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September #InkRipples: Building a Fictional World

Posted by Katie L. Carroll on September 8, 2017 in Books, Creativity, Elixir Bound, Fantasy, Ink Ripples, Kai Strand, Mary Waibel, Pirate Island, WIP, Writing |

What exactly is world building (or worldbuilding if your prefer is as one word)? Basically, it’s the creation of a fictional world. More than that, though, it’s how that world is explained within the confines of a story. The imagining and creating is the easy part (in my opinion). It’s choosing which pieces to include in the story and how to include those pieces with out a big info-dump that is the tricky part.

The reader must be grounded in the world and be able to feel like they are immersed in it, but you don’t want to bore them with too many details and world-building elements that aren’t essential to the plot and character development. It’s highly subjective, too. One reader may love lavish descriptions and explanations of how one aspect of your fictional world works, while another may skim through all that to get to the action.

And world building isn’t just for fantasy or sci-fi writers. Even if a story takes place in a high school and most of your readers are in high school or have been to one, you still need to establish the world of your high school. There’s a lot already written on ways to execute world building, so instead of me blathering on with tips, I’ll leave some links at the end of the post for you to peruse at your leisure.

Some of my favorite world building exercises have been making a map for the ELIXIR BOUND (see the picture at the beginning of the post and the entry “Exploring the world of Elixir Bound”). For PIRATE ISLAND, part of my world building included creating a chart with realistic tides and moon cycles. So much of my world building goes on behind the scenes, but having all that information in my head makes for a rich world on the page, even if the reader only sees a small portion of what the world entails. Plus, those elements that don’t make it directly into the story are great for things like blog posts and bonuses for readers.

Okay, before we get to the links, I’d love to hear some of your world-building techniques in the comments!

“Tips on World Building for Writers — How to Make Your Imaginary World Real” by Chuck Sambuchino

“The Ultimate Guide to World-Building: How To Write Fantasy, Sci-Fi, And Real-Life Worlds” by Claire Bradshaw

“25 Things You Should Know About Worldbuilding” by Chuck Wendig

(Apparently people named Chuck have a lot to say about world building!)

#InkRipples is a monthly meme created by Katie L. CarrollMary Waibel, and Kai Strand. We pick a topic (September is all about world building), drop a ripple in the inkwell (i.e. write about it on our blogs), and see where the conversation goes. We’d love to have you join in the conversation on your own blogs or on your social media page. Full details and each month’s topic can be found on my #InkRipples page.

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8 Comments

  • Dianna Gunn says:

    Well said! We can’t ground the reader in our worlds if we don’t fully understand them ourselves.

  • mirkabreen says:

    I admire writers who world-build “from scratch.” I think it a challenge to ensconce a story in another time and place, thus having to introduce a world. But it’s the one I didn’t make myself.

    • I find the research historical fiction authors have to do for their world-building to be amazing. Fantasy worlds need to have consistency in their worlds, but they come from the imagination. Historical worlds are tied to the actual facts of what the world was like then, and it can be hard to find out what those facts were to make it believable and also true to history. I am in awe of historical writers!

  • bridieh says:

    Sometimes it’s difficult to find that balance between what about the (fictional) world to include in the final story and what to leave out. It’s similar with characterization. With contemporary stories, it’s easier. But I wish I could build a world from scratch. I imagine it’s fun although very hard.

    • For me, it’s always fun to build a world from scratch. To think about a magic system and how it works, who can use it, what the consequences and rules are for it. Then to fill in the details of the world around it. The possibilities can stretch as far as my imagination can, which is where you have to think about that balance issue you mentioned. Too much and the reader can get bogged down and bored with the details but too little can be confusing and the reader can’t get grounded in the world. It can be tricky, but it’s a challenge I, for one, enjoy.

  • kaistrandauthor says:

    I love world building, but I don’t know that I have any tips to share except, as you mentioned, don’t pile it all on at once. Those info dumps are boring.

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