Advanced World Building Tips

world-building-101If you’re anything like me, then you’ll know that the closer you get to a story the harder it is to objectively question it. You’ve spent so much time there and it works so well in your brain that it’s hard to take that mental step back and look for problems.

I’ve already talked about the importance of stress testing a world (see my first article on world building) but we haven’t covered the best ways to start questioning your world and finding the breaking points.

Here are the three most useful techniques I’ve discovered to jump start my brain into thinking differently about my worlds.


Think about your world when you read:

  1. Work at your world with a different medium
  2. Ask your friends about your world

The first technique is simply remembering to think about your story when you’re reading other material. Just remember the fact that anything you read could potentially have a parallel in the world you’re creating. At the end of each article you read or headline you see on Facebook ask yourself the question, “Does this apply to my world?”

It only takes a second to follow whatever you’re reading into your story. Does it exist in your world? If it does could it impact your story as well? Is it something commonplace that you’ve just completely overlooked? Anything from natural disasters to fashion shows could get you thinking in new ways about your story and all you need to do is pay a little extra attention when you’re reading.

I’ll illustrate the second technique with an example out of my own life. I discovered several years ago that my fingers are better at imagination than my brain is.

I’ve always been a visual person and it’s been quite hard for me to picture the things I was writing about. Unless I focused with all the concentration I could muster, any scene was nothing more than important plot elements floating in a shapeless void.

Then one day I decided to draw one of my scenes. My pencil ran wild for a few minutes and I was astonished with the result. There was my world! My world drawn in frightening detail! My world full of things I’d never even imagined!

The point is, sometimes your story can really benefit when you stop writing it. This seems weird, but creating your world with a different medium is going to trigger different parts of your brain. Think about new ways you can approach world building. Drawing works for me, but what if you tried singing your world into life? Create music or songs about your world or even from your world! What about dancing? What about sculpting? Cooking? Experiment and see what happens when you approach your world from new directions.

I saved the scariest technique for last. Any time you show other people your story they will have questions about your world. If you’re comfortable sharing your writing this is probably the most effective way of finding problems with your world.

It’s extremely helpful to have people read story. Ask them to read with a critical eye, looking for anything that seems strange to them. I promise they will come up with questions for you. Even if you’re not comfortable sharing your book with other people, write some descriptive paragraphs and share those!

Ultimately it all comes down to being willing to ask questions. Never let yourself slip into the comfort zone of thinking your world is bullet proof. There’s always room to explore and discover new and exciting aspects of your world. Who’s ready for some exploring?




Wesley signing off.



photo credit: Joanne Wadsworth and Ellen V Gregory

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