Worldbuilding is one of the more important aspects of fiction writing. Especially when your entire world is fictional.
But even in cases where it’s a world created within our own world, or a futuristic/alternate version of our world, a carefully crafted structure in which the characters live is important.
Even in a contemporary, elements such as setting, the different characters’ cultures, education, and history, as well as politics and government of the area in which the character lives all add depth to the story.
Worldbuilding can quickly become overwhelming in its vastness, though. Try to keep the focus on your main characters. The culture and the politics surrounding them. Their current place in the world as well as where they were born. Any training or education they’ve received and why. As well as the history behind the places and events that led them to where they are.
However, this information should be presented naturally as the story progresses. The reader can become just as overwhelmed by too much information given too soon or all at once. They need to form a connection to the characters before experiencing the world through their eyes.
The setting is perhaps one of the more fun aspects of worldbuilding.
The physical location of where your story is taking place. Huge sprawling castles of old, the crumbling husks of the apocalypse, or the vastness of space viewed from a tiny ship. As well as the locations of where each of your characters grew up and how that might play into who they are as a person.
For instance, someone raised in the northern wilderness would be quite different than a person raised within a large coastal city.
This will of course tie into all of the other aspects of worldbuilding.
The larger and more populated the setting the more diverse and complex the culture, laws, and politics will be. Also, the types of geographical structures in the surrounding environment would more than likely have some deciding factors behind the main focuses of education and training.
Especially in fantasy.
Someone who grew up around the ocean would probably know how to fish and swim, maybe even navigate by the stars and steer a ship.
The history a place might have will also determine aspects of education and training. A large city on the border of a territory would have faced more fighting and battle than a small hunting village in the mountains.
When it comes to fantasy and science fiction there are all kinds of different environments to incorporate into a story. From the edges of the universe to the depths of the ocean.
You want to think about the reasons why people are where they are, both individually and as a group. Not just reasons why the main characters are where they are but also the history behind why a castle, village, city, or space station was built and the location chosen.
The focus of culture in a story should always be multifaceted.
There is the culture of the setting. As we discussed above. There is the culture the main character grew up with. The culture of the setting and the main character’s culture may or may not be the same or even slightly similar.
This can cause clashing, or what is known as culture shock. Such as when a character doesn’t realize something perfectly commonplace in their culture is considered inappropriate in the new culture they’re living in.
Then there’s the culture of the other characters the main character is interacting with. Which can also be different from the culture of the setting as well as the main character’s.
Another part of being multifaceted is the numerous aspects that go into a culture. Including religion, social hierarchy, wealth and power, food, fashion, dating/courting, marriage, family, gender roles, entertainment, rules, and education, as well as the various divides within the culture such as politics or differing religions, education, class, or gender roles.
Education does include the obvious combination of schooling, studies, and training a character has undergone, but it also includes things like research and life experiences.
Anything a character has gone through in the past that puts them in a better position to handle a certain situation is something that needs to be remembered and utilized. Otherwise, aspects of a character’s back story will feel pointless and frustrate the reader. A character who has experienced something similar to a character’s current situation will be best equipped to sympathize and understand.
Also, a character who has years of experience with a certain aspect of their world will not suddenly make mistakes in regards to that area of study. Unless there’s something wrong with them. Or unless it’s been a long time since they’ve reinforced that knowledge.
Another thing that needs to always be remembered, is a character’s level of education and training. Much like with a character’s experience, their level of training in certain areas will determine how they act and interact with others. A person trained their entire life as an assassin will more than likely never be snuck up on, unless by a character of a similar or better skill set.
When crafting your characters’ education the focus should be on what that person needs to do throughout the story. Both in regards to what skills are needed, that required years of training, as well as what knowledge or training they may be lacking that cause conflict and hinder the character from achieving their goals.
The government aspect of worldbuilding will include a system of power, a position or positions of leadership, laws and regulations, a system of law and regulation creation and changes, a group tasked with enforcing those laws and regulations, and a system of punishment for any violations.
As well as certain aspects of class and hierarchy, such as citizenship.
The system of power is what most think of when crafting a government. Your democracies, monarchies, theocracies, oligarchies, military dictatorships, and so on.
Though, your fictional world’s system of power doesn’t have to follow an already established form of government. You can combine multiple ones or even create a completely new system. But it is important as it will determine the parameters surrounding the positions of power and leadership.
For instance, you could have a combination of oligarchy, democracy, and monarchy where the richest class sponsor champions that the common people vote on and then there’s a tournament between them to determine who becomes King or Queen.
Mostly though, the focus should be on the aspects of the government within the story that will affect your characters. If they were a champion in the tournament I just described then that system would be important. But if it were a story of two people engaging in an illegal relationship then the way in which laws are created and changed, as well as the law enforcement and system of punishment, would be much more prevalent.
The history part of worldbuilding is pretty self-explanatory.
It can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. A combination of your characters’ backstories as well as the stories and origins behind the setting. The why to how things are the way they are. Pandemics, natural disasters, wars, colonialism, segregation, immigration, revolutions, and civil rights movements.
Anything and everything that has happened in the past that make your characters and everyone around them believe and act a certain way.
The history will have an affect on all the other aspects of worldbuilding.
It dictates what form of government is in control and how it’s changed. It determines the type and level of education, as well as whether or not it’s considered a privilege or a requirement. It influences the culture, the way people interact and view those of different backgrounds. And it defines a setting’s borders. Draws a line in the sand between people that may never be crossed.