I'm sure there's an actual expert on this shit who can tell you how to properly build a world. When it comes right down to it, we're all just whistlin' our own versions of dixie, so I'm gonna add my ante to the pot. I present to you two things you should try to remember when building a world.

#1 Don't.

You know that guy who assures his wife he can fix the toilet himself then ends up knee deep in shit? Don't be that guy. Unless you're an architect, you ain't building shit. Stick with what you're good at. You're a writer. Don't build a world around your characters. Do show me how this lovely person you've introduced me to moves through and interacts with the world around them. Easy enough, right? Here's the hard part...

#2 Choose wisely.

You know that awkward moment at the movie store when a guy is choosing a video for the first “in home” date. Like him, you need to prioritize, then make a decision and stick with it. You wouldn't get a cheesy romance flick for your fantasy football buddies, now would you? Don't go all Hey let's have a Hellraiser marathon on your girl either. Unless, you know, she's into that sort of thing. Same goes for writing.

I'm a big fan of breaking rules and mixing genres. Just make sure, like the aforementioned date, your readers want what you're whipping out for them. That way, you're not just gingerly poking them, hoping they'll stroke your, um, ego. If you choose your genre(s) carefully when “world building”, you can stand there bearing your, er, soul with confidence and pride.

You may think I went off topic there, talking about genres in an article about world building. I didn't. See, while you're busy trying to build a 3D world with words, Character McFictional is busy lighting the candles he's scattered throughout his living room to set the tone for his date tonight. Percy Sledge plays softly from the CD player near the TV. When the doorbell rings, he plucks a single red rose from a vase full of them, with which he'll greet his date. With a final glance at his reflection in the gilded hall mirror, and a minor adjustment to his tie, he opens the door to the hottest woman in the shortest black skirt he's ever seen. Which genre was that? Exactly. Your “world building” and genre, if done properly, go hand in hand to set the tone for your story.

Try to build a world and you'll end up knee deep in a novel full of shit when all you wanted to do was write a short story. Use the world around your character(s) to show me what's going on, and, more importantly, to clue me in as to how things are going for them. If I can feel what you're trying to show me, there's no way I'll be able to put your book down. Use your chosen genre(s) and each scene's “props” to do that.

Now that I've told you how it's done, I think I'll go read some articles on world building from people who actually know what they're talking about. Come to think of it, I probably should have done that first. Ciao!


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Jessica West (West1Jess) is pursuing a state of self-induced psychosis (reading, writing, editing). She lives in Acadiana with three daughters still young enough to think she’s cool and a husband who knows better but likes her anyway.

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