Worldbuilding - Finding your "Why"

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Crafting a fictional world, including a cast of well rounded characters, that is believable and inviting.

I wanted to begin writing more about the process that I'm following to create a fictional world. I'm fascinated by the topic and I hope to turn this into a mini series over the next few months funded by you! (Thank you, Patrons!)

The word "worldbuilding" can feel a bit all-encompassing, depending on who you're talking to it can mean a whole set of different things. To me, worldbuilding means crafting a fictional world, including a cast of well-rounded characters, that is believable and inviting.

Wikipedia defines it similarly as "the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe. The resulting world may be called a constructed world."

I love the idea of crafting an entire culture of our own from compiled experiences and interests. But what drives us to craft these kinds of worlds?

Is it about worldbuilding, or is it something more?

Image by   Cederic X

Image by Cederic X

In the fantasy community I see a lot of worldbuilding built off of European inspirations. Tolkien could be considered by some to be the grandfather of some of these ideas and worlds but there were many more before and after him. Constructed worlds are influenced by the cultures we live in, one way or another, by our folk tales, religion, political leanings and all the other things that tie us together into communities of people.

I love these stories and fictional worlds inspired by the western world but I find, at times, that the fantasy world often lacks diversity and can feel a little derivative. I know I'm making a bit of a blanket statement. I'm not bashing the genre or the influences, don't get me wrong, it's natural to tell stories that we are familiar with. But I long to see more variety in inspirations from our own world rather than one small set of locations. The desire to see this sparked the idea to contribute something of my own to the growing variety of voices that I've seen being added to the genre in the last 10 years.

For me, this worldbuilding process began with an idea that was much bigger than any one story could tell. I'm an islander, and while my skin and family heritage may say otherwise, I feel a strong connection to the South East Asian and Oceana people I grew up around.

Rather than remix and repeat, I want to grow my world for a reason and that reason for me is to create a genre of "tropical fantasy" worlds inspired by the island nations of Oceana and SE Asia. To create a world I feel most at home in surrounded by lush environments, frequent rainstorms and lots of ocean.

Build a world off of what you're passionate about. This gets to the meat of what it is I am trying to do and say. Find your reason for creating a world and answer your "why".

WHY are you creating a world?

The initial desire to create a world is a wonderful starting point, but look a layer deeper and decide why you want to craft a world of your own. What makes it unique to you and your experiences? Ask yourself, is it childhood adventures that you're building off of or the desire to explore a certain belief system? Do you simply want to provide a place of escape?

Your "why" doesn't have to be profound but the reason will make it all the more compelling to write and read. Having this extra layer will allow you to dig deeper into the why your world should, no, needs to exist.


Next: Where to begin and how did I get started?