World Building Basics

World Building. It's a little intimidating, isn't it? I think so. But I also 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 could spend all day thinking up alternative captions to the Scream images - what fun! (For the dinner party one: But I HATE onions! / Why did she place me next to THAT guy? I'm totally moving my place card...)

The staring-at-the-walls stage can be so frustrating, but ultimately was the most rewarding for me in terms of world-building. Lots of pages in the diary were filled, too.

Oh, Beth! Let's! Photo #2: That foghorn is SO LOUD!

Photo #1: OMG! I think he is home!!!
Photo #2: OMG! He is here!!! ...and I am so FAT!!!!
Photo #3:OMG! I broke the stupid glass!!!
Photo #4: OMG! There they come!

Love the pics! Yes, world-building is important. I really hate when contemporary books ignore it completely, and you feel likt the book could have been set in Dublin or Johannesburg or Lima, and it wouldn't make a difference.

Spec fic writers usually know better than to ignore it.


Okay, Veronica. Here's one for Katy on #2: The birds are coming! The BIRDS!

Laughing at Anonymous's #2 above.

Such an inspired way to illustrate the importance of context in world-building! Thanks for the guffaw!

Claire- I agree. The best books always make you feel the world IMO.
Funny, Anonymous
Beth- love the Birds!
Lia- thanks, you :D

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