Whether you’re writing science fiction or fantasy you’re going to have to look at creating a unique world for your stories to take place in. The process of world building often takes much longer than writing the story itself, but it can be just as fun or even more so. Creating an entire world will not only introduce you to dozens of interesting characters, each with their own story to tell, but to strange locations that you would never see on Earth.
When do I need to World Build?
When most people hear the term world building they think of fantasy stories set in lands similar to the middle ages of Europe. Knights and Kings crossing heavily forested lands where every hill can lead to either wild beasts or thieves. But world building can also apply to science fiction as well. A brave crew of a small space craft leave Earth for Mars and along the way encounter a strange anomaly that flings them across the universe where they find themselves orbiting a new world 1.7 times larger than the Earth with only 32% of it surface covered in warm waters. The author would need to create parts of this world even more carefully than his fantasy writing college would have had to because Science Fiction readers are incredibly smart people and like their science fiction factual.
What if you’re writing a time travel story where the hero is sent back in time and while there makes a dramatic change in 1923 that completely changes the events of history from that moment forward? The author would have to completely rethink the history of the world for his story. Would there have been a depression in the 1930’s or a war in the first half of the 1940’s? Would mankind have reached for the stars through the sixties or walked on the moon in 1968? That is world building with our own world. If your story takes place in the future you will need to determine what sort of future it is. Starting from where the world is now the author has to decide which events happen in five, 10 or 15 years from present day. Imagine a world where humanity has reverted back to a time without technology for one reason or another. People using the internet loses their privacy and in 2016 people begin to unplug completely from the ‘net to regain their lost privacy. By 2021 the internet is shut down completely and the last website goes dark.
Even stories set in the present day world still need some level of world building. The author can’t be expected to write a story so connected to the real world that nothing is made up. Even a simple, low budget film will benefit with some world building. It adds realism to a given story. It fills in the blanks that might litter the story because the local bar that was across from the museum when you wrote the screenplay has now been torn down and replaced by a condo building, but your movie needs a bar to be there. A little world building and careful filming will put that bar right where you need it.
In Part II we will discuss the steps needed to build a fantasy story world.