World Building Tips when Writing Sci-Fi or Fantasy

We all know the importance of world building. Even if only one aspect of your world is what grabs at your reader’s attention, such as your world’s rich history, or your unnavigable galaxy, or its wounded deities, world building demands that the author invest time into the development of all its characteristics if you want to create a beautiful, realistic, and enthralling setting. However, what one may forget is how to weave your world into your story. Now you may be thinking, “Of course it’s in my story! It’s the world!” So let me ask you this: Is your world just present in the story (i.e. just scenery)? Or does it cause real problems for your characters? Does it effect/impact the decisions or outcomes the way other characters do?

I previously spoke about my experience working with an editor, and realized that I need to treat my monsters in the same way that I would with a character. With world building, you should be doing the same with your world: Treat it as a character in your novel.

The other night, I had reached an impasse in my story, so I began brainstorming ways in which to influence the outcome that I desired. I immediately began deep diving into each of my character’s motivations to explore how they should react in this situation and came up with a number of good choices. But I was thinking inside the box, and thus my options were inherently limited. It wasn’t until I tried bouncing some ideas off of a friend that he expanded my vision and made me realize that I should also consider global/environmental/non-character factors, such as weather or lunar events, too.

So, as you continue your story development, I strongly encourage you to make your world an active participant in the story. Questions you might want to ask yourself to analyze whether or not your world is integrated with your story:

  • Is there a time limit associated with your world (like a volcano about to erupt, or a prophecy that is destined to occur)?
  • Does the environment create treacherous or unfavorable events (such as the full moon turning men into werewolves, or the night making magic become unpredictable, or constant earthquakes)?
  • Are there agricultural/weather factors that influence your character’s decisions (such as a drought, or a food shortage, or a heavy storm)?
  • Do the deities interfere with the outcome of the story?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should be on the right track in terms of utilizing your world like a character. How have you used your world to interact in the story?

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