The website of the historical fiction writer.

Festival of Writing 2015 Act Eight: World Building

With the ever-increasing popularity of superhero films and the industries behind them there is much talk of ‘reboots’ and ‘universes’ and this, that and the other. When I saw this workshop was on I thought I’d go and find out more about it and I’m really glad I did.

Tamsyn Murray gave a very interesting workshop on how to construct a world within a novel or series of novels. Historical fiction and alternative historical fiction requires rather a lot of world building as does fantasy and science fiction to name but a few other genres. Each of these worlds have their own rules about how the worlds work but the important thing is to make sure not all the information about them is dumped on the reader in one go. Dialogue is a good way of revealing the rules but it should be revealed to a character new to the world, not one that would know the rules already.

Some good examples of worlds that have been built include Oz, Middle Earth, Sherlock’s London, the Capitol in the Hunger Games and Hogwarts. A lot of work has gone in to building these worlds but not all has been revealed in the books. As long as the writer knows the world inside out, the relevant bits can be revealed to the reader. The biggest differences to the reader’s world should be shown first and the rest can follow as the story unfolds.

So good worlds will 1) Introduce the character and their lives 2) Help reader understand the characters’ actions 3) Add richness and authenticity. 4) Make the story stand out, 5) pass on information and 6) Draw the reader in.


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