World Building Basics Revisited

This week, we're resurrecting our favorite posts from the past. Here's one I had a great time writing earlier this year. I went through the world-building process for the UNDER THE NEVER SKY Trilogy a few years ago and loved it. I'm starting it again for my next series, and I have to say, it's still one of my favorite phases of writing a book. Here it is:

World Building. It's a little intimidating, isn't it? Just the term makes me think of this:

Building a world here! Can you give me hand?

Look at that poor guy's head. Ouch. But seriously who thinks, "World-building?" and then says, "Sure, that's easy!"

I don't. But I do find it very fun, once the heavy lifting is out of the way. Here's how I did it for UNDER THE NEVER SKY.

1. Basic Premise - What is the underlying premise of the world? In Veronica Roth's DIVERGENT, society split into five factions, based on different human traits. In Beth Revis's ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, a spaceship has left a crumbling Earth for the promise of a new, better planet. In NEVER SKY, it's a future world in which people have divided into two kinds of societies, one advanced and the other primitive. These are big worlds, but you guys know that world-building can refer to a town, a highschool. Whatever the physical and social context is of your story. Make it be something, though. Your story is crying for a full, colorful canvas. 

2. Research - I couldn't travel three hundred years into the future, the time in which NEVER SKY occurs. So I read books and science journals about future technologies, and other topics that I then extrapolated from. I thought reading non-fiction for world-building was going to feel like a chore, but it was such a blast and so inspiring. I tried to also include, wherever possible, settings that I know first-hand.

3. Stare at Walls - This was a very important stage. I spent weeks letting ideas turn in my mind and then a few more weeks journaling. Little by little they began to settle into a logical order until I could see a place, a society, rules, customs. My characters, who had been waiting in the wings, suddenly stepped forward in 3D, and then the plot appeared, almost fully formed.

4. Write, Revise, Repeat - Ultimately, world-building happens on the page. It took revision after revision to get everything to fall in place. This is also the stage that brought interesting, surprising details which to me is the best part.

That's the cutest cottage I have EVER seen!

We love our characters, and we spend so much time working on story and plot. But I want to put forward the idea that context is equally important.

I mean... can you imagine this?

I forgot sunscreen!
I hate dinner parties!

  Instead of this?

In closing, have some fun with it. 


I remember reading this on your blog and getting a lot of out it. It reminds me of high school teachers explaining that there needs to be something that sets it apart, and you go into detail how to find it. Especially the staring at walls exercise!

Thanks for sharing again! :)

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