Worldbuildng is an essential part of the writing process for those of us who write within the fantasy genre. Very often, writing fantasy means inventing a whole new world for your characters to inhabit. Most of the time, characters in fantasy stories do not experience the same world as their authors. This means that fantasy authors must engage in worldbuilding, which is the process of figuring out how your fantasy world operates. Who lives there, apart from your main characters? What happens on a day-to-day basis? What makes it different from our world? These are all important questions that fantasy authors ask while worldbuilding.
As always, Chuck Wendig has some wisdom on the topic in his post all about worldbuilding. Wendig says that the world you build must serve the story, not the other way around. That is, “you must look at the components of the story you hope to tell: it’s got these characters, it’s about this idea, it makes a particular argument, and from there you start to see that the world can organically accommodate and reflect those things. Doing the opposite — leading with the worldbuilding — is what you’d do if you were writing a roleplaying game which has to tell all kinds of stories, not just yours.”
I think this is some great advice, especially since I’ve seen authors take far too much time working on their world and not enough on the story that’s going to take place there. It’s important to build the plot and characters first and then work on your world. As Wendig says, the world that you create will then accommodate the other things you’ve planned for your story.
Although worldbuilding is most often associated with fantasy writing, I think this advice is applicable for any kind of writer. Don’t spend too much time working on your story’s surroundings. Instead, work on the core elements such as the characters and the plot, and the rest will come.
— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan