, maybe they've just moved to a new city and have to navigate it, or maybe they're saving their small town from danger.

Remember, you don't need to tell readers everything about your world. While it's important that you know it inside-out, your readers will become bored with long descriptions of things that aren't relevant. Stick to introducing parts of your world as needed!

What will your character to do change the world, or what will happen in the world to change the character?


Need help writing your book? Email me about Developmental Editing!


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