World building may not seem that important on the surface, especially if your piece takes place in our reality. If it doesn’t contribute to the plot or the character arc, then it must not be essential, right?
Wrong. Your world is what grounds the plot. It adds life to the story. It creates that longing we all have to be in this world, fantastical or real. Whether you’re writing the next Harry Potter or becoming the next John Green, your world is what gives your novel that next-level appreciation.
The general world doesn’t have to be completely and utterly detailed. You don’t need to know the infrastructure, the population, and the hierarchy of every single town. If you want to make this world flawless and go in-depth into the coinage and political status, then go wild. But for those of you who don’t have the time to develop three different religions practiced in the world, then you don’t have to. You can make a believable world through smaller details.
The physical setting is always the easiest. The landscape can be developed through simple imagery. Be sure to develop the scene through all the senses, but the visual scape is most important. Describe the greenery, the architecture, the color-scheme. Give the major details, then enough smaller details to make it unique.
But the physical setting isn’t all you need to flesh out your world. A world with just the main characters feels so barren. Adding in those background characters allow for the scene to be more animated. Pick out specific people in the crowd for off-handed details that help develop the culture. What are they eating? Are they playing a game specific to the region? Is there a specific greeting done by the locals? Let the culture appear through the people and their interactions.
And, finally, the setting should have a history. The world went on before the plot. Give evidence of previous life. In that high-school drama, flesh out the graffiti in the bathroom stalls and on the desks. Construction around the family-run restaurant being re-purposed for a McDonald's. The scratched keyhole from years of missing the slot. This not only helps to give culture, but also gives the physical landscape life.
Your imagery of your setting will get you halfway there. But you need to give your world energy and vitality. Never forget that life goes on outside of the plot, and that the plot affects life outside of your main characters. Let this be seen to your readers through those minor details about the landscape, the off-handed mentions of the crowd. This will allow your audience to be drawn in over and over again to the world you craft.
Do you have specific questions about setting that weren't answered in this section? Leave a comment down below and the author of this post will will answer it when our next entry is posted. Note: Comments posted after 11/20 may not be included.
Questions from "Dialogue":
What do you recommend for writing dialogue for characters with a specific dialect? How do you portray that dialect without making the dialogue too confusing?
The first thing to consider is what kind of dialect the character has. Is it a well-known dialect in real life? A made-up one crafted for the story? Depending on your answer, you may need to define the rules in terms of inflection, pronunciation, etc. before you begin crafting your dialogue. Once you understand the rules, go through writing the dialogue as if there is no dialect. You want to make sure your dialogue is still forwarding the plot and not just an excuse to show off your fancy foreign accents. It should feel like an authentic tone suitable for the character. Apostrophes are your friend! A good example to look into is the dialogue by Hagrid from the Harry Potter novels.
If you’re worried about making the dialogue confusing and you have a made-up accent, consider whether there are rules for the dialect that could be removed to simplify things. Describing the accent before the character starts speaking in narration also does a lot in terms of getting the reader in the mindset of the dialect. When rewriting, ask others to read specific portions of the dialogue for comprehension, and take their feedback into account. If all else fails, consider whether the dialect is truly necessary to the story.