Introduction to Worldbuilding (How to Worldbuild for Your Novel)



hi everyone Alexa done here and today I am going to be doing an introduction to world building now this is going to be super duper top line there's so much to talk about with world building and I adore world building I love world building so much but if I sat here and like told you everything about world building I think this video would be a couple hours long there's a lot of subtopics within the topic of world building so this is an introduction in the sense that I'm going to tell you what world building is and some of the things that you will need to consider when you're approaching world building across multiple sub genres now this topic was requested on Twitter I put out a call for writing and craft based topics that people were interested in hearing about and it is not too late drop requests down in the comments I am still building a set list of sorts for videos to film but world building was requested by people on Twitter and I thought that would be a great topic to start with so first of all world building is more than just setting I think very often people think Oh world building or the world it's the world and where things are set yes but it is so much more than that world building is a sense of place it includes systems of order which can include politics religion class gender your world build provides the backbone to your story logic and the conflict with your characters and plot it is everything surrounding your characters and plot that kind of works in concert with those other elements of story to create a whole and well real world not always real obviously we're gonna talk about fantasy sci-fi but it is d all of the work that you do that you put in makes your story feel full and complete and lived in that's a great way to put it it's how you make your Road feel lived in now there are many places to start with world building you could go oh wouldn't it be cool if and that kind of speculative idea is what sparks a world for you so wouldn't it be cool if there was oh if time travel was real and there was a sinister agency that controlled time travel and time in history whoo yeah that's one way you can also start with characters sometimes you have a character in mind and you have to work backwards from that character and build a world around them where would this character live would they fit into the world would they feel other in the world which is a really common tactic in fiction you have a character who feels like an outsider and you use that to create conflict you think about the characters background and how does their background play into the rest of the broader world you can also start it's kind of around me wouldn't it be cool if idea that you know that you want to write a story where X needs to happen so what is the world where that needs to happen like think about divergent let's say Veronica Roth had started with the factions idea well what is a world where you would need to sort people into factions extrapolate from there you could also think about the themes of your story and the arc of the main character that you want to get across that's kind of like starting with character and from there you would build out well what is the world that would best serve story you know that could be you know within a contemporary setting well would it be setting in high school or would it be setting it over the summer in a summer activity or in fantasy you know are you going to go urban fantasies historical fantasy high fantasy there are so many choices that you end up having to make with your world built to augment and buttress up your characters and your character arcs now I'd like to run through things that you should think about for world building depending on the genre that you are approaching this is by no means an exhaustive list these are kind of the things I came up with off the top of my I made a list so I'm going to be reading off a piece of paper because there's no way I would remember all of these things you know on the day in the moment things that you might consider that you might not have thought of when you are looking at these genres as always my area of expertise in the genre that I write is young adult fiction so most of my examples are when to skew in that direction particularly for contemporary which is where I'm going to start so for contemporary you want to think about things like I mention are you gonna set it in high school or does it take place over the summer or over spring break winter break where is the mean actually when happened because if you choose high school there's a lot of world-building mechanics that you that have to consider such as you've got a character who is stuck in their building from 8 to 3 p.m. every single day surrounded by people they probably don't like in a place where they don't feel that they fit in you know you're gonna have to think about homework and extracurriculars so many variables you're also going to have to think about parents this is gonna come up in a lot of genres but specifically contemporary or realistic fiction where are their parents are they strict parents are they leaning at parents are they dead parents which will mostly come up and vanish the in sci-fi what a popular trope kill the parents because that way the adventures can happen you're going to have to think about real world hobbies interests and talents that your character might have I know what you're saying well this sounds like character development as I mentioned character and world building go hand in hand you really can't develop one without developing the other they are twins or a met insert your own metaphor I'm terrible at this so you have to think about like what extracurriculars are they involved in are they a swimmer and artist are they obsessed with movies what are their pop culture touch-tones you're also going to think about clothing what do they wear and what does that say about them as a character in a contemporary setting it's gonna things like you know do they hack around in hoodies and sneakers or you know do they get dressed to the nines every day and what what how do those things reflect on them as a character how do they fill up their time or put them into conflict with other people you're going to have to think about demographics so in realistic fiction you're obviously going to set it somewhere is it going to be small-town USA the big city a foreign country have you been there and what are the realistic demographics of the place that you were describing it could be you know as simple as well my character goes to an all-girls high school so I need to world built someone who goes to an all-girls high school what is an all-girls high school like but it's also I feel that it is important for an author to really reflect realistic demographics a story full of white straight stiff able-bodied people is really boring and especially if you are studying a story the United States that's gonna just be incredibly unrealistic about 95% of the time even in small towns you're going to find diverse populations and just people from lots of different backgrounds and I am kind of a nerd so I work in international marketing so I actually work with diverse demographic populations across the United States and I look at census data all the time so when I am world-building if I'm approaching something that has a realistic basis I look up census data for the place where I am setting my story and I have the demographics realistic reflect that just something you might want to think about you're gonna want to think about class this is something that a lot of people don't think about in class really does impact world building and character what are the class delineations and lines in the setting that you have is your main character part of the upper class the middle class the lower class how are they in conflict with things in their environment or the main plot of your book or other characters based on class that will come up in multiple genres by the way not just contemporary but the way that you manifest class in fantasy and sci-fi is probably going to be a little bit different you're also gonna want to think about technology so it's set now well what technology are you going to have how heavily are you going to lean on it pop culture's the same way by the way you don't want to necessarily date your stories so you have to be careful with things like social media or describing in detail the phone that someone is using like think about all of those you know books written in the mid us that have that flip phone or mention a razor phone how delightfully out-of-date they are you want to think about how your character use the technology and how that relates to their class very often someone who is from a lower-class background isn't necessarily going to have the hottest new iPhone they might be out of pay-as-you-go cell phone plans that have a monthly it may restrict their ability to text like you got to think about all of these things the next category genre is almost our time but not quite so this is when you're gonna be looking at urban fantasy contemporary fantasy near future sci-fi alt history and dystopian you're going to have to think about what it is that makes whatever this world setting is that extra from our world and how that impacts your world building you're gonna have to extrapolate from that extra to figure out how does this impact politics religion class race a lot of the other things I just mentioned for contemporary world building some examples of things that might make your world extra would be magic the supernatural like a crazy made-up new technology changes in how politics or the law work and you're always going to have to ask yourself why your world is this extra and how that thing came to be and an answering that questions you're going to get some quality world building done you should always know the answers to these questions even if they do not end up on the page because my number one pet peeve is when story logic doesn't hold up and story logic ties into world building next is fantasy and science fiction world building as I mentioned you're gonna have to consider some of the stuff that I've already mentioned including demographics clothing fashion is there's so many ways that you can play with fashion and clothing and fantasy and sci-fi that can and definitely impact your narrative you want to think about where they get materials or what they've been inspired by my favorite thing is to pin a bunch of historical fashion and then Syfy a fight for the future it's fun other things that you're definitely gonna want to think about well literally where you're going to set it with fantasy and sci-fi you have a lot more options like sci-fi okay could be spacefill why are they in space what are the spaceships like is it space fantasy for fantasy is it set in a second world like a world that is not our own and what does that world look like what is the geography like in the places that you were writing you know is it cold is it hot are there mountains do you have to sail places technology of course will tie into this all world building elements tie into each other ultimately you know there are are there no automobiles and thus that takes three days to get to the capital city from the country I don't know you want to think about all of these variables when you were doing this kind of world building some come up for contemporary too by the way come to think of it does your character have a driver's license do they live in the country is it a two-hour drive to the nearest major city and how does that impact their lives you always want to think about these things other things you want to think about architecture history and cultural influences so this is gonna come up a lot in sci-fi and especially fantasy and when it comes to historical inspiration or cultural influences don't appropriate guys don't appropriate culture that is also like something that I could probably talk about for two hours and and at the same time I would ask myself am I the right person that tell you about cultural appropriation other than saying don't do it guys don't be tacky don't be tacky um think about your inspirations when it comes to fantasy and sci-fi world building you're going to be making choices and you want to think about why you are making those choices is everything Western inspired because that's most comfortable to you is that going to be original enough but on the flip side are you going to do asian-inspired because it's exotic and cooler you like anime and is that most likely a terrible idea etc so on and so forth that is a sticky area but it is definitely something that you're going to end up considering next is language do they speak our languages are you going to make up a language has language evolved cool things to think about though I would say don't get bogged down in this like you don't need to admit your own language it's not a requirement that's just time that you would take procrastinating in that writing so don't do too much brainstorming guys which is honestly one of my biggest points do not get too lost in world building and brainstorming if you're good at it or you really enjoy doing it you could literally do it forever and never write your book so it's always gonna be a balance to figuring out kind of the main mechanics that you need to start writing I'll tell you that personally I have to think about social order I always think about politics and civil rights and gender and class and how those things work in a world but I tend not to do I'll do some backstory building like history essentially creating history for a place but I don't do go too deep because I figure things out while I write and I can honestly won't build forever in a lot of cases so a certain point you just have to write other key things to consider your world should serve your character and not vice versa you don't want to spend so much time on world building that your characters are an afterthought you're gonna end up with an uneven bombastic piece of fiction that isn't going to be interesting because your character isn't a real person it's basically world building porn for 300 pages don't write that book or God if it's more than 300 pages definitely don't write that book you always want to serve your character first and foremost and of course your plot and your conflict and your stakes as I mentioned you always need to keep story logic in mind logic in general logic is your friend your world should be logical please I beg you I have read some especially sci-fi I'm like that doesn't make any sense dystopia – dystopia from this majorly you will get your readers to suspend their disbelief to a certain degree but world should have internal logic even if you've made everything up story logic guys and don't forget how those elements do all connect to each other how the geography and the technology in the class and etc intersect with each other and impact each other you need to think about the implications of every single aspect of your world belt and this all ties to logic and last but certainly not least I want to say beware of info-dump thing it's kind of that characters you know world building to serve the characters not the other way around problem don't do all of this amazing world building and then dump it onto the page that's not interesting follow the iceberg theory so the reader should see the tip of the iceberg you as the writer should know that there's a lot more iceberg under the surface of the water should be in here and all of that world building that you've done will inform the writing you'll work in context clues and kind of tone and atmosphere and flavor to make the world feel big and whole without dumping all of that information on the page so that is my introduction to world building some things that you want to consider I hope I've you know sparked some ideas given you something to think about maybe mention elements of world building that hadn't occurred to you before please drop any questions that you have down below in the comments including and especially anything else from this video that you would like to see a more in-depth talk about I am happy to talk about contemporary world building science fiction and fantasy research anything goes if you like this video and videos like it give it a thumbs up and I'll be sure to make more crafts and writing videos I now have a running list of topics thanks to Twitter and as I mentioned drop any other topic requests down below in the comments if you enjoyed this please subscribe I would really appreciate it thank you so much for watching and as always happy writing everyone

30 thoughts on “Introduction to Worldbuilding (How to Worldbuild for Your Novel)

  1. I would love to see a continuation of this topic that could go into the more specific parts of world building you briefly hinted to at the beginning of the video. 🙂

  2. "Kill the parents!" Lol. Am I writing the only fantasy novel in history where the MC has two living, loving (adoptive) parents who stay alive through to the end of the story?

  3. Here's a rule I think a lot of fantasy writers should follow: Don't just rip-off JRR Tolkien.

  4. I know majority of your audience might be nose in books type of people but a lot of Animes have great, fresh and quirky world-building, that sometimes I wish I thought of.

  5. To anyone who’s worried about what “Cultural Appropriation” actually means and what qualifies, for an in depth discussion I recommend the video “Pocahontas was a Mistake and Here’s Why” by Lindsay Ellis.

    Ellis is an educated, well-researched and highly respected creator, and she goes in depth about the politics and grey areas around the historical and current conceptions and standards of what is and isn’t considered cultural appropriation.

  6. As I recall, in the Twilight books, Alice's ability to see in the heads of others kept changing rules.

  7. My world is set in the near future. Approximately 10 years. I am having trouble getting the technology and charachters to work together right. Any suggestions?

  8. a story full of white, straight, cis, able body people is…. really boring. xD I love you!!!!!

  9. I see Frostblood in the background. I remember HATING that book (mainly because of the horrible love story).

  10. For me personally I always think of a character first and there basic personality. Then I quickly figure out how the world works.

  11. As much as i like your videos, i've put a thumb down because of the cultural appropriation thing.

    I agree that copy/pasting an already existing culture in a fictional world without any change and any expalanation to why this particular culture fit in this particular world is bad…

    But !

    As long as the writter does appropriate researches on said culture and insert it in the world he/she built in a logical way that offer an interisting setting i don't see the problem. Besides, saying "do not replicate this because you think it looks cool is a bad idea"… Well, isn't that the point of writting ? Making things we love ? Don't get me wrong, i can't stand lazy copy of already existing cultures but if we are going down the road of appropriation… Well, you can't always create a civilization out of thin air, you have to take your inspiration somewhere and i don't see anything wrong in replicating the asian architecture (for example) in a fictionnal world as long as it fits nicely.

    Anyway, i don't think cultural appropriation is a thing and i hope you will understand my point and keep up the good content.

    Have a good day !

    Sorry if i made some mistakes, english is not my native language.

  12. I have followed you now for a year and absolutely love your videos. They are so informative and cover so many topics that other authortubers just don't. I especially liked all of your videos on the publishing community because I did not know a lot of that stuff, like the money aspect of things. I want to thank you for working so hard to put out original and helpful content. You aren't just trying to entertain, but really offering help to those of us who need a little more in our videos.

  13. "Insert your own metaphor. I'm terrible at this." 🤣

    Your are fabulous and I love your videos!

  14. Could you do more on historical fiction and like how accurate it should be/how much research someone should do?

  15. LOL "It's basically worldbuilding porn for 300 pages." I really did laugh out loud and had to rewatch this portion 5+ times.

  16. I have a scene that well, is an info dump but later I show that what the characters did was a standard procedure so didn't have to dump again. Also, I wanted to show what status of the spaceship was to show or maybe tell that it was not in good shape. I was hoping to show what the status of the ship, hint that it has gone through something, and to show the SOP of the ship. As well as expose that diversity of the world I created. But someone said it was an info dump and didn't like it. But how do I show and tell information that is vital without info dumping? Also I have a diverse speciese and subspecies I wanted to show but someone said it sounded like Star Trek. How do you create a world where someone doesn't compare it to another?

  17. @15:00, excellent point, ones character doesn't want to deal with the problems and they must be true to their consistent behavior and thought processes. Scriptwriting has the same rule. A lot of books and movies fail because the character flip-flops at certain points. Now if you'll excuse me, me an Irish German is going to slip on my kimono and have some fried chicken.

  18. Cultural apprporiation doesn't exist. In regards to sci-fi, and fantasy it can be fun to explain the reasons for a culture. The culture serves the individual and the group. The individual and groups doesn't serve the culture.

  19. @7:30, yeah, that's one reason I don't read fiction from developing countries. When all the characters are all Black CIS Females, etc its boring. Sadly many of those countries need a lot more diversity!

  20. I'm trying to create a world for my YA novel, and while I want some dystopian elements I want to avoid tropisms like love triangles, the female protagonist having things come to easy, etc. While i want my characters to succeed I want them to go through a lot of suffering to get there. The world does contain magic, and does play on Sumerian mythology. Also, how much history of the world needs to be included in the novel? In mine there is a major theme of racism, and religious indoctrination.

  21. Could you go more into cultural appropriation? I am American, but I like fantasy and in my different worlds/stories I’ve taken bits and pieces from cultures I’ve read about (and then mixed it in with stuff I’ve made up), and idk if that’s appropriation? I’m catholic, we don’t really cremate much, but I’d like to have a world in which cremation is the proper thing to do (like how some indigenous northern Russian groups do); we also only believe in one soul but I’ve read about different groups and societies and cultures in which there is a belief in multiple souls, which again, I really like the idea and would like to use that concept in developing my imaginary world. Where is the line I guess? Is what I’m doing wrong? I also really liked this healing ritual from a hunting/gathering tribe, but is mixing it all together wrong? Is taking these bits and pieces and adding some of my own stuff (I like the Catholic idea of the fall of Lucifer and Jesus coming down to earth as a human and sacrificing himself for humanity so I would incorporate some of that) and making a new made-up culture out of it wrong/disrespectful?

  22. Please please one day can you do a video about cultural appropriation and diversity 🙂 I am always super nervous some of my stories sound like I am appropriating just because I was inspired by another culture.

  23. When I start maing a character in my head, I play a never have I ever video and let the character answer it, like fill it in with what my character would do. I find it really helpful to know what kind of experiences did your character go through and what they didn't, but they want to. It also sparks ideas I didn't have in mind and generates sub-conflicts and backstories.

  24. lol at "you don't need to invent your own language""

    I have a degree in linguistics and have like 15 languages
    the languages came before my story
    I highly encourage everyone to try it

    Also Conlangery is an incredible podcast resource for that

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