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worldbuilding: 9 tips for creating realistic worlds

Worldbuilding is an important element in fantasy / sci-fi books.

When we’re showing readers a whole new world that we’ve created, it needs to feel real and lived in to the reader. The real world is full of history, politics, religion, stories, people, places, climates, etc. Our new fantasy world needs to feel like it has all those things too.

One way we can trip up when worldbuilding is by info-dumping. Info-dumping is when we give the reader lots of information about our world all in one go. This can be dull to read, and we end up telling the reader about our world, rather than showing them it.

It’s much better to organically weave in small details about our world throughout the story that can add texture and history, and make our world feel lived in.

Here are 9 simple details that can be added to your book to help with your world building:

1. Statues

Statues are erected of important people. If a character passes by a statue, you have an opportunity to add a little bit of history / show a little of the world’s religion without info dumping!

2. Pictures

When you take your reader into a new place, what paintings / photographs might your character see? Maybe a historical even has been depicted in a painting, perhaps your character finds a photograph showing a memory, perhaps there’s prominent picture on display of an important person.

3. Stories

Our world is built on stories. Referencing a fairy tale that has been passed down the generations, or a religious story can help add texture to your world. Especially if it links with your plot.

4. News

In real life, we learn a lot about the world through the news and other media. So what can we tell our readers about a new world using the same medium?

Maybe your character can notice the headline of a newspaper that can show your reader what is going on politically. Perhaps a newsreel / radio / a bard in the background of a scene can tell us about a natural disaster or a war. Perhaps a letter can be sent from a different part of the world with news about an important event.

News can be used to show the reader what’s going on outside of your character’s bubble (and why their journey as a character is important).

5. Apps (if low fantasy / futuristic)

In our world, a lot of our lives revolve around our phones. If you’re writing low fantasy or something futuristic, you might want to think about what apps the characters have installed! Do your magical beings have anything to help them with their tasks? Does a future government keep tabs on people through a certain program?

6. Memories of places

As a character moves through a place, can they remember a time when it was different?

Maybe their grandparents told them stories about the place from when they were young. Maybe people used to feel safe to trade in a certain town center, but since the current queen came into power, it is a ghost town. Perhaps this area used to be forest before it was cut down to make way for the skyscrapers.

Including memories indicates to the reader that the place hasn’t just sprung up from nowhere. It has existed for a long time.

7. Graffiti

Is there any graffiti on the walls? If so, what would it say? You could use graffiti to show something that’s going on politically, civil unrest or a rebellion, hate for a public figure, the type of area a character is in, or even something mundane that relates to how people live.

8. Clothing

The types of clothes characters wear can be used to show the climate of the world, the fashion, and class differences. Uniforms could be used to indicate a person’s role and status. The colors worn by a character could be used to indicate an allegiance or a religion or a magical ability, etc.

What kind of clothes do the people in your world wear?

9. Maps

If you character sees / uses a map, this can be used to show your readers a larger part of the world than your character is currently experiencing. This can give readers a more macro view of the world and make it feel more realistic.

These are 9 details that can be used to make your world feel more real. Do you have any details you like to weave into your worlds? Let me know in the comments!

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LAUREN PALPHREYMAN is a writer based in London. She is the author of Cupid's Match, Devils Inc., and A Circus of Ink. She writes books full of magic and romance, and her serial fiction has accumulated over 70 million views online. Find her on Instagram @LaurenPalphreyman and on Twitter @LEPalphreyman.

In a world where stories are forbidden, Elle has a dangerous power: Creation. That's why tattooed soldier Jay is sent by the gods to kill her. . .

A Dark Adult Fantasy Romance

Get your copy of A Circus of Ink here.


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