Today I'm telling you how to build a fictional world, at least if you want to really, really suck at it. I polled my audience for some of the worst world-building trends they've ever seen and I'm breaking ’em down for you today! Wanna annoy the crap out of your readers? Then take notes! There will be a test, and you will be graded. Right now, let's get into the 10 worst world-building tips! I'm teaching you how to screw up your world, real quick.
A quick disclaimer: this video (and this post) is a joke. Please do not implement any of these steps because I'm being sarcastic. I know that should be a given, but common sense ain't common and some of y'all are sensitive. On to the tips!
This video is sponsored by World Anvil. As always, all opinions are my own.
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Number 1: The World-Building Blackhole
You're not a real writer unless you spend at least a decade crafting your world.
“But Jennaaa, what could you possibly be creating that would require ten years?”
Uh, hello? An entire world! I'm talking about multiple continents, hundreds of systems of government, and thousands of years of history! All of this is vital to writing a book, even if only 2% of it will actually appear in the book.
Now, I know what you're thinking. Most people who spend years upon years upon years creating their worlds don’t actually end up writing the book, and that might be true . . . Okay, that’s definitely true. But doesn't the true beauty of writing come from never starting it? I think so!
Number 2: Info Dump
Everyone knows that world-building and info-dumping are synonymous. Does your world even exist if you don’t include at least one essay per chapter breaking down the aspects of your fictional society that aren't at all relevant to the plot? People don't pick up books for stories. They care about the kingdom's main imports and exports, as well as its complex system of taxation. Riveting! Tell me more.
If you're unsure whether or not you’re info-dumping enough, stop and ask yourself, “Have I paused at least once on this page to ramble on about something inconsequential to the story at hand?” Get to it, dummy! People need to know your world’s stance on pubic hair grooming–it is imperative to the reading experience!
Number 3: World-Building or Bust
We already covered that people don't read books for stupid stuff like characters, adventure, or quests. They read books to learn more about climate, terraforming, and blacksmithing. That's why encyclopedias stood the test of time! They are the ultimate in entertainment.
The world-building should always overshadow the plot itself. It’s not there to enhance the story, it is the story. If your book only has one or two plot points, who cares? If you ask me, that's one or two too many! I want to know all about that sweet, sweet irrigation system . . . and literally nothing else!
Number 4: Make It Medieval
All fantasy worlds must be modeled after medieval Europe, ’cause it's the law. Have you ever read a fantasy book that's not medieval-inspired? Of course not! They don't exist! Still, every once in a while you run into some crazy person who's like, “Blah, blah, blah. Medieval fantasy is overdone. Blah, blah, blah, blah. There are thousands of years worth of history to take inspiration from. Blah, blah, blah.”
Some people, am I right? Let me tell you, fantasy writers may be pumping out medieval stories over and over and over and over again, but I'm pretty sure there's nothing wrong with overused and unoriginal tropes. Besides, there is no point in history quite as exciting, colorful, and inventive as the Dark Ages! What a time to be alive!
Number 5: “Historical Accuracy.”
Every person in your entire world is white, but that's just “historical accuracy.” Little-known fact: world-building means you are building the world, which means you're creating its history. Isn't that weird?
And we can't talk about “historical accuracy” without bringing up misogyny and gratuitous violence against women. Are all the women in your story repeatedly degraded? Of course, they are! You got to make sure your fictional universe is accurate to a history that doesn't even exist!
And we get it! Sure, you make all the rules. Sure, you can write literally whatever you want. But wouldn't it be easier to copy everything we think we know about European history? And if you're going this route, be sure to do absolutely no research whatsoever, because then you might discover that a lot of your “historically accurate” world-building is completely incorrect. And this process isn't about learning, or creating, or even thinking, it's about . . . actually what is it about again?
Number 6: Coddle the Reader
I know a lot of people say you should subtly weave your world-building into the story, but you know what's a lot better than subtlety? Slapping your reader upside the head! Take that world-building and rub it in your reader’s face until they puke. Say, for example, your character says things like, “Praise the gods,” or, “May the gods have mercy on your soul.” This should make it clear that your society is polytheistic, but there's always the chance that your reader only has half a brain. Better include another one of those info dumps breaking down their entire belief system just to be sure! Readers are like babies, they're helpless and stupid. Be sure to spoon-feed all the details to them so they don't actually have to think.
Number 7: Keyboard Smash
All the most eloquent world-builders know the key to crafting the perfect names for their fictional characters: keyboard smash! Do it until you've got at least five syllables going. The more vowels the better! This is particularly true for fantasy world-building because let's be real; if you can pronounce that name after reading it five times in a row, you done fucked up! What kind of fantasy stories have names like Arthur or Ella? Bet those stories suck!
If you really want to prove you’re a pro, create a 27-syllable name with only three consonants, and make sure it’s pronounced using none of the letters available. If his name is spelled, “G-E-O-U-I-I-Q-‘-!-π-G,” it better be pronounced Steve. I’m just saying.
Number 8: Complicate the Shit Out of It
World-building often requires building systems, whether they're magical, governmental, or technological. And you know you've done right by your readers if you've made the system so damn convoluted they need a reference guide to get through it. Some people use the rule K.I.S.S.: Keep It Simple Stupid.
Pfft! More like, “Keeping it simple IS stupid!” Your audience should have to read your magic system at least ten times before they’re able to grasp how it works! If it’s easily digestible, are you even a real writer?
Number 9: Fandom Means Perfection
Many writers turn to their favorite books, movies, and TV shows for guidance when they're world-building. You may feel compelled to analyze your favorite creations, noting what they did right and where they fell short. But don’t do it! Your favorites are perfect! They have to be, that's why they're your favorites! They can't do anything wrong!
“But Jennaaa, part of adulthood and maturity is being able to recognize that perfection doesn't exist.”
LIES! If you gotta watch Indiana Jones with your eyes covered just to live in ignorant bliss that it is indeed an accurate reflection of the field of archaeology, then do it! You owe Harrison Ford that much–he did save us from the Nazis.
Number 10: WWTD - What would Tolkien do?
Here's the thing you need to understand about books, and really any form of media entertainment at all: audience expectations never change. That's why movies from the 1700s are exactly the same as they are today! Wait, movies didn’t exist in the 1700s? Well, anyway!
Tolkien is a god to fantasy lovers, and rightly so! He did everything flawlessly, no matter which era’s standards. Because as we already covered, expectations never change. That's why you should emulate point by point, line by line, everything he's ever done. You may not land an agent or any readers at all, but at least you've done your heavenly father proud!
So that's all I've got for you today!
Remember, the points in this article are jokes, so calm down. If you want to build a compelling, engaging, immersive world, don't follow any of these tips. At least, not if you want your readers to enjoy your book.
What’s one world-building tip that changed the way you write? Let me know if the comments below!
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