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5 Tips for Effective Worldbuilding in Fiction Writing

Among authors, worldbuilding is often considered the most difficult element of writing, and for good reason! Producing an entire world from nothing more than your own imagination is no easy task. However, worldbuilding does not have to be as daunting as it first seems. Breaking down the individual pieces of the process can result in a more manageable task. Try the following tips as you tackle your own worldbuilding challenges.

Tip #1 - Always know a little more than you need to write a scene.

Worldbuilding can include everything from the stories that take place in a setting to the individual dialect’s inhabitants speak in different places. Most authors begin with pinning down a single area to begin with and expand outward. Each author has a different set of parameters they try to define when they begin to set up an area of their world, but a solid rule to strive for is to always know a little more than you need to write a scene. Having background knowledge will impact your writing, whether conscious or not, and give the audience a sense that there is a genuine world behind the scenes, not just a facade set up to serve the story.

Tip #2 - Know what kind of story you're telling.

Going into designing a world, it is important to know what kind of story you are telling. A revenge story will require a very different presentation of the world than a coming-of-age story. Having that knowledge in the back of your mind will change how you approach worldbuilding and create a center around which you can begin forming the details of your story.

Tip #3 - Understand the physical elements of your world.

Another area to focus on is the physical elements of a place, especially places where you know your characters will be setting foot. For example, if your story takes place in a small town, if you, as the author, have a layout in your mind or written out, your character will be able to describe their surroundings better. Your readers can place themselves in the scene, because when you know what you are seeing when you picture your character walking down a street, you are better able to describe it. They can pass a bakery they grew up buying sweets from, or a clothing store their cousin used to work for.​​ The small details are what brings a place to life, gives it a life of its own.

Tip #4 - Have a general overview of the larger setting handy.

If your story takes place in a modern country, for example, knowing at least the general state of the political and economic systems can give you a better understanding of the story you are trying to tell. Even if you are not necessarily telling a political or business story, having that knowledge to casually pop into your story will make your world feel a little more complete.

Tip #5 - Consider staying in your world beyond your current book.

Oftentimes, once an author has created a well-fleshed out world, they will continue writing in that place. Not every setting is a one-time expedition! Whether your stories interact or not, building upon the knowledge you have already accumulated gives you something to start with, rather than beginning from scratch all over again. This is a practice more common in fantasy novels, but it is not restrained to that genre alone.

Worldbuilding is tricky, and requires much thought and planning, but the more work you put in up front, the more complete your story will feel. It is not an impossible task by any means, and when approached with the right attitude, worldbuilding can be quite enjoyable! And remember- the more information you have, the more tools you have to use! Having that little extra bit of information you didn’t really think was necessary can be what gets you out of a case of writer's block later.

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