Creating Believable Worlds & Communities

Whether you're a first-time writer or a seasoned author, creating believable worlds and communities can be a challenge. You may think, "I don't write fantasy, so I don't need to worry about world building!" Unfortunately for you (and fortunately for us readers) that is not the case. World building exists in every genre, not just fantasy or sci-fi. So what is it?

Well, think about the last play, movie, or TV show you watched. If you had just seen the characters speaking to one another on a blank screen, you might have been able to develop an idea of what was happening and why it was happening, but without the backdrop of the stage or the set you would miss out on fundamental points in the story.

This is also why we need world building in our writing.

World building sets up where your story takes place, which you might say , "No, that is setting" and you're not wrong. Setting is a huge part of world building. But there is far more to it than that.

In this blog, I'm going to go through some key points in developing both your world and the community that exists within it. This is not a fully fleshed out list. It is just a starting point for you to examine and use within your own stories. So let's get started. These may not all apply to your story, but I hope they will help you create a more believable world and/or community in the long run.

1. Where do you start world building?

Well, first ask yourself "Where does this story take place?" Is your character living in a version of the real world that you and I know? (A Fault in our Stars by John Green) Or perhaps they've entered a magical world they did not know existed before? (Wings of Fate by Skye Horn - Yup, that was a shameless self-promo, y'all. 😎) Maybe this is a dystopian society?(The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins) Whatever your answer is, write it down so that you don't forget. That is your starting point.

2. Describe that world to yourself - It's time to dig deep!

Now I want you to write down everything you know about your world. This is going to be a complete brain dump so don't worry about being organized and don't let yourself erase anything. Basically, just grab your computer or a pad of paper and answer some, if not all, of these questions. You can keep your answers brief or you can write pages and pages about each one. You'll be surprised to discover that you're writing more than just the answer to these questions in the end! But you'll also be surprised how much you learn about your own story.

This description does not have to be perfect. In fact, I would bet the description you write today will ultimately change! Maybe you've already written your story and you are just now writing all this down. That's fine. Or maybe you haven't started yet and this is part of your process of creating the story. That is also fine! The great part about this is that you can do it however you feel works for you and your story.

Here are some things to consider when building your world:

  • Magic & Technology - Does your world have a magic system? Describe what that magic system looks like. By this, I mean is it elemental? What is the cost of the magic? Does your magic follow any physical laws? Does everyone have magical abilities? Are there certain people who are more powerful? Why are they more powerful? . AND/OR is your world scientifically advanced instead? Do they use technology? What does this look like and does this exist alongside or instead of magic?

  • Politics - Does your world have a government? How much control do they have over their citizens? Is there a boundary to that control? What types of laws have they put in place? What type of relationship does your main character have with this government? What about the people around your main character? Are there rebellions? Does everyone follow the rules? What flaws exist within this governing system? Remember, you don't need to answer every one of these questions. This is just here as a blueprint. You might have better questions to ask.