Some Issues with World Building

To see a World in a Grain of Sand and Heaven in a Wild Flower

                                                                         —– William Blake

World Building

The term came into use initially for Science Fiction, but it is crucial to Historical Fiction, Steampunk, Westerns, any fiction that requires the reader to travel to a setting other than their own.

Issue #1 – Rules

The writer, regardless of the type of world she creates, MUST follow the rules of that world. The rules must be logical and make sense to that world (not reality).

Look at the examples in Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, and I have not yet read it, but according to the analysis by Larry Brooks on, Hunger Games does an excellent job of this too.

I don’t attend Hogwarts, and I’m not a vampire. But, I have no problem suspending my disbelief while reading about Harry Potter or the Vampire Lestat because Rowling and Rice do an amazing job of creating worlds that operate logically – that is, their worlds follow rules.

Issue #2 – Sensory Details

This goes back (always!) to show rather than tell in your writing. You’ve created a world. There are rules in your world that the characters must follow. Now, make me feel the atmosphere, see the sights, smell the odors and aromas, taste the food. Put me in the world you’ve created, but use your craft to do it. Don’t just catalogue the information.

Issue #3 –  Combine Unique and Ordinary

Make your world real by combining the unique and unusual with ordinary and common. Created something specific to your world? Show us how the characters use it in their everyday experiences. Have an object that isn’t around anymore (historical fiction)? Show it being used.


What have been some challenges you’ve experienced in your world building? As a reader, what have been issues you’ve had with suspended disbelief?

photo credit: Express Monorail via photo pin cc

About melindamcguirewrites

The young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. ------ William Faulkner, Nobel Prize Speech, Stockholm, 1950
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12 Responses to Some Issues with World Building

  1. DM Yates says:

    Excellent points. And you’re right. We need to follow these rules. Sometimes I think those that don’t aren’t really meant to be authors. They just want to get a book out and be done with it.

    • Donna,
      I’m not usually a stickler for rules, but my main complaint is when a writer jerks the inside of my head around and takes me out of the novel and leaves me shaking my head thinking “what happened?”

  2. sallykwitt says:

    It just tickles my imagination to read this post. I don’t have the patience to do all the work, but I love to play!

  3. I take the lazy way out and write about this world. I’m a stickler for consistency, though.

  4. All so true, Melinda.

    My first completed novel is the story of a high fantasy realm that is connected to the modern world. This place includes some magical elements, as well as a race of beings that required their own language. It took me over nine months to get the first draft down because of all the world building involved. But I have to say, I loved every minute of it!

    Nice post!

    • Laura,
      What’s the name of your novel? Nine months on world building… looking forward to hearing more about it!

      • My first novel, “Heart of the Jagdiip” is the first of what will be 5 books all under the title “The Legends of Ragnol.” My plan is to publish it in 2 or 3 years.

        “The Enduring” is what I want to put out first, followed by the rest of that trilogy. HotJ is going through a major rewrite (not surprising since it was my first!) and hopefully the changes will bring it up to where I want it to be.

        • How did you come up with the names? The Legends of Ragnol will be a five book series with three of the books being a trilogy (one The Enduring?) Or do you have two different series? It sounds like you are going to be a prolific writer!

        • My novels are from two different series. Before I considered self publishing, I started a second series. My thinking at the time was, “Why write a sequel for something I might not sell?” Now, the idea of self-pubbing changed all that. I’m going to get them both out there eventually, sequels and all!

          Are you talking about the titles? In HotJ, the Jagdiip is a name for the leader of one of the nations in the story. This leader’s power is in three parts, so three novels are similar in name. The final two books are prequel/sequels that will reveal more of the world’s history. Those titles come from the past events they focus on. I named the series after the place that is the magical core of that world. “Legends of Ragnol”

          The Enduring is the name of the creature in my other series. I am considering the idea of giving it a different main title, and using TE as a trilogy title only.

          Prolific? Thanks! But I’ll feel a lot better when I finally start get SOMETHING in print! I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

        • Excellent!
          Yes, self-publishing is a game changer 🙂
          And, please do keep me posted on your publishing/writing.

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