One of the biggest issues for me as an amateur writer was creating a world that seemed real and possible. Not just possible, but probable! I wanted to know how to create a world- and an easy step by step guide to making it realistic.
Now, you have probably come here hoping that I will provide that step-by-step guide, an easy affirmation, a stupendous instruction manual. You have been looking for the easy way to make it and haven’t been able to find it. Let me tell you why.
There is no easy way to create your universe, whether that be post-apocalyptic or a whole new world altogether. It’s that simple. Creating the world that your characters will live in, be in, and breathe in might just be the hardest -but most important- thing to figure out. You need a world that seems real, imperfect and beautiful.
I was forced to struggle on my own, hoping to find the easy guide to forming the world. Anything I ever came up with was shallow and was so thin I could see the light of reality on the other side. No matter how much I tried, nothing was working.
And then I learned something very important. In order to create the world my characters lived in, I first had to create the universe. It’s simple, really.
If there is to be the brain, first there has to be the body. The case- the protection. I cannot have one area of my world figured out without knowing the rest.
For example, if my characters live in China, I need to remember what is going on in South Africa. I need to know the whole story. My readers do not, but I do. Because what I know about the world that my characters live in will impact how they react, how they live, and how the enthusiasm of a world that I know is poured into my writing.
It’s easiest to write a book in modern times because we do not have to do the research on the past or the thinking on the future. We live in the world and we breathe inside of it.
Now, I have a question to ask.
What would our fictional worlds be like if we made ourselves live and breathe inside of it?
Everything would seem real.
And that is your goal as an author, is it not? To suck a person into a world so they forget the reality they are in?
Here are a few things I want you to remember as you prepare your world.
1. The world comes first- the story and characters second
As young authors, we tend to create the story in our heads late at night, planning and hoping, eager to write the book in the morning. But by the time the excitement fades and reality starts to sink in, disappointment settles on our hearts. We have made a mistake. A very, very common mistake. What did we do wrong? We spent so much time thinking about the characters, the names, or maybe this certain scene that we forgot to form the world. I came across this while I was writing my recent dystopian novel. I would lean back and stare up at the quotes on my wall, trying to figure out where to go next because I had no idea. And then, finally, I realized why. I created the characters first, thus leading me to create the plot-line. The void I had created was too big to patch up. This much was clear: I had to start over.
2. Patch up the pieces by writing a ‘map’ of the world they exist in
And so I opened a new document and begin to type out the attributes of the main protagonist, even though he is hardly in the book. I then went on to type out the other characters, then going on to describe the Union bit by bit- the assessment, the type of living conditions, the rules, the soldiers, and the family standards. By the time I opened up my novel document again, I had a fresh new eye on what was supposed to be written- and all of that played into my characters.
3. Remember that the characters you create are living people- not robots
Obviously, the characters you are busy creating live in breathe in the world you are forming. But that means that they are also aware of what is going on in the world around them, not just where they live. That is why it is important to form the entire universe, not just where the story takes place. If you form these things early on, the things the characters say and do will be impacted- thus making them seem more real and less animated.
4. The world you create is the world you destroy
This is one thing lots of authors forget about. They forget that, in the long run, not only will the characters be killed off. The world will be destroyed. It is important to remember that in Lord of the Rings, the Shire was destroyed. In the Hunger Games, District 12 was bombed. People forget that in order for war to be real- the world has to be destroyed as well. So when you are creating your world, make sure you figure out what can be destroyed and what can not be.
5. No real world is perfect
Flowing waterfalls, crystal skies, emerald hills, shimmering seas, marble buildings, streets of gold. I have just painted a vision of a perfect world in your mind. The world I just described is beautiful, but not realistic. If I depicted a world like that for my novel, it would instantly block the readers out. Why? Because no place except for Heaven is perfect like that. No one can imagine such pristine beauty. That is why it is important to create a world out of what you know- and what you understand. Sure, there may be areas that seem perfect; steep mountains, sweeping steppes, skies with clouds like cotton balls. But there are also imperfections. For example, the gaps that an earthquake created, the dirty children running around naked because their parents can’t afford clothes. Never forget that we live in a real world- and your characters must too.
6. Description is key
No real world is perfect- and to make sure that the readers understand that, you must describe it as so. Do the children live amidst a pile of rubble, their fingernails caked with blood as they forage for the remainder of their food? Does blood streak his body as he shields his wife, running away from the fighter-bombs? Is the world they live in nothing but ash and death and gore? Describe it to its very bones- picking apart the pieces until you have a solid description of reality. However, you do not want too much description in one part, now do you? That will make the readers feel cluttered, and they will not understand most of it. Spread the description out, putting it in a sentence here and there. I might do an article, later on, to further explain what I mean.
Creating a world isn’t easy- but it’s the most important thing you absolutely must create to make a novel whole, realistic, and painted.
Questions? Comments? Do not hesitate to make them known in the comment section below!