How to Build a World, Part Two

In last week’s post, I discussed some world-building basics for science fiction and fantasy writers. How to Build a World, Part One

These included tips about rules and consistency in the use of technology or magic, physical geography and climate, and the social, economic, and religious constructs in your world. But great world-building alone does not make a great story.

Here are some things to consider for your fantasy/ sci-fi backdrop for your story.

Don’t give out too much information all at once

Once we’ve created our world and thought through the details, we’re excited. We want to share it with readers and give them a vivid, complete picture. But don’t spend all your time describing your world to readers. Instead, reveal it to them through your characters’ adventures, challenges, and conflicts.

Characters Point of View

The world you’ve created serves your story, not the other way around. Your characters move through the world and are impacted by it, but their story should be the driving force.


Don’t oversimplify or stereotype. Absolutes rarely exist and history is often told through the eyes of the victor. Differing values, opinions, and world views exist within the same country in our world. Why would it be any different on another? And, it’s these very differences that we writers can explore through our storytelling.

Rules and Magic

It’s tempting to use magic or futuristic technology to get your characters out of a bind, but it’s important to think of these things as tools wielded by the characters, with limits and rules, not as contrived solutions out of a difficult situation. If the magic or technology is so all powerful that it can easily rescue your characters, the story becomes more about the cool stuff and less about the characters. The stakes might not seem high enough and any potential victory for your characters will ring hollow. Even if the story is a quest to find the magic sword, which is the only thing that can kill the dragon plundering the land, it’s the difficulty of the task, or the sacrifices the main character must make along the way, that creates tension and invests the reader in the tale.

Your novel cannot stand on world-building alone! A rich, well-thought out backdrop is important, but even more important is the story unfolding within.

Next week how to build a world ideas on landscape, climare and seasons; and language and culture.

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6 thoughts on “How to Build a World, Part Two

  1. Good points. To follow on your point of not giving too much info too fast, also you need to figure out what details are necessary for the narrative and which are not. In my experience, fantasy authors typically give too much information period. It’s understandable, I mean we love the worlds we make and want to share them, but I don’t need to know the complex biology of a species of giant spiders that will only appear in a single scene of the whole novel. Readers understand giant spiders, they are for heroes to fight, they are dangerous, ’nuff said. Regardless of how fun they might be, if the details are not needed to understand the current story, leave them out and focus on the action. Certainly do not drop an unnecessary infodump in the middle of an action scene!

    • Thank you.
      I agree. I have read a few scenes that pull me out of the book because it has too much unnecessary information, ‘info dumping’. As a writer, I know it’s fun to write the backstory and think it’s “cool” but like you said, and I have to remind myself, to stay focused on the action. 😃