7 Things Any Writer Should Know about World Building

As the dust begins to settle on the recent Brexit vote, I am writing from in between a rock and a hard place.

After all, I am in the business of imagining the kind of big, world-changing developments that make up alternative histories. Just never thought I’d live to see one.

The UK press is awash with prognoses about how this decision may change the world and, truthfully, a lot of such prognoses are in favour of a sad, dystopian world which is not that far removed from the New World I describe as part of the New World Writing Project I am currently undertaking.  

I think it is pretty ironic that a nation known for its great dystopian visionaries such as H. G. Wells  (The War of the Worlds), P. D. James (The Children of Men) and Glen McCoy (Doctor Who: Timelash) is now looking towards an abyss not dissimilar to the ones portrayed in the named authors’ works.

But the show must go on. Having risen from my own post-referendum stupor, I am back to writing.

That is the least I can do. Keep on keepin’ on and keep imagining the best as well as the worst.

I may be powerless to stop Britain leaving the EU, I am most certainly powerless when it comes to whether Donald Trump will win the US presidency but I shall keep writing about other worlds that may or may not have the privilege of a happy ending.

And if it it all goes down the pan in real live …I can always escape to one of my own worlds, get a pint and wait for the whole thing to blow over (or to blow up, if it comes to that).

In the spirit of leaning on the power of world building to combat my very own troubles in changing times, I thought it would be nice to list below what I consider to be the 7 Secrets of World Building that any writer should know.

1. The world you’re building can only function within a range of defined rules and limits that need to be defined before you create characters, storylines etc.

2. Be clear on whether the world you are creating is in any way similar to the real world you inhabit and define the similarities and differences between reality and fiction.

3. Be decisive about societal values, your fictional government(s), and the laws of physics that you wish to apply.

4. Accept that any characters you create have to fit within that world and need to be heavily influenced by the world you have created for the story to be believable.   

5. Give your readers as many details about your new world as possible and show your readers how your characters interact with the world that they inhabit.

6. Ensure that the world you’re creating is fit for the genre you wish to write in – unless you are on a  mission to create new, awesome, cross-genre fiction. In that case: as you were.

7. Accept that even though you are the creator of your fictional world, you may never uncover all of its secrets. There will be many facts that you will never get round to sketching out – either because they have no or little relevance to your story and characters or because you have enough information for your book to be finished and you need to move on to your next big project. On both counts, that’s perfectly fine.

If you have any further advice about world building that you wish to share, don’t be shy and feel free to drop me a line in the comments below. After all, everything is relative…particularly in the writer’s mind…right?

And …if you LOVED this post and want to help me keep writing:

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Image Attribution:By Laura Molina, Lake Elizabeth, California, U.S. (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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