Scifi and Fantasy: Creating Your Own World

World building.

Some people hear the term, world building, and shrink away, their eyes averted.

Other people race toward the idea, excitement and ideas brimming over in their minds.

Whether you're writing scifi, fantasy, or another genre, to some degree you must create a world. Outside of the speculative fiction genres, your world will follow a lot of the norms of your story's time period, but world building still applies on a smaller scale. It's constrained by what we know about that time.

With speculative fiction, writers get to create everything. Yes, everything:  religion, countries, clothing, manners of speech, government, etc. This can be challenging, even for the writer who embraces world building. Luckily, you don't have to look far to locate advice on how to create your own world. Just this week, the Writers Digest website ran the following post:

If you've ever considered creating a world, the author of this Writers Digest article provides some great tips. And she should know something about it because...well, read the article, you'll discover why.


Skip Pfaff said…
Barbara, thanks for a great thought-provoking post. That term “world building” is one I’ve never even thought about. I have, of course, done it. It’s just that haven’t considered it per se. It’s a certainty anyone who writes fiction must do some world building. You Fantasy and Si-Fi writers, as you pointed out, deal with it in a big way. One of the things that came to mind on this subject was one of the “what to do” and “how to do it” pearls of advice that comes from all the great ones including, Stephen King, Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury, George RR Martin and even James Ellroy. That being: read, read, read, read, and read some more. Implied, of course, is read everything you can. I admit I’m pretty short on reading fantasy. I have an interest problem which I shouldn’t let deter me. I would guess therein lie some of the very best examples of world building. Shame on me—mea culpa.
The Shakespeare thing from “Merry Wives of Windsor” in the second act came to me. It was Pistol’s reply to Falstaff after being turned down for a loan. “Then the world is my oyster. I will with my sword open it.” If I built an oyster, I would definitely open it. Who knows? I might find a pearl. Besides I think raw oysters are yummy.
Skip, Fantasy and scifi are not everyone's cup of tea. Yes, you can find amazing world building within these two genres, but if you struggle with the genre, I wouldn't force yourself to do it. If you want an excellent example that tends to cross boundaries with most readers, I'd suggest reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy by Tolkien.

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