Worldbuilding - Narrative

This is apart of a mini series talking about worldbuilding and my process in creating a new world funded by my Patrons! (Thank you, Patrons!)

Previous posts: Finding Your Why

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A world is just a big sandbox game without a narrative.

When we last left off in this worldbuilding series I shared a little of the "why" behind starting my own world.

Today I want to continue onto the how I found seeds of my story and started crafting a narrative.

It's one thing to have a desire to create a world, to understand your "why" around building it, but many flounder while trying to find a concrete “something”  to attach their “why” to. This is where narrative and story come in.

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For me, I realized early on that I needed to wrap my world around a narrative and a specific problem that needed to be solved. I had to find a reason for people to care about my world and to relate to it in some way, beyond a list of interesting quirks, characters, maps or magic systems. Those things are good, but they're only small pieces of the larger whole.

I realized that coming up with an overarching problem for my characters to solve would not only give the world a larger purpose, but also help me decide whose story I wanted to tell.

A world is just a big sandbox game without a narrative.

When you think of worlds that you've grown up reading about, I imagine you're probably thinking of those worlds in the context of the characters and their stories that inhabit them.

Harry Potter's world would not be the same without Harry. The Hobbit would not exist without Bilbo. We see each of these worlds and the problems that are in them, through the lens of a character, and their relationship to that world.

If you take a story you’re familiar with and zoom out, beyond the cast of characters and their stories, you’ll find the narrative. The epic narrative, for example, of the Lord of the Rings is the fight against an evil that is threatening to overtake their world.

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Having a narrative applies to games as well as novels.

RPG games usually come in the form of a story, and your character is a part of that greater narrative. World of Warcraft has maintained its long-standing status as a top seller not because of its shiny graphics and fun combat mechanisms, but because of the immersion into a world that feels real. That world is wrapped around major events, stories that are constantly intersecting, and problems that are always popping up and being resolved by the hero (you, the player).

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Allow the narrative to set the tone.

I chose a narrative that was centered around nature and magic. I knew from the beginning that I wanted my world to have some similarities to our own, yet also include some unique traits beyond the normal.

Mirroring some of the same issues we have here on earth allowed me to draw comparisons and highlight differences, and also keep the story relatable. Adding magical elements gave me the ability to explore the supernatural and how it intersects with the world around us, and also to create new and unique problems and solutions.

In my case, magic in the world of Renjana is in a delicate balance between chaotic and structured states. When that harmony is upset, I have an interesting narrative of a world out of balance, and with it, a lot of problems to solve.

Finding a narrative doesn't have to be complicated.

Like painting, look at the big picture first and don't get bogged down in the details just yet. Once you've found something that fits the details will come out on their own as you move through the next stages of building.

Next: Characters & their Problems

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If you enjoyed this, I'd love to hear what related topics you'd like for me to explore in future. :)

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Photos by Dikaseva, Tito Rebellious &  Kevin Delvecchio on Unsplash