You sit there, with your word document open, staring at you, judging you, as the ideas coil and constrict your creativity like a vice. If only you could just begin. If only you could just form those first few sentences then the rest would flow and your one hundred and twenty thousand word magnum opus would be finished in months and the publishers would be beating your door down.
Or maybe you’ve started a thousand stories but they’ve all fizzled out after a thousand words and your frustration, nay exhaustion, knows no bounds.
Well I’m here to make the case for worldbuilding as a way to not just propel your writing to greater things, but to add a sense of achievement to what you do. Remember, as long as you are putting pen to paper, or bit to chip, you’re writing.
There are many people who say you shouldn’t get stuck into the cycle of worldbuilding. Just as writers will tell you that you shouldn’t take so many notes or continuously do research as a form of procrastination, and it’s true that you will get nowhere if you don’t put real work into the craft of writing. It is also true, however, that the only way to become a success in writing (whatever that means) is to be true to your own uniqueness and allow others to see it; to buy into what sets you apart. I believe that worldbuilding is a cathartic and interesting way to find this in yourself.
After that long and rambling justification, we finally get to the salient point: what exactly is worldbuilding? I for one see it as the process of contextualising the infinite, grounding the ineffable and all in all building scaffolding around the characters, places and worlds that you will write about.
Where to start? Well, like everything else, it depends. You need to know your story first, even if it’s only in the planning stages. Know all the little quirks and concepts you want before launching in. As an example, let’s use the world I’ve been working on recently – Furlands (working title). The concept is that this is an entirely mundane middle-ages setting with an European flavour, with all that it entails: castles, swords, chivalry and a sense of gritty adventure.
What sets it apart is that all the characters are rodents, or creatures of that ilk, think Redwall meets game of thrones. It sounds reductive but the whole world stemmed From this idea and honestly half the work is done for you; the rest is maps, names and intertwining little events that give that context and flavour to the background of your stories, be they a swashbuckling adventure on airships or a tale of tomb-robbing alien god-kin.
I’ll no doubt get more into worldbuilding in a future article, but I believe it’s a good place to start as we begin the run up to NaNoWriMo.
Take care and keep writing!