When you’re writing fiction—whether it be urban, epic, fantasy, paranormal, you name it—one of the most important things to bear in mind during the construction of your story is worldbuilding. But what exactly is worldbuilding, and why is it so important?
Worlbuilding is the action of slowly unveiling your world to your readers through a series of descriptions, dialogue, and narrative cues, in a compelling and engaging way.
It’s necessary for the audience to establish an emotional connection to the characters and the story.
Great worldbuilding should captivate you from the start, and it should be subtle. If it’s first person, the narrative should feel natural. Like you’re really inside the protagonist’s mind.
The protagonist wouldn’t be going over some long-winded description about the world that surrounds him just to introduce it all to the reader and then get on with the plot (this is info-dumping), unless he’s like Anne Rice’s vampires that are obsessed with finding beauty in everything, even evil, or he can play with the rules and pull off something different like Elliot from the amazing debut TV show Mr. Robot did.
But generally, this feels unnatural.
The protagonist would most likely be invested in what’s going on around him, in his own day-to-day life. The story and plot should unravel organically, and the world should open itself up to the reader as the story goes on and we get to know more about the world through the character’s eyes. The trick here is to have an internally consistent world. It should be fleshed out, with its own rules as to how things work.
This is what I like to call Ideological Consistency.
An inner coherence should run through the world, spinning everything together into a reality that makes sense. When you’re clear, as an author, as to how the world that you have created works, then everything that happens within it will be consistent with its general rules of reality.
This is what makes a world real, on the risk of sounding redundant. It’s what feeds the audience’s suspension of disbelief. An ideologically consistent world is like a Shakespearean Sonnet, it must have fourteen lines, but you can play with the words written within those fourteen lines.
Of course there are other elements that a good story should always have, such as Voice, Pacing, Engaging Characters, and Meaning. Some post-modern writers may disagree with me on that last one… but everything should have meaning, right?
Perhaps I’m simply romantic.
I will be writing about Voice, Pacing and the other elements of story in future posts.