Worldbuilding in writing is a key consideration for authors, especially those in the fantasy and science fiction genres. It essentially involves the creation of a setting, one that could be entirely fictional or based on our own world.
The process of creating this world, however, can be fraught with difficulties. Writers often question how much detail they need to go into, or how to reveal all of the things they’ve created.
In this guide, we’ll answer all of those burning questions. We’ll provide a framework for how to approach worldbuilding. You can also download a free template for even more support.
We also take a look at some popular examples of fantasy worlds and explore ways you can analyse worldbuilding in writing.
Let’s dive in.
What Is Worldbuilding In Writing?
So, what is worldbuilding in writing?
In short, worldbuilding is the process of creating the setting, characters, and events of a story, typically in the form of a fictional universe.
This can include creating a history, geography, economy, and culture for the story’s setting, as well as determining the rules and laws that govern the universe.
Worldbuilding is a key aspect of fantasy and science fiction writing, but can also be used in other genres such as historical fiction.
The goal of worldbuilding is to create a believable and immersive setting within which the story takes place.
How To Approach Worldbuilding
There’s no right way to approach worldbuilding. Every writer has their own creative methods and that should be encouraged. However, if you’re looking for a little bit of structure and guidance, there are a few key steps you can take when approaching worldbuilding in writing:
- Start with a basic idea or concept – Before you begin creating the details of your world, it can be helpful to have a basic idea or concept in mind. This could be a simple idea such as “a fantasy world where magic is controlled by a ruling council,” or a more complex concept like “a post-apocalyptic world where society has collapsed and humanity lives in small, isolated communities.”
- Create a history – Once you have a basic concept, it can be helpful to create a history for your world. This can include events that shaped the world, the rise and fall of different civilizations, and any significant historical figures or events that are important to the story.
- Develop the geography – Decide on the location, climate, and natural resources of your world. This will help you to establish the different regions and environments that exist within your world and how they might impact the culture and society of the inhabitants. To help you with this, you could try creating a fantasy map.
- Establish the rules and laws – Determine what laws, customs, and beliefs govern your world. This could include the political system, social hierarchy, and any magical or technological rules that are unique to your world.
- Create interesting and complex characters who are influenced by the ways of your world – Characters are the heart of any story and it’s important to create ones that are believable and relatable. Characters should be unique and have their own goals, desires, and motivations that drive the story forward. Even secondary characters!
- Be consistent – Once you have established the rules and laws of your world, it’s important to be consistent throughout your story. Inconsistencies can pull readers out of the tale and undermine the believability of your fantasy world.
- Keep it simple – It’s easy to get carried away with worldbuilding, but it’s important to remember that less is often more. Focus on the elements that are most important to your story and don’t get bogged down in unnecessary details.
- Revise – As you write, revisit and revise your worldbuilding elements to ensure they are consistent and make sense within the context of your story
Like I said before, these are just some tips that could help give you more structure. The more time you spend worldbuilding, the more you’ll develop your own preferences.
Download A Free Template On Creating Worlds
Although we’ve covered some tips in the section above, you may want additional help and support. You can get that in the form of a worldbuilding template.
You can download my own template by clicking the link at the bottom of this section.
It provides you with prompts for the fundamental parts of a world, looking at both the physical make-up, such as the oceans and mountains, and the cultural side too, like politics, religions and education standards.
Crucially, my worldbuilding template is super easy to use. It’s basically a spreadsheet that you can add to and develop.
Click Here To Download A Free Worldbuilding Template
Examples Of Worldbuilding In Fantasy
Let’s expand upon the above by looking at some examples of worldbuilding in fantasy literature:
- J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy – Tolkien’s world of Middle-earth is one of the most iconic and well-known fantasy worlds. He created an extensive history, detailed geography, and rich cultures for his world, which includes hobbits, elves, dwarves, and more. He also created unique languages and a complex system of magic.
- George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series (also known as “Game of Thrones”) – Martin’s world is richly detailed and includes multiple cultures and religions, a complex political system, and a unique system of magic. Martin also creates a detailed history of his world, which includes legendary events and figures that play a significant role in the story.
- Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Earthsea” series – Le Guin’s world is a group of islands called Earthsea, where magic is an integral part of daily life. She created a rich culture and history for her world, which includes different races of people, such as dragons and humans, and a complex system of magic that is based on the manipulation of words and names.
- J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series: – Rowling’s world is set in a magical version of England, where witches and wizards live hidden among the non-magical population. She created a rich and detailed magical world, with unique magical creatures, spells, and institutions such as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and the Ministry of Magic.
- Brandon Sanderson’s “The Stormlight Archive” – Sanderson’s world is set in a high fantasy world filled with magic, politics and war. He created a complex system of magic that involves the manipulation of different types of elemental powers, and detailed political and religious factions.
These are just a few examples of the many rich and detailed fantasy worlds that have been created in literature. In each of these examples, the world served as a crucial aspect of the story and one that readers love to explore.
How To Analyze Worldbuilding In Fantasy Writing
There are a few key elements to consider when analyzing worldbuilding in fantasy writing:
- Setting – Look at the physical and geographical aspects of the world, such as the location, climate, and natural resources. Consider how the setting impacts the culture and society of the inhabitants. Everything should link together.
- History – Examine the history of the world, including significant events and figures that shape the world and the story. Consider how the history of the world is revealed to the reader and how it impacts the characters and plot.
- Characters – Analyze the characters and how they fit within the world. Look at their motivations, beliefs, and how they interact with the world and its inhabitants.
- Culture and Society – Study the culture and society of the world, including the laws, customs, and beliefs that govern it. Consider how these elements shape the characters and the story.
- Magic and Technology – Evaluate the magical or technological elements of the world and how they are used in the story. Consider how they impact the characters and the plot, and whether they are used in a consistent and believable manner.
- Originality – Observe the originality of the world building and how it is unique to the story.
- Convenience – Be aware of how the worldbuilding is convenient or inconvenient to the plot.
- Believability – Consider how believable the world is and whether it is consistent and logical throughout the story.
It is also important to keep in mind that worldbuilding is just one aspect of a story and should be considered in relation to the other elements such as plot, characterization, and theme.
Learn More About Worldbuilding In Writing
If you’d like to learn more about worldbuilding in writing, check out these guides below: