World-building is an inherent part of fantasy and science fiction. Any writer in these genres world-builds, whether they do it consciously or not, whether they sit down and devote hours to it or whether they build on-the-fly as they write. However, any genre, any writing, any fiction, requires some degree of world-building. Even the most reality-based short story needs it – even if the world a writer uses is the one all around them, they still have to decide how much is relevant. Do their readers care who is in government? What the news of the day is? What song is at number one in the charts? Which of these are essential to the story, which provide intriguing background detail, and which are completely irrelevant? All of this is world-building – creating the right world in which to present the story being told. Without world-building, a writer has no context in which to place their story, no framework within which their characters can operate.
So, even the most true-to-life writer is not exempt from world-building at some level. Me, I’ve always loved it. Even without a story to tell, I’m liable to draw little maps, figure out gender roles within society, wonder about religion and its impact on family life. It does help that Himself feeds my addiction to it somewhat; we have been known to spend hours debating the merits or otherwise of the worlds in books we both read.
Over the next few months, I’m going to tackle world-building one aspect at a time. I hope you’ll pop back and have a look, or subscribe to be kept up-to-date with new posts.
Next up in world building – Mapping – Estimating the scale of the problem.