When approaching fiction of any kind, there’s the all-important step of making readers believe in your world. What that means is different for every genre, and every book. Here are some key things that I’ve found that help structure a story’s world in a way your readers will understand and, hopefully, love:
Plan ahead: Before you set in to the thick of the writing, spend some time calculating your world. In my last In Writing post, I talked about how the setting is a conduit for shaping your characters and the story they’re a part of, and worldbuilding is a lot like that but with greater detail. The world isn’t just a place, it’s a history—the characters’ pasts, the religions, the wars, the road that led to the first sentence on the first page. Whether your story takes place in a fictional world or our own, know the characteristics that set your your world’s version of reality apart from the next.
Say just enough: Readers will recognize an idea that’s being pushed too hard. When introducing and explaining the world you’ve crafted, think about your own world—the real one. People don’t randomly explain the happenings and physics of your surroundings in intimate detail, do they? (I mean, unless they’re writers…) That means your characters shouldn’t either! Only give the reader what they need to know to understand what’s going on. In Mordecai Episode Two, I introduce a lot of new things to the lore of the world introduced in Episode One: Bloodthirsty (which, in the spirit of shameless self-promotion, is currently available here), and I’ve found that it’s a real balancing act between over explanation and need-to-know, especially in a series where the readers already feel acquainted with the world. Trust your readers, give them the bare minimum, and let them uncover the rest naturally.
Trust your instincts, and your characters: Finally, believe in your own understanding of the world: If it sounds like too much information to you, then it will sound like too much to the reader. Trust your characters with the exposition by letting it flow through them. The world they live in and know has shaped them (and your story), so a lot of what we can learn from you telling us as the writer, we can also learn by observing the characters.
Next week is Valentines Day already!? Got any plans for yourself or your loved ones? (It’s okay to buy yourself chocolate.)
If you want to read some more writing tips, you can find read In Writing: The Setting here.
Follow for more, and like and share while you’re at it! I’ll see you next week—maybe something about #RelationGoals?
Weekly Writing Prompt:
Write a page or two about your world—real or fictional—and how your protagonist feels about it. Save it for later referral.