World building is definitely one of my favorite parts of writing stories, and something I feel I’m going to be reflecting about a lot in the coming months, starting with this post.
When most people think of world building, they may think of designing other realms, like Middle Earth, Narnia, Oz, or designing distant planets, or even future versions of Earth, like the Star Trek universe. However, I would argue that world building is a component of all fiction writing, even realistic fiction.
Think about it: by definition, all fictional stories have not actually happened (unless there’s some really bizarre coincidence). Thus, they are not set in the exact same world we do. As such, I think of a realistic fiction story as being actually set in a very similar parallel universe. Thus, world building is needed for these stories too, as you are building that parallel universe as you write, but you’re basing the world on reality. People often call these fictional universes.
In realistic fiction, the extent of the world building is probably just establishing the characters, the settings, and their relationships. Everything else is based on reality, though there might be fictional celebrities, politicians, and other famous people, whose presence would obviously have an impact on the world.
In realistic fiction stories set in a fictional town or city, there is a bit more world building involved, as I’d want to consider the different locations in the town, its people, history, and more.
Future worlds also are somewhat based on reality, as everything up until present day still has happened. I just have to design events that take place between present day and the future world I designed, in a way, considering how I get from now to then, and some other events that happen during this time gap, and their effects. In designing futures, including a few world-related details that aren’t relevant to the story helps make it seem more real.
Fantastic worlds or distant planets are completely different, as the only reality I need to consider is basic laws of physics, and in fantasy worlds, with magic, even they can be broken. World building involves detailed descriptions of geography, history, culture, and much more. More on this in a future post.
Sometimes, in more complex world building, I only consider the important parts of the world (as far as my story’s concerned) during my initial plan, and fill in the gaps later. There are tons of minor landmarks, events, etc. in every world that would have very little impact on things beyond, and each aspect of the world I reference makes it that much more detailed, and real.
And in general, I try to be as detailed as possible with the world building. I think of all sorts of new aspects of my favorite worlds all the time, many of which will sadly never get written into a story. But with world building, I have to acknowledge one thing: it’s impossible to ever truly finish designing a world. Think of how huge the earth is, and how complex its history is. No matter how detailed I get, there will still be millions of events I haven’t written. Any one of these events is a possible plotline I can use later.
So to summarize, when building a world, I start with the important details, add references to less important details throughout the story. I’d keep a few details to myself, but ultimately keep the rest of the world pretty open, knowing it can’t be finished.
And that is a general summary of my initial thoughts on fictional worlds and fictional universes. As world building is a subject I enjoy quite a bit, expect me to revisit this topic sometime in the not-too-distant future. For now, though, this is White Rakogis, signing off.