Excerpted from World Building Roman Style by Traci Hall
World building is not only used to create novels, but for games too. Video game designers create massive worlds that allow for players to move and grow (and sometimes die!) before they win. It is especially important for the world to be documented – rules, habitat, environment etc. so that the players have a ‘bible’, or a booklet, to refer to. Really popular games are Halo, World of Warcraft, or Eve – and I know everybody has heard of the Sims.
Designing a world, or a stage, or an arena, takes a little time – I like to think of it as the foundation before building the house. If I have a good grasp of my world, then by the time I flesh out characters, the plot is usually simmering at the back of my head.
I mentioned earlier how some people like to build from the universe down – for example, if you are writing a space travel, you would have to know things like where in the solar system you might be. If there is water, or oxygen – or maybe you’ve created a type of being that doesn’t need those things. And once you decide where you are, then you need your characters. How do your people travel in this universe? Do they have magical skills? Can they teleport? Are they in the future? What do the protagonists want or need? Most importantly to the reader – why should they care?
If you like to build from the bottom up, maybe you start with the character. You have an idea for a female firefighter from the 1960’s. What was she like? Where did she live? The city? Or a small town, where they needed her skills as a driver, so they overlooked the fact she was a woman. Think how strong this character might be! Does she have a family? Is she widowed with kids?
Perhaps you are the type of writer who likes to mix things up. You have an idea for a plot. It looks like the cat killed the mailman. Is that actually what happens? Who does the cat belong to? How did it happen? Do they live in a house? Or an apartment building? Is it current day? Will the cat be put down? Or will the manager of the animal shelter decide to risk her savings and fight the hot, hunky lawyer for the cat’s life?
These are just some examples of how having an idea, and asking questions, can lead to a solid foundation for a story