Lesson 4

Kick your worldbuilding up a notch

(Blade Runner, image: Warner Bros.)

Building a world is not only fun, but it’s necessary for enriching your novel. In this second part of worldbuilding, we’re going to look at the individual details you can add to your world to make it rich and believable.

How characters and the world interact

A world should play a part in the characters’ history, their personality, their everyday life, and their future. Take weather for instance. If your world has lethal rainstorms, it will affect your characters’ movements, options, even their continued survival.

That’s why worldbuilding is not only essential to your story but also an opportunity for you to go back to your character biographies and add further detail – to knit them and the world together. Nothing is ever set in stone in the planning process, so have no fear if you feel like changing something.

Inspiration in the real world

The way I enrich my novels is by looking at the real world and translating its individual aspects into my own worlds. Some of these aspects are:

  • Landscape and topography
  • Weather
  • Fauna
  • Flora
  • Religion
  • Creation, history, and mythology
  • Society
  • Culture
  • Transport
  • Recreation
  • Employment or business
  • Military
  • Technology
  • Medicine
  • Politics, rulers or royalty

Depending on what type of world you’ve chosen, this list will tell you what needs to be researched or invented. I would also recommend using this list as a structure for your worldbuilding notes. You can add any other aspects that you think of along the way.

Detail where detail is needed

Don’t feel you have to cram a detailed description of every aspect of your world into the novel. You want to tread a line between intriguing and over-burdening. Some aspects will naturally feature more heavily, but don’t feel you have to give the same treatment to every aspect of your world. Only add detail if it adds to the story or develops a character. For instance, if you have a character whose life is defined by religion, then religion and belief will come up quite often. If the character is vaguely superstitious, you won’t need pages explaining the background of the world’s religion.

Even if it's just a quick mention, a brief nod to a bigger sphere than the plot, it all serves to deepen the world and make your readers' experience more enjoyable.

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