“I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know God’s thoughts, the rest are details.” – Albert Einstein
In every story you create, you are God, from the characters to the character’s thoughts, even the world that lives and breathes around them. In the art of writing fiction a writer must build their “storyscape” to compliment or even move along the characters and conflicts. A few great worldbuilding novels that do just that are Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Wool by Hugh Howey and True Born by L.E. Sterling.
Worldbuilding is an essential part to any work of fiction; primarily for fantasy or science fiction, it’s the heartbeat that keeps those types of stories alive. But don’t get too overwhelmed just yet, this is why Writers INKK is here; so here are the top 10 Worldbuilding mistakes and how to fix them!
- Not relating your Wizarding world to the reader’s reality.
Whether it’s a world of Vampires, serial killers, or bob the builder from down the street you need to give your character’s and world humanistic flaws and problems that we as readers can relate to. If Bella from Twilight didn’t have daddy issues or want to drown herself over a breakup it would just be a stale story. Whether you think twilight is a piece of art or the worst book to ever grace bookshelves. Twilight wouldn’t be twilight without the teen angst everyone can relate to. As for the world of Panem (Hunger Games) the reader can share Katniss’s drive to try to free her whole nation from tyrannical oppression and poverty. Sound familiar? Do you watch the world news day-to-day? I wouldn’t be surprised to see a future Panem come to life very soon.
- Over explaining. OVER EXPLAINING. Period.
One thing about Worldbuilding is that some writers make the mistake of over building or over explaining reasons why the world is. You have to remember that the reader isn’t in your head and doesn’t need to know every exact detail. You can’t get too complex to where they want to put down the book because your writing a “how to book” within in your own novel about how the mechanic’s of a humanoid machine works or how Chaos created the world in Greek mythology when it has nothing to do with your characters stories.
Another example is if the curtains are blue because it symbolizes the characters sadness of when she blah, blah, blah etc. You don’t need to spend a sentence or even a paragraph on trying to overly explain why you chose that curtain to be blue or that mountain range to be pink. To a reader, they are just blue curtains not the Holy Grail. Give us conflict; action, dialogue and no overbuild. Keep it simple and too the point. If it doesn’t help the world or move the story along it shouldn’t be there. Period.
- Worldbuilding just to move the plot along.
This is simple and to the point. Your world also gives life to the mood, culture and theme of your novel, its not just there to move the plot along even though at times it’s a major part in the plot. Like the reaping which is a cultural norm in The Hunger Games. Without The Reaping, Katniss wouldn’t have her story. Point blank the world building should engage the WHOLE story not just one element of it.
- Cliché Worldbuilding.
What’s worse than a lot of explaining? A lot of cliché Worldbuilding, the evil empire of evilness out to rule the world, or even the single worlds, like ice planet, lava planet etc. These are tired cliché’s. The world of Harry Potter worked because it wasn’t cliché it held its own just like Tolkien’s Middle Earth in The Lord of the Rings, there simply weren’t any of its kind out there in the book world. Cliché’s suck, you’re a writer; create something unique that will resonate.
- Build what you love NOT what’s trending.
Don’t try and build the next Harry Potter, I know I’m referencing it a lot because well it was a genius story that impacted our cultural world, there’s a theme park dedicated to it for Christ sakes! When going into creating your OWN world in a novel think about what you love, not what’s trending (vampires, oh God, please no vampires unless your like Anne Rice or something then it’s okay) or what has made an impact. What impacts your heart? What world would you like to escape to on a daily basis? Answer those questions? Okay good! Now create it.
- Building NO mystery.
When building your own world, build its mystery along with it. If you throw in word vomit at the beginning of the novel the reader knows too much. For example if the reader knows all about the religious-cult-that-kidnaps-bratty-children-at-night-from-their-beds-and-sacrifices-them-because-they-believe-it-will-help-the-community-from-having-Kardashian-like-clones-to-populate-their-city (Word vomit sucks doesn’t it?). What’s the point of picking up the book again? But if you start with the killings and slowly unravel the story through action, dialogue and the Worldbuilding to find out the religious- cult-doing-good-things (just kidding) is-killing-bratty-kids. Well, the story just hooked my interest and I as the reader felt like I’ve just unraveled a mystery.
- Having no conflict in your world.
Conflict, conflict, conflict! What world doesn’t have conflict including our own (insert presidential election joke here). This takes less explaining and more exercising. Pick up any of your favorite fiction books that you love. Try and find the one without conflict (I’m not talking character conflict, I’m talking world conflict). You can’t, it’s the fruit of your story, and the fruit of the loin of the world your characters live in.
- Not researching and writing on a whim.
Research your own society and how it functions, how every conflict or anomaly in your society somehow affects your life or the culture around you. That’s where you will find your Worldbuilding infrastructure.
- Cloning ethnic groups to the T.
Speaking of research, don’t take a real life ethnic group and make them one-dimensional and use societies cliché traits of them. Your going to have to try and create an accurate view of whatever ethnic group you choose to mimic without racist traits and expand your new culture off that knowledge. A great example of taking a real life ethnic group and adding in a mixture of unique magic is Avatar. Yes, I know it isn’t a novel but it’s a story all in itself. The Na’vi (meaning dream walker) have a close relation to American Indian, African and Amazon tribes.
They worship the earth beneath their feet and connect with the plants and animals. That’s how they thrive. But then the humans come and destroy their home (killing them too) in order to mine for Unobtanium. Sound familiar? Sounds just like Columbus! But the great part about the Na’vi was how magical and different they were, they were humanized along with the world around them, they had their own subjectivity and a believable culture. Not a cloned too the T race from our reality.
- How will the Sorcerers Stone change the Wizarding World?
Many writers make the mistake of failing to explain how and why a certain technology, mineral or magic can turn its worlds axis upside down. For example, humans go to the moon to mine Unobtanium in Avatar because it’s a mineral they need that’s essential for the survival of the human race. See the conflict? See why and how it fits perfectly in with the story?