When you say “world building,” many people assume you are talking about fantasy. The truth is that you have to world build any time you are taking readers into a specific world with which they are unfamiliar.
Yes, Rowling had to world build in Harry Potter. But Milne also carefully constructed the 100 Acre Wood. Whether you are writing a mystery in which the setting is key or a gothic story with a dark, moody setting that impacts the story, you too will have to world build. Here are 5 things to keep in mind.
1. Know your setting before you write about it. You need to have the details in place before you start writing. Some writers create maps. Others pin images on Pinterest. Still others print things off and make a scrap book. Do whatever works for you but know your setting ahead of time.
2. Pick and choose. Especially when you’ve created a complex and wonderful world, you’re going to want to share it with your readers. The key will be feeding them the information a little at a time so as not to overwhelm. This means that you will have to pick and choose the details you want to reveal first. To know what to reveal when…
3. Consider your scene. As you take your reader into the setting for the first time, what is the most important thing to reveal? A lot of this will depend on your scene. If you want to create an air of mystery, you will reveal something strange or curious. If you want to an air of forboding, you will reveal something creepy or ominous. What detail from your setting will best convey this? Once you know you are ready to …
4. Create your tone. You know what you want to get across and what details you have chosen to do it. Now carefully choose the words that will do this. Branches can be spidery or grasping. The scene of flowers can be fresh or cloying. It all depends on what you want to convey.
5. Consider your character. Now that you know what you want to do and how you can do it, consider your character. These have to be details that your point of view character would note. Does it still work, if not, you have some fine tuning to do.
It sounds like a lot of work but if you do it right, you will create a rich, vibrant story world that pulls your readers in and drives your story forward.