Build Vibrant Worlds to Create Stronger Characters

Creating your world is beyond setting.

It includes magic systems, societal standards, infrastructure, common hazards, and many other aspects that we sometimes forget. The Setting is often the first place writers turn to, but some beginning and intermediate writers focus on the surface level details. One reason I pulled Extoria off the shelf was because of my own lacking knowledge of Extoriana. I didn’t include Tartarean Creatures, vegetation, how the Extorians ate, what they ate, or their true governing system. Why do you care about these details? Because they will reinforce why you’ve chosen to place your story in that place and time. While the setting may not directly play a part in your story, it doesn’t mean it has no effect on your character’s actions. So, how can you create a world that supports your story?

Setting should help and hinder your protagonist.

Think of how a path up a mountain offers a guide for the hiker, but it doesn’t rid the challenge of climbing a mountain. So after you create your settings, then look into how it can hinder/help your character. Are you writing a Sci-fi novel where technology connects everyone and everything? What happens when system controlling the city crashes, or turns against your protagonist? Does traffic occur in the sky as in Total Recall or on the ground, like in our own world? How does that impact what your character is trying to accomplish?

Use the world to reflect inner turmoil of the protagonist.

In West Side Story, Tony struggles with his past much as the city he lives in fights with racism. The city reflects a hatred of the other, but also the hope of connecting with the new world. Are there issues between species in your story? Or is part of a group, city, nation, or world dying while the other part thrives? Maybe you have new creatures or plants appearing in foreign lands. Whatever it is, if you can create a reflection between world and character, then you’ll find power in your prose.

This is only a first in a series of posts on world building. Keep your eyes out for more in the coming weeks.

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