You might be wondering, “What is world-building?” Although global leaders may be busying themselves with efforts to build a better real world, authors understand world-building as a product of pure imagination. World-building is an integral piece of the science fiction or fantasy fiction writing process, where authors are free to create a completely new world in which their story takes place.

Because the possibilities are limitless, for an author, world-building is like being a kid in a candy store. The author can quite literally create a world that features every quirky, utopian, or mystifying element they can dream up and put down on paper. If you wish to learn more about what world-building is and how to world-build, then keep reading.

The Art of World-Building

World-building offers an author the exciting opportunity to create an entirely fictional world out of whole cloth. Limited only by their imaginations, authors are free to conjure up a completely made-up world for their characters to inhabit. Thus, world-building is a core device utilized and mastered by sci-fi and fantasy writers.

The Challenges of World-Building

To succeed at the task of world-building, an author must convince the reader of its authenticity. This is one of the key challenges of world-building, as it demands striking a delicate balance between using sensory descriptors and rote descriptions of the society, people, and culture. It isn’t enough to tell the reader about the fictional world; the reader must literally feel the world that the author built to be believable.

Some of the common challenges of world-building include:

  • Bombarding the reader with details. Always keep in mind that your reader is there first and foremost for a compelling story. While the world that the humans, semi-humans, or non-humans occupy in the story is important, it should not be overbuilt right off the bat. Slowly reveal the world, layer by layer, through unfolding dialogue and scene, and remember that the world you build serves the characters and not the other way around.
  • Being stingy with details. On the other hand, not providing enough information about the world your characters inhabit will cause the reader to quickly become frustrated or bored, and they will lose interest. Remember that your primary job as an author is to transport the reader to some other world. Help them truly experience that fictional world by striking just the right balance of details. Include information about social classes and power structures, and consider sharing a detailed history of the setting.
  • Building a world without intention. While your imagination is on fire creating this new world, be on the lookout for haphazard world-building. You may find yourself trying to incorporate every cool idea that comes to mind into your fantasy world. Instead, take a measured, intentional approach when developing the fictional land so it will feel authentic and believable, and even somewhat ordered.

How To Build a Fantasy World

The brainstorming process can help you come up with some great ideas about your new world and to kick-start your world-building. Consider these tips to assist you in the process:

  • Online Tools. There are some very helpful online tools available to help you in the creative world-building process. One example is, which provides a wide range of world-building templates.
  • World Characteristics. Decide how your world came into existence, where it exists, and some details about its inhabitants, such as whether they engage in artificial intelligence, magic, or time travel, for example.
  • Define the Rules. Abide by the basic rules of world-building by including the various elements of society that are integral to all worlds. Describe your fictional world’s boundaries, water sources, natural features, climate, culture, government, religion, and history.

Examples of World-Building At Its Finest

Here are some examples of how to world-build effectively:

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Author J.K. Rowling designed a world of magic and wizardry that is populated by some well-drawn background characters. She fleshes out these characters by utilizing world-building techniques, such as describing each character’s homeland, customs, and history. Including these details in the description of tertiary characters added even more layering to the Harry Potter series.

Dune by Frank Herbert

Author Frank Herbert’s best-selling interplanetary science fiction novel, Dune, featured a fictional planet as the primary setting amid a backdrop of intricate cosmology. Religion/mysticism was woven into the world-building as an integral aspect of the culture, influenced by the author’s exposure to Zen Buddhism.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Author Sarah Maas shows us how to build a fantasy world by actually creating a fictional map for her Prythian world of The Court of Thorns and Roses series. The map is segmented into the seven Courts that rule Prythian and also includes the adjacent Faerie Realms and Mortal Lands, which helps readers better visualize the story.

Successful World-Building Leads To a Successful Novel

To start your own world-building aspirations off right, consider partnering with the publishing experts at Gatekeeper Press for a developmental edit. We can guide you in your world-building efforts and help you build your story on a strong foundation. Contact us today!

professional book editing