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A Guide to Believable World-Building in Fiction Writing

Great world-building is one of the most complex and rewarding aspects of writing fantasy and sci-fi books. Working as a fiction book editor, I’ve witnessed the incredible power of a well-crafted sci-fi and fantasy world. They are the backbone of storytelling in fantasy and sci-fi, and provide a backdrop for characters to live out their adventures. But making those worlds can be tough. Let’s dive into how you can craft vivid and compelling worlds that captivate readers.

Making your world vivid and compelling.

The sci-fi or fantasy world you create is the key to your story. It’s where your characters live, what they do, and how they feel at every turn. To make it more vivid and interesting, use sensory details to bring it to life in the reader’s imagination.

Additionally, descriptive languages help you to paint landscapes, cities, and societies. How does the air smell in your world? What colors dominate the scenery? The more vividly you describe your setting, the more real it becomes to your readers.

A world is shaped by its inhabitants. Their cultures, beliefs, histories, and conflicts provide depth. Create myths and legends, festivals, and rituals to add layers to your society. This not only enriches your world but also gives you plot devices to move your narrative forward.

Make your sci-fi or fantasy world consistent.

Establish Rules

Every world operates on a set of rules. Whether it’s magic systems in fantasy or technological advancements in sci-fi, consistency is key. Define how magic works or what technology is available early on, and stick to these rules throughout your narrative. This prevents plot holes and maintains believability.

Keep Track of Geography and Time

Keep track of geographical details and timelines. If a character travels from one city to another, make sure distances and travel times are consistent. Similarly, if you’re dealing with multiple planets or dimensions, ensure their spatial relationships make sense. Maps can be great to help with this for both you and your readers!

A book editor can help you with this and will point out any inconsistencies and ways to help you build up your world even more. For help with editing, contact me here.

Make your world’s rules understandable.

Avoid Information Overload

While it’s tempting to showcase every single detail of your world, too much information can overwhelm readers. Introduce elements of your sci-fi or fantasy world gradually through dialogue, action, or narration when it’s relevant to the story. Let readers explore your world alongside your characters.

Relatability is Key

Even in the most alien of settings, find ways to connect to universal human experiences—love, loss, fear, etc.. These emotions help your reader relate to your characters’ journeys and feel empathy. It also helps to add to the overall stakes in your story. 

Crafting worlds beyond imagination isn’t just about adhering to rules; it’s about breaking boundaries while maintaining coherence within your universe’s laws. It’s about creating something so vivid and compelling that readers can’t help but be drawn in.

Remember, if something happens that doesn’t fit with what you’ve told the reader in an earlier chapter, it will stick out and jar readers out of your fictional place.

New rules can be fun and necessary for plot, but don’t overdo them or readers may be confused.

I hope these tips will help you stick with world-building and keeping up with your story details. Share this post if you find it helpful!

Jessica Berry

Get on the interest list for my upcoming course, Unleash Your Inner Editor, for a guided process that takes you through the steps for self-editing your book.