First blog post in a long, looong time. I was honestly having a hard time figuring out what to write about. There are so many topics related to comics, writing, creating, or just anything interesting that it can be a little intimidating to begin writing anything about…. Well anything. I’ve got a bad problem with procrastination, and it usually flares up around the fear of what would appear to be an insurmountable object or task. So this is me, gritting my teeth and getting down to do some work. For now fear has been subsided by the sheer amount of caffeine I have just ingested via the heavenly gift that is coffee. I’ll write until that wears off, so let’s get into something interesting.
A big topic. Something that some might consider insurmountable (No fear, you stop right there. *Sips coffee).
Now I’m not a master of world building, although I’d really like to work towards becoming very good at it. In this pursuit I have seen some great questions and posts around world building on my favourite comic and writing subreddits. So I’ll add to the conversation here, and give 4 tips that I have found that revolve around world building.
- Build a world of appropriate size to your story.
This seems like an obvious statement, yet it’s something I catch myself breaking on the simplest of stories.
Because world building is fun and I can get carried away. Despite all this fun, we creators have to keep the length of our story in mind. If we’re writing a short story, or short 4-10 page comic, the world building required for that story is going to be minimal. These stories are often fairly specific, so you only need the elements of a world that are going to directly affect this story. If you do happen to be writing an ongoing comic series, or epic, well then world build away. Building extra elements into a world that will feature long or epic length stories will come in handy if you happen to find yourself in a writing block pickle. While world building is mostly beneficial, it can also be detrimental (a real double edged sword), which leads us right into tip #2…
- You don’t need to know everything.
Some of the very best fictional worlds ever created are still incomplete. There is large pieces of land left unexplored in Middle Earth from Lord of the Rings, because it was not required to tell the story. Same with the world of Harry Potter (although I’m still holding onto hope that it’s not completely fictional and that my Hogwarts letter was just lost in the mail), where the story almost exclusively focused on the happenings of the wizarding world in the United Kingdom. Rowling did give us bits and pieces of information and news of the wizarding world outside the United Kingdom, but she left plenty unexplored. We are just now getting what the wizarding world was like in North America via the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Leaving yourself with world left unexplored provides you with two benefits.
The first benefit is you start writing sooner. Many of us can get stuck in world building and never actually get to our story.
The second is that it leaves you room to explore other stories within that world should you so choose to do so after the summation of your first story. Or, bring in new elements into your story as they are required. This helps if you happen to have written yourself into a corner and need a helping hand to get that story back on track.
- Check your rational mind at the door.
While providing reasons for why a world might operate this way, an open mind at a world’s creation is more useful. You can cut and trim elements that don’t work later on, but when initially creating your world, bring everything to the table.
I find writing down all ideas while brainstorming to be really beneficial. As even the ridiculous of ideas can eventually lead to some amazing world elements.
If you decide on a world element, try flipping it on it’s head to unearth something you might not have thought of before. It may completely change the way your story works, but sometimes that’s for the better.
- It’s okay to use familiar concepts or other people’s creations in your work. Just make it worthwhile.
Creating is one of the few spots where it’s kinda okay to steal. But stealing is only really allowed if you do something a little different with it. There is so many amazing fictional worlds already created that taking concepts from them is almost unavoidable in some circumstances. If you find yourself “borrowing concepts”, take it to the brainstorm sheet to try to find a way to add something fresh to it. Sometimes you just can’t, it happens. Other times you’re going to be making a world that is bringing something new to a medium that has already seen a few renditions of a particular concept. It’ll help your world stand out in a way.
Speaking of standing out, let’s talk familiar concepts that readers and consumers are already aware of. These familiar concepts (light speed travel, black holes, warp drives,etc. As you can tell I usually write sci-fi) allow a bridging point to a brand new concept your world may be introducing. One of my favourites, in terms of space travel, comes from the Expanse book series. They have the typical space travel that allows them to travel large distances quite quickly (no light speed travel yet), but they tweaked it by taking a more realistic approach and taking into account the effect of gravity while traveling. The faster their spaceship travels, the more gravitational force is being exerted on the crew, sometimes risking their own health to quickly get to a location. It’s one of the only sci-fi books that I’ve read that has done this concept, and it is something that I find separates the series from the others I’ve read. A simple concept, yet extremely effective in establishing how their world works.
So that’s it. My 4 tips for world building. They are fairly general, but I do find myself referring to them time and time again when creating stories.
Hope you’ve enjoyed the read.
Until next time.
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