How Do I Manage World Building?

by jeanineoloughlin

Thinking Through My Fingers

“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.”  – Issac Asimov

For science fiction & fantasy world building is a big part of the writing process. In these genres you’re not usually working with the standard rules of reality and you have to know how these new rules work better than anyone else. This can sometimes take longer than writing the narrative itself for me. Again, because of the way my brain is wired I use an outline for my world building.

My first step is to pick what the “pillars” of my world will be. Is there magic or extraordinary high level of technology? I usually have between three to five key aspects of the world that I flesh out. These are the core elements that make my world unique & interesting. These are the areas that I really dig deep on. I’ll research science, current tech gadgets, video and RPG game magic systems, things that help me design my own systems.

Once I’ve got the pillars worked out in agonizing detail I’ll move onto the smaller, but still important details. What season the story takes place in, any current events that are going on that may affect the characters, things that while they aren’t the pillar that makes the world unique and interesting they are details that make the world feel alive to me and hopefully the readers.

Now like my story outlines this world outline is used as a living document. As I write if I find that there’s a new element to the world that I haven’t already worked out I’ll go back to the outline and add in the details I need to continue the narrative. I’ve got notebooks filled with these types of outlines and they are tedious but so helpful when you’re writing in a world you don’t actually live in.

Happy Writing!