From magical wardrobes, to the creation of Expecto Patronum, world building in its history has many spectrums and studies that go into the creation and maintaining of worlds. Whether it be the history of the land, the magical
practices and their laws, to the physical world of flora, fauna and mapping – world
building is intricate and every story has it, real world or not. But to create a world
is complicated. Think, would you ask a first-year medical student, who has a basic idea of medicine, to treat a real patient? No. It takes time, learning, background study, and practice.
Same can be said for worldbuilding – especially when it comes to creating, and then maintaining your world. As such, there are three things I find to help when beginning, and that is
creating the of the world.
The reason these are important are because they help shape your world, but before you even begin with this, you must decide what kind of World this falls in, and this is where our fantasy lord Tolkien enters. Now Tolkien coined the terms Secondary and Primary World to explain that there are two forms a world could take. The Primary World, which is our own, is a world we can recognise, and The Secondary World, is a world separate and unrecognisable from ours. It is depending on which world you decide on that the elements of History, World Order, and Immersion come into play.
Let’s start with Immersion because, if your audience isn’t engaged, they won’t invest
in your world. Take Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, this is a brilliant
example of The Secondary World. However, what was interesting with Pullman’s Northern
Lights World was how similar, in a way, it was to ours. This is where the use of immersion comes into play, and boy does Pullman know how to use it to his worldbuilding advantage. His Dark Materials takes place across many different universes, but predominately in
Lyra’s, our protagonist, universe The Northern Lights which, as Pullman describes: By having his universe be similar, but with
elements that show its differences – such as Daemons – we as an audience can identify what we are familiar with, like the city of Oxford, but recognise the perceivable differences between this world and ours, and find intrigue in it. This is a technique with world building that helps a reader immerse themselves in the world and its lore. By playing off of
familiarity and then twisting it to suit this new world, it can help the reader understand and engage with this world more easily, as long as the differences introduced are themselves uncomplicated. In the case of Pullman, it was a sense of place that kept the audience engaged. Seeing a world similar but different in location and space was an interesting inclusion, which is explored in The Subtle Knife as Lyra compares her world to ours. If you are wanting to find a way to build on your use of immersion, depending on the genre, this technique of
using familiarity, or even a general sense of place, gives an idea as to where you could start. Like History. The history of your world can be used to many different advantages, and ties into our use of immersion. World history is your plot maker, your character builder,
and your world creator, so making your history realistic and work for the story is one of
the most difficult jobs a writer has. So, let’s break it down a little.
The first thing is deciding the importance of your history, is it just for your own benefit of writing, is it integral to the plot and its conflict, or does the history have an
importance for the character(s)? The decision here is what dictates your moving forward
in writing. Take Book 2 of Legend of Korra for example, and the introduction of the lore of the first Avatar, Wan, and Raava, the spirit of peace and light. This history introduced
a new lore into the Avatar world, but this history, most importantly, changed and defined our lead character Korra. Korra was not the most spiritual and, when the world was threatened by harmonic convergence and restless spirits, it was by understanding Wan’s beginning,
Raava’s influence, and the importance of the Avatar’s connection to the spirits that
led to Korra’s decision to keep the portals open and, when her connection was severed, her bond with Raava gave her the strength to fight on. The story of Avatar Wan and Raava was important for Korra’s development, Book 2’s plot, and the impact for later seasons
(like the episode Korra Alone). This history was important, as most histories are.
Whether it be a war in the past that created the conflict, a historical narrative of prejudice that leads to the characters struggle, or your world history just being there to help
you understand the world itself. Whatever the case, knowing your worlds history is a
benefit to you and to your audience, it’s what you do with the world that makes the difference. Which is where World Order comes in, also known as World Law. This is something I find is not often considered when looking at world building, except in certain types of tales.
Religion, philosophy, politics, class, ethnicity, sexuality. Each one of these things should
have an impact on your world, because each aspect is important to make the world feel real. For example, if you say there is no class system, and everyone is equal – then what is your conflict? Each of these has a level of importance, but deciding which has a more intense focus is key. Let’s look at Mallory Blackman’s series,
Noughts and Crosses. N+C’s main conflict is that of racial identity and the prejudice
against certain ethnicities, but with a twist as, in Blackman’s tale – the noughts are
white and are lesser than the crosses who are black and on top. This alternate history and world, similar to our own but different, uses ethnicity as a focal point, and from
there the elements of politics, class systems, and so forth are based on this. Noughts are lower class, with little work opportunities, and little say in laws. Whereas the Crosses have political, class, and educational superiority as they are the head of the hierarchy. This
world’s order was clear to its audience, and each element was distinguishable – half due to its connection to our world and its history but also due to its roots in the story world and its customs, both together making Blackman’s tale realistic. Each of these elements of world building help you to create and maintain your world individually, but as a collective, they complement one another. Immersion is important to engage your audience, the implementing and understanding of history adds to the immersive experience and can guide you the writer in a direction, and finally
the nitty gritty world order gives a sense of realism to the world and its story, which leads to an immersive experience. These three elements go full circle. When building your world and developing your story, be sure to keep this in mind. If you want to look further into these elements to improve your ability to create and maintain worlds, I will have linked exercises and exploration videos on each subject. For example, Tim Hickson’s On Writing Fictional Histories video that explores types of historical delivery. As
well as, Writing Excuses podcast episode Cultural Setting as Conflict and Political Intrigue.
To note I have now set up a Google Drive so everyone can access a range of exercises at any time. I would also recommend expanding your fantasy world reading and watching, best way to learn is through examples. All of this and more is linked in the description box.
In general, I want to thank you guys so much for watching this video and I hope it helps
with your initial world building development. If you go to the description box you’ll
find all the information for this video like the craft texts I used, as well as the links
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you want to check out my previous A Study of Writing videos, the playlist will be popping up now, and something else for you beautiful people will be popping up too. Again, thank you so much for watching, and I will see you guys, next time.