World Building Wednesday: Why World Build?

Tweet of the Day:  Building a Near Future World


Over the past couple of months a few commentators (?) in my blog have expressed what can only be described as a “dislike” of world building.

“I don’t world build.”

“It’s too much work.”

“That’s why I don’t write fantasy/science-fiction.”

Let me ask you a question, if I may. Are you a writer?

If the answer is yes, then you world build.

“No I don’t!”

Yes, you do.  For you see, world building is nothing more than the process by which you construct a setting. The reason the word “world” is part of the phrase is that spec-fiction writers create not only worlds but entire universes with their own rules of magic, economics, politics and the like. But every single book is a self-contained universe. It can be as large or even larger than the actual observable universe or as small as a child’s bedroom. The butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker needs shops to work in, suppliers to bring them the goods, significant others to give/take meaning from their lives. Or maybe not. The level of detail is up to the writer.

The answer to why you world build is because your story needs a stage: places, people, dates.

It is intimidating to the point of foreboding to think of hours of research, note writing and character write-ups before you write, “It was a dark and stormy night….” but you don’t have to do it before. In fact the act of writing includes not only stringing plot elements to bringing the setting where it happens alive. It’s Alice and John shuffling bills in their tiny apartment kitchen while the old faucet goes plop, plop, plop. It’s the bright colors of the swing set seats the twins ride ever higher hoping to catch the sky. It is the dark, dank refuse filled alleyway crawling with maggots and smelly Korean leftovers where the detective first meets the murder victim. It is the hours of research on forensics, police procedure, ancient cultures, legalese or computer engineer jargon.

All in the name of the narrative.

All to turn the page.

All those things that make the world, nay, the universe between the covers come alive.

Congratulation writer, you are a wold builder.




7 comments on “World Building Wednesday: Why World Build?

  1. All well put. I think you’re correct that many peope misunderstand the term “world-building” and relate it to overly written fantasy novels that describe in painfully ornate detail how that world came to be and every element upon it that ever was.

    Setting the scene is a much better way of describing it. I was just saying to a friend today that I love that as a writer, I also get to be the art designer and cinematographer. 😉


  2. Well said! If a writer isn’t world building, they aren’t writing a good story. It’s amazing how overlooked this concept is. All stories are a stage. Filling in the blanks is what brings the story (the world) alive for the reader. I’m going to start asking my non-fantasy writer friends how their world building is coming along. ^_^


  3. I write fantasy as well as plain old contemporary. I think they help with each other – the world-building in fantasy is much more involved and that helps me think about what part of the real world I need to bring into my contemporary work. And the contemporary stuff helps me to realize I need to limit the amount of time spent on the world in fantasy – after all, it’s the story and not the world that ultimately matters.


  4. I’m going to get a badge with “I’m a word builder” on it.


  5. Great post. I’ve heard a few writers say the same thing, but your right settling the stage or world building is part of being a writer.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: