World building

Following on from last week’s post, I just wanted to say a little something about world building. I attended a 5 hour workshop on this topic once which helped me to see how much more there was to world building than you might think.

Any spec fiction writer knows that the world in which you set your story can be as, if not more important than the characters you create to move the story along. For me the world is often an exploration of something in our world that has been taken to extreme, or it is there to highlight the progression of a current belief or ideal.

For that reason you need to know your world as intimately as you know any of your characters. Off the top of your head you should be able to answer the following questions, at least in a general way;

  • How do people get power (if electricity is used)?
  • How do people get food?
  • Do people live in cities, towns, alone or all of these?
  • What form of government is in place?
  • What rules apply to any magical/psychic powers that exist (there should always be rules about these things)?
  • Is there a religious belief(s)?

Now I know a lot of these questions will be completely irrelevant to your story, especially if you write flash fiction, and I’m not suggesting you put these things into your story, what I am saying is that as the owner of this world, you should know the answers to these questions.

There are some excellent workshops and books out there on how to improve your world building, and if you are going to spend a lot of time in worlds of your own creation, I think they are worth the investment. Many authors fall so in love with the worlds that they build that they set many stories in them.

As a reader I love other worlds and I enjoy reading stories set in other parts of a world that I’ve come to love. But be warned, every word you publish about a world will be read and remembered, so if you change the rules about your world, you need to include the explanation for how or why that rule was broken.