Top 10 Tips for Worldbuilding

by Vicki Essex

If you read our post on Tuesday, you know that this week on the blog, we’re joined by Superromance author Vicki Essex, who also writes fantasy Westerns as V.S. McGrath. Here are Vicki’s top ten tips for successful worldbuilding!

  1. Start by describing the general premise of this world in one sentence.
  2. Describe the protagonists of this story and how they fit in this world.
  3. Build your world so that it provides obstacles, difficulties, conflict, tension and friction for your characters. Don’t build your world to easily solve your protagonist’s conflicts.
  4. Limitations are key! Your conflicts shouldn’t be so easy they can be solved with the flick of the wand/sonic screwdriver/superpowers/wallet.
  5. Suspension of disbelief: trust your readers to fill in the gaps. Sometimes what they make up in their head is more powerful than what they are told directly, but you have to give them enough to work with.
  6. Be prepared to go back and revise to include loopholes and caveats, and be flexible. Keep notes about any rules you make up, and check for consistency.
  7. Less is more: What can you say without saying it? A piece of information can tell you about more than just what it’s telling you. It’s revealing the systems, physics, values surrounding it.
  8. Deliberate choices mean you’ve thought through the meaning and significance of those details. When you worldbuild, you are setting up reader expectations that need to be followed through.
  9. Do your research! Getting things wrong can pull a reader out of the story or discredit your work, especially if you’re portraying a real-world location and don’t know anything about the region or the cultures that exist there.
  10. Be aware of cultural appropriation, especially if you are developing a fictional country or developing a fantasy or science fiction culture.

And as always, remember to have fun! How do you approach worldbuilding in your novels? Share your tips with us in the comments below! And don’t forget to check out Vicki’s post on Worldbuilding 101.

Vicki Essex has written six contemporary series romances for Harlequin Superromance. She also writes the fantasy Western series The Devil’s Revolver under the penname V.S. McGrath. The final book in the series, The Legend of Diablo, is out now. Please visit www.devilsrevolver.com, www.vsmcgrath.com or www.vickiessex.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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