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  • Writer's pictureJenna Moreci

10 BEST Tips for Worldbuilding

Notice: Sometimes I use affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission per sale. This does not affect my review of products or platforms. All opinions are my own.

HelloOoOo everybody!

A while back, I broke down the 10 worst tips for world building and today is opposite day! I am breaking down the 10 best tips for world building in my humble, modest, completely correct opinion. If you're writing fantasy, sci-fi, dystopian, or any genre that requires creating a completely brand new world, these tips are for you!

Now, let’s get into my 10 best tips for building your fancy-dancy world!

This video is sponsored by Milanote. As always, all opinions are my own.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to also subscribe to my YouTube channel for more writing tips, sarcasm, and of course, more of Princess Butters!


Number 1: Understand Your Story

What story are you trying to tell?

Is this an exploration? Are you traveling to new worlds and meandering through the experience? If yes, then your novel is going to be world centric and your world building is going to be pretty prevalent throughout the course of the novel.

Is the story about the growth of your characters, their relationships with one another, their arcs? If yes, then you are writing a character-driven story, which means that the characters are the focal point of the story and your world building is going to be more of a supplementary backdrop.

Are you writing a story that is constantly on the move? We're talking lots of action, lots of beats. In this case, you are writing a plot-driven story, and again, your world is there to drive the plot forward.

Of course, it's possible for your book to fit into more than one category. It can be character and world driven. It can be plot and character driven. But it's important to understand the type of story you're telling because it will determine how much or how little world building you are going to include in the final product.

Number 2: Understand Your Target Audience

Different audiences have different expectations, and this includes world building depth. For example, high fantasy or space opera readers are going to expect a lot more world building than say, romantic fantasy or romantic sci-fi readers.

Both high fantasy and space operas lean heavily on new worlds, entire universes, or galaxies. But while romantic sci-fi and romantic fantasy do often take place in different worlds, the stories are mostly focused on the romantic connection. That means that while you still need to implement world building, the stories should be character driven.

I once read a fantasy romance that was so packed with world building for the first 150 pages and the romance didn't even begin until page 200. This is a bait and switch. It's a complete betrayal to the genre, and readers are gonna be pissed.

Number 3: Use a Template

A cute Chihuahua with a speech bubble that reads, “Butters absolutely approves!”

This is great for writers who are brand new to world building and have no idea what they're doing. There are entire templates available for you to download and use as a guide. As I already mentioned, Milanote has an entire world building feature that gives you an idea of how to organize and brainstorm all of your world details.

World building can be extremely overwhelming, so if you're a newbie, I highly recommend taking advantage of all the resources available to you. It'll not only get you started, it'll make you a lot more comfortable with the process so it turns into a habit. And that way, with future books, you know what to do going forward.

Number 4: Visuals

I am a very visual person. It's a lot easier for me to describe something if I can see it in my mind's eye or if I can see it laid out before me. This is why assets like mood boards can be beneficial. You can collect reference photos of architecture, clothing, landscapes. And of course, all world builders know the importance of maps. This is especially important if your characters are traveling.

In my current work in progress, The Savior's Army, my characters are traveling all over the place. So I needed to create a map so I could get an idea of how close they were to the sea, how far they were from the palace, and so on. I keep it open as I chart their course, and it has made the writing process so much easier.

Number 5: Create a Hub

World building is a messy process. You'll have maps, charts, routes, terminology…I could go on. It is so much easier to keep track of the details of your world if you have them all in one place. This is why something like Milanote is super helpful. You can create a board for your story, another board for your characters, another board for your world, or you can have it all in one place. Totally up to you!

But regardless, it is super important to have a central location with all of your world building details that you can access easily because let's be real, you're not gonna memorize that shit overnight. Keep your stats, maps, lists, and references all in one place and make it easily accessible.

Number 6: Build as You Go

You don't need to spend years building your world before you even start writing. In many cases, that is a big mistake. It's a trap! I've lost track of the number of writers who have told me, "I spent all these years building this world, but now I don't have a story that fits into it!"

Your world is supposed to fit the story, not the other way around! This is why you build as you go. As you create your characters and assemble your plot, you build the world bit by bit. Say you decide your main character is a wizard. This automatically means that your world has some semblance of magic. Is your main character the only wizard? Are they part of a guild? Is magic everywhere?

This rule also applies to writing the novel itself. You don't want to dump the entire history of your world at the start. This is the quickest way to piss off your readers. Instead, introduce the world as it becomes relevant to your story. If your character enters a castle, this is the time to describe the architecture or the monarchy.

I cannot stress this enough: don’t be the guy who gets so sucked into their world building they never get out of it. Build as you go. Your readers will thank you.

Number 7: Read the Room

The biggest complaint I see readers having about world building is when it sucks the life out of the story. This is commonly referred to as info dumping. Pages upon pages of facts that bore the shit outta readers. So if you're ever unsure about whether or not the world building fits the scene, read the room! Does your world building provide information that readers need to know in order to understand the scene?

Take a description of a setting that the character is entering for the first time in this book. In this case, the world building is absolutely necessary because your readers have never been in this place before. Another example is if your characters are attending a party and this particular world has a very specific and unique social etiquette. You can easily weave their customs into the scene, and readers will thank you for it. But if your character is dragging their weak body through the is not the time to take a break to describe the political system.

Read the room and be honest with yourself regarding what information is relevant and what is self-indulgent.

Read the room and be honest with yourself regarding what information is relevant and what is self-indulgent.

Number 8: The Society is Yours

You're not only creating the climate and landscapes, you're creating the social customs and norms. That means contrary to popular belief, you don't need to ascribe to norms that were prevalent throughout history.

This is something that's lost on a lot of writers. They regurgitate class systems, gender expectations, and government hierarchies that they've seen throughout history because they think that's what they're supposed to do. But world building is a creative process and you get to create the beliefs of your society. That means you don't have to write a homophobic kingdom if you don't want to. In fact, if we're following history, plenty of ancient civilizations didn't see sexuality as a social identifier. It also means women can wear pants and men can wear dresses. Hell, you can ditch gender altogether. This process is not exclusively about the physical; you are building the sociology of your world, as well.

Number 9: Trust Your Reader

A cute Chihuahua with a speech bubble that reads, “Good human!”

When world building, there's a tendency to describe every leaf on every tree. Writers will describe a room down to its square footage. A dress down to the placement of its buttons. As we read, many people visualize the scenes in their mind. We imagine the scenes and fill in the blank spaces. The more hyper-specific the detail, the more the image in your mind becomes contradictory and convoluted.

This isn't to say you shouldn't provide detail. Descriptions are absolutely necessary, but find a middle ground. I like to think of it as a connect the dots drawing. Provide the dots–the most important descriptors that set the tone–and then allow readers to connect them.

Say you've got a flowing lilac gown. It is floor length, it has a cinched waist, and has a heart-shaped neckline. That right there creates a picture, but if you describe the exact style of the lace, if you describe the placement of every single bead, the hemline, the length of the train, and a million other details, all of that will become a muddled mess in the reader's mind. Trust that they're capable of their own thought and creation. It's your job to entertain, not to control.

Number 10: STOP!

In the late stages of world builder's disease, the patient will be stuck endlessly building the shit out of their world. Just building and building while the story remains unwritten until one day they're alone in their basement covered with Cheeto dust thinking, "What have I become?"

There's only one treatment for this affliction: good fucking God, stop!

"But Jenna, what if I forget something?"

Then you can fill in those details later! You know, while you're writing the book. Start the project and if you realize you're missing information, pause and gather that information. But it's time to step away from the maps, admit you're procrastinating, and write the damn book. Stop being a baby and do it! I support you!

So that's all I've got for you today!

Author Jenna Moreci.

World building is a long and complicated journey. Hopefully this article will serve as a road map to help you navigate the mountains and valleys. See what I did there? Yes? Yay!

What I’m trying to say is that these world building tips should give you the confidence you need to develop your world, know how much of it to include in your story, and not get lost in the process. And while there’s no substitute for hard work, make sure you don’t overdo it.

What’s your favorite part of building a world? I wanna hear about it in the comments!


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