Group Discussion- Building Worlds

Building Worlds-

Welcome to my next group discussion- on building worlds for our characters.

We all have know, to some extent, what world building is.  Vastly simplified, it’s when we create the worlds our characters live in.

But there’s so much more to it than that.


When we create a world, especially for a novel of any length, there are certain things we need to know- the rules if you will.

What time is this set in?  The future? The past? Present? Or in a world other than our own?

What is the history of this world?

What people/sentient beings call it home?

What is their culture?  Things like religion, myths, taboos, laws, entertainment or method of consuming food?

What other life might there be?  Plants, animals, etc?

How does all of this fit together to make the world home for your character?

This can be as big or small in concept as you might like.

An example of the larger concept would be the world of Middle Earth- where Tolkien had examples of all the above mentioned things woven into his stories, thus creating a richly detailed place for his characters to live out their lives.

An example of these concepts on a smaller scale would be Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels.  They take place in a much more familiar world, so the concepts of time, space, religion and food are all covered.  Instead, Clancy plunges us into the world of his main character, Jack Ryan; a CIA analyst who, through the course of his job, is neck deep in the events of his world.  The events are entirely plausible, and there’s a time or two where the stories he tells in his novels seems to parallel real world events in our world in a way that is frighteningly close (Sept 11th comes particularly to mind).

So the question to you, dear writer, is what do you do to develop the concept of the worlds you set your characters in?  Do you plan it all out?  Or do you go by the seat of your pants?  What are some examples you can think of, when it comes to well built worlds in movies/literature?




Author Notes

4 Comments for “Group Discussion- Building Worlds”


Great subject to talk about, Tim. This is where I stumble. I have a great novel started, but it is collecting dust. I left it in the shadows as it became clear I had to define my world more, and I wasn’t sure how to do it. This led me to discover and read Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” series. It has made a HUGE impact on the way I think about writing and creating worlds. What I love about his writing is that it is fantasy, but the character’s are deeply rooted and his worlds are somewhat a parallel to ours. He weaves in politics, religions, all sorts of societal aspects that remind us of our own, and then he brings in the “other side”… The alien world’s take on those very same issues in such a different way. And it all makes sense. It all makes you think deeply about your own value system, and the possibility of some utopia all life forms could share.

I thank you for bringing up this subject, as it made me remember I had purchased Orson Scott Card’s “How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy”! It’s on my bookshelf, and I haven’t even cracked the cover yet. Here I go! I recently purchased Scrivener, a writing program for long works to keep organized. I think I will explore both of them today! And get started toward the next step of writing and creating worlds.

Write On!

Raymond Tobaygo


Good afternoon, Tim

Great article. I’ve found over the years that I have more leeway creating new worlds with SF and fantasy themes. My key factor is being careful not to circumvent literary license to beyond the point of seeming incredulous. Horror and fantasy, if using a contemporary setting, has limits, which makes it somewhat easier to create.

Besides reading and using Google for information, I have over sixteen reference books I use to help create new worlds.

Take care and stay safe,



Interesting discussion, Tim. Most of my work is shorter, so I have the luxury of eschewing detailed world-building. However, in both Haley’s War and The Crucible Game, I did take the time to sketch out some maps, did a little wikiality research and set out a timeline. I’s important to get Time and Space right or the reader will call shenanigans on your story. 🙂


Good subject, Tim. The most popular form of world-building I’ve seen lately is the dystopia. From ‘Hunger Games’ to ‘Divergent’ and beyond, the writer has had to put together an system of government, combined with intimate details of the MC’s small portion of that world. It’s a difficult task to pull off. I’ve avoided doing so myself; I prefer to keep my characters in the ‘real’ world, whether past or present.

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