What is worldbuilding?
Worldbuilding is the process of creating an imaginary world (or fictional setting) from scratch. A world can be as detailed or simple as you want it to be! This fun and engaging process can be done using any materials or techniques you like: from simple pen & paper, to digital software, 3D materials or you can even keep it all in your head!
Here are some fantastic examples of worldbuilding and what it can be used for:
How you can use worldbuilding
Writing a novel / screenwriting – worldbuilding is used to consider the characters, their culture and how they interact with the world in which they live. When worldbuilding for a novel you can establish a genre for the setting to create a consistent theme for your world such as steampunk, dystopian, western or scifi. Think of your favourite book and how immersed you felt in that setting – these are the details that worldbuilding can help you achieve within your writing.
Tabletop gaming campaigns – you can even use worldbuilding to create your very own homebrew campaigns for tabletop games such as Dungeons & Dragons, Genesys, FATE and more. Having your own hand-crafted world for your players to explore is a very rewarding experience and creates memorable gameplay! Your players could even help with suggestions on what they would like to explore next within your world, leading to many heroic adventures (or pitfalls)!
Game design – continuing from tabletop campaigns, you can also use worldbuilding to build a strong foundation to create a game within. It could be a videogame with rich lore and engaging storytelling such as The Elder Scrolls, Half Life and Dishonored, or it could even a board game like Catan – worldbuilding will help your players understand more about the setting and key concepts of your game, making it an engaging player experience.
To spark an idea – if you have none of the ideas above, the process of making an imaginary world from scratch could lead to any number of opportunities! By sharing your concept and getting involved with creative communities
Education – worldbuilding is an excellent tool for education, both for children and adults. Many people learn best by deconstructing a concept to see how it works and then trying to create their own version. Worldbuilding can be used to teach geography, history, science, writing and could probably be adapted to other subjects, too! This method is not limited to teachers! Just by building your own imaginary world you will get to learn about many unique topics and broaden your knowledge of the world around you.
This leads nicely onto the last (and best) use for worldbuilding:
For fun! – you don’t need a reason to make your own world, you can just do it for fun! Worldbuilding is a fantastic creative hobby that has many different fields of focus to suit your interests and needs. Furthermore, there are some fantastic creative communities out there to become a part of which can help you improve, have fun and make some new friends!
How do I start?
Making your own imaginary world is easier than you think, but starting can feel as daunting as writing the first word on a crisp, white page. Here are a few tips to get you started, based from my previous guide ‘How to start a new world’
The best place to start any project is to get all of your ideas down in one place. Make a list, mindmap, crazy all-over-the-place notes: whatever works best for you. When you physically write your ideas down (this can be digitally, too! I use WorldAnvil for mine.) you can start to see all of the different themes, topics and interests that you are drawn to. It’s like tipping a box of puzzle pieces onto the table, you will start to see parts that look like they will fit together.
Here are a few handy things to write down to spark an idea for your world:
- time periods
- climate / locations
- things from our world that inspire you
- things from other fictional worlds that inspire you
Decide what you want to use it for
As mentioned earlier, you don’t have to have a reason for your worldbuilding, but if you do, this sense of direction can really help you to decide where you want to begin! For example, a writer may wish to start with a character or a game designer may want to start with a dungeon or city.
Does it have an audience?
You could also consider building a fictional world with an audience in mind (even if you’re worldbuilding for fun). This can help you establish strong themes within your world whilst completely ruling out others.
Where to start?
So you’ve got some ideas in mind, but what bit of the world should you start building first? There are two main approaches to worldbuilding, but you can use whatever works best for you:
Top down approach – this method starts with creating the largest concepts of your world and then narrows down into the finer details. An example of this would be starting with a world map and then picking a country to describe, and then a major city within that country, right the way down to what a person does in their daily life whilst living there.
Bottom up approach – on the flipside, this method starts with creating the smallest aspects first, and then discovering more of the world as you go. An example of this could be to start with a character and then consider where they go to work, how they get there, how big that company is and what products they provide to other cities (or countries)!
Just remember that however you start, or wherever you start, it’s your world and you can do what you want!
I’ve written a step-by-step guide on ‘How to start a new world’. In this guide I show you my own personal way of approaching worldbuilding, from naming your world to setting up an organised framework for you to fill out!
Hello! I’m a Worldbuilding Wizard from Bristol on an epic quest of knowledge!
Join me on my creative journey as I create epic stuff (and weird things).
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