Making sure your novel is vivid
Rebecca Mikkelson, Editor-in-Chief Authors 4 Authors Publishing
What is world building? Why is it important? Well...I’m going to tell you. Grab your snacks, go to the bathroom, and buckle up because it’s going to be a very, very long series. From now until the middle of October—yes, October, but don’t worry, there will be author interviews with our amazing A4A authors to break it up—I’ll be going more in-depth with each of these subjects. For now, though, we’ll start with a very brief summary of what I’ll be covering.
Starting Your World (You’ve Got the Whole World in Your Hands)
The first thing you need to do when starting your world building is in the name: the world. There are a couple of things that are important to establish right off the bat: what year your story will be set in, if there’s going to be magic or not, and whether there will be any sort of religion. These three are what I think is most important to establish first, but there are others that important as well: what will your world be, how time works, and what kind of people you’ll have. All six of these decisions will affect every other decision you’ll make for your world.
The Land and its resources (This Land is My Land)
One important factor of world building is your geography, climate, and how they affect the local people, plants, and animals. If you’re living somewhere in the mountains, your resources and climate will not be the same as if you were living near an ocean or a desert. Knowing what your people will have to face will help you shape what your people will want, need, and thrive with.
History (World History 101)
The history of your world ties so intimately with the basis for your story. It gives the why of your people, and the why of the story. This will cover everything from knowing how your people came to be to the kind of social hierarchy will affect your people.
Customs (You’re Not From Around Here, Are You?)
Our whole lives revolve around our cultures whether we realize it or not. We have rituals for births and deaths, and everything in between. We also have customs for how we generally treat people—everyone’s heard of Southern Hospitality—to how we greet them, and even how we visit with each other. For every decision you make when it comes to daily customs and rituals, makes sure that it fits the narrative of the culture that you want. You would not have a particularly aggressive culture doing dainty little rituals and vice versa, more subdued cultures having particularly brutal rituals.
Language (What Did You Just Say?)
Language is how we communicate with each other, and sometimes that can be difficult depending on what languages you have in your world. I’m going to be talking about the different kinds of languages you can have, and even give you a tool in how to create your own.
Religion (Are You There, God? It’s Me, Writer.)
Religion is a complicated and diverse subject that can take years of discussion without getting all the fine points hammered out. In this post, I want to talk about the kinds of religions, how many there are, what kind of tensions you can have, how magic fits in with your religion, and lastly, ethics and values. Your hackles might be rising at the last saying, “You don’t have to be religious to have ethics and values!” You’re right, you don’t. However, oftentimes they go hand in hand.
Government (Big Brother’s Watching)
In this section, I’ll be talking about the seven types of government and what that could mean for your world (with examples of countries you could research to see what that government means in the real world, and sometimes, book examples of authors using that system), what kind of services your government could provide the people, and what kind of legal systems you might want to think about having in place.
Politics (Your Obedient Servant)
Government and politics go hand in hand. What I want to cover in this blog post is how your leaders and chosen, how long they stay, and what kind of political parties that you have in your world as well as the kind of foreign relations there. I’ll also touch briefly on what political marriage can accomplish in your world based on historical examples.
Defense (This Means War!)
In this post, I’m going to be talking about what kind of militaries you can have, how historical wars can change the way your world works, what kinds of wars there are, why they’re fought, and tactics that can be used during it as well as talking about the kinds of weaponry that you can have in your world.
Magic (Do You Believe in Magic?)
Magic is an important part of your world if you decide to have it in the story. Some of the things that you’ll need to think about while building this world is who gets to use it, and why. You’ll also need to know how it’s taught, if it can be used by non-magic users, how it fits in to the religion of your world, if there are any magical animals, and what the consequences of using magic are.
Education (Don’t Need No Education...Right?)
Education is an important part of society as a whole—it’s how we make advancements, and the more people who have knowledge readily available, the quicker that happens. In this blog post, I want to go over what kind of educations are available, who in your world can have an education, and what types of schools there are.
Advancement (Mr. Ford, Start the Conveyor Belt)
In this post, I want to talk about the advancement of your society in terms of technology, science, and medicine. Each develop at a different pace and simultaneously, so you’ll need to figure out what setting your world is taking place, and what time period it will be in because those will both affect the decision making process.
Commerce (We Will Take Our Business Elsewhere)
Commerce and trade are intrinsically woven into our everyday lives whether we realize it or not, and it affects our decision making in a big way. What you might not think about while building your world is how trade and industry have also developed how we communicate, and how we travel.
Food (Get In My Belly!)
In this post, I want to talk about farming for your country, the type of diet that your people will have, what they hunt for, and if they have any feasting days. I also want to talk very briefly about the history of utensils and what kind of options your people could have based on the setting of your story.
Construction (What Do You Mean I’m Going to Live in A Hut?)
In this post, I want to talk a little bit about what it would be like to live both in a city and less populous areas, talk about how things are built, who builds them, and what kind of amenities will be available based on the type construction within your cities and elsewhere. Not all of these will be necessary for you to think about, depending on the year that your story takes place, but are still things that should be on your radar if the need arises.
The Arts (It’s The Arts, Darling)
Art isn’t just painting a canvas. It’s making people feel a certain way, and there’s more than one way to do it. In this post, I want to talk about several different forms of art, as well as entertainment that even the layman can enjoy.
Fashion (Why Don’t You Have On Any Pants?)
For my final post in the series, I want to talk about the clothing that your characters will wear. Clothes are often ignored within a work because authors want to focus more on the plot than the ruffles, but clothes give us insight into what’s going on in the mind of the character, their socioeconomic status, and traditions of their culture.
Please bear in mind that there are so many aspects to world building that I may not be able to cover every single subject, or even in extreme detail for the ones that I do cover. I also in no way claim to be an expert in any of these subjects and am only trying to make sure you have a good foundation for what you need to think about while building your world. This blog series is going to be a jumping off point for what you need to think about in your world building journey.
Join me next week where I talk about setting up your world.
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