I’m writing a book about worldbuilding. It’s not the only thing I’m working on, but it’s the one I want to talk about today.

So, here are my three top tips for building your own world:

  1. Show us what the world looks/smells/sounds/feels like.
  2. Make sure you know how this world works.
  3. Make sure you know why things are happening (Why not ten years ago? Why not in the next town over?).

Showing us your world is kind of an obvious step in any story. Whether it’s a fictitious setting or a real one, the very least you want to do is make the reader feel like they’re there. Without a sense of place, it can be hard to connect with a story. Even a story that paints a bleak and isolating setting can be easier to identify with than one that paints nothing at all.

Knowing how the world works is useful for consistency. If you don’t understand the rules of your own world, you won’t know when you’re breaking them. And if you do, you can count on some smart-arse reader like me to pick up on it and stop believing in your world. Of course, you don’t have to write a multi-volume treatise on the government and society of your world. Just a few basic rules is enough.

Most important is the why. Why has this war broken out now? Why is the revolution happening in that country? Why isn’t it happening somewhere else at another time? I think this is the most critical part of building a convincing world. Always ask why events are happening and why your characters believe the things they do or why they behave in a certain way.  It’s also a good way to avoid plot holes, but that’s another matter.