Are we there yet?

Settings are inherent to a story. They provide a rich backdrop for any genre, particularly fantasy. I’m often left in awe of others’ abilities to imagine such vast worlds until I turn to the world around me. Then, I think about humanity in our world and how we react to our environment. Writing an impactful setting means considering how your characters are affected by where their journeys take them. A decent setting can change the entire mood of a scene, if carefully crafted.

When considering worldbuilding, you will use primary settings for the most important and involved events. Sub-settings will be used for transitions and minor scenes, unless said sub-setting provides a moment of powerful action for a major character. Even so, the less settings used the better. You remove the visual, imaginary pithiness from a story when you inundate your reader with too much information. If you are crafting a series, graphic novel, or film script this might be different. The bigger your universe, the more space your reader has to lose themself in.

There are significant aspects to consider while writing a setting or generally worldbuilding. The landscape is the most accessible and potentially easiest to describe. I recommend using visual outline strategies for these scenes/settings. Don’t be afraid to piece together weird or unnatural land formations. If you can explain why they exist, you might have just found a unique aspect of your story.

Next, consider the types of people that live in your world. Are they defined by the landscape? For example, look at post-apocalyptic settings like the Mad Max series. The toughness of the land forces characters to act more viciously for survival. How would a naturally compassionate character fare in a landscape such as this? Furthermore, in a cultural sense, how have the people of the world evolved in response to their setting? Technology might define social strata as well as any previous conflicts over natural resources. If there are multiple races in your world, how do they all live together? Determine the differences in your societies and how that impacts the story.

Here are a few books I’m using in my pursuit of worldbuilding.

  1. The Writer’s Map: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands
  2. Literary Wonderlands: A Journey Through the Greatest Fictional Worlds Ever Created (Literary Worlds Series)
  3. The Dictionary of Imaginary Places: The Newly Updated and Expanded Classic

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