Katherine L. E. White

Creator of Worlds

Category: Worldbuilding!

Creating Darkwood Feathers

Darkwood Feathers was one of my worlds that I created from the  bottom, up.   MK and I started small, very small in fact.  We started writing not knowing much about our world, other than we were going to have two kicking heroines who had their DNA messed with and were manufactured as weapons.  That’s it, pretty much.  Darkwood Industries wasn’t very developed, other than it was the manufacturing facility.

Now, MK is fabulous at taking notes, so as we discussed the larger aspects of the world that Senna and Lively, she started making our world bible.  As of right now, we have more details than we do the big picture, but more of the big picture happens every day.

Starting Big and Going Small or Starting Small and Going Big?

People world build in one of two ways: they either start from the small, mundane things and work their way to larger ones, or they start from the creation of the world, and finally come down to earth.

World building can be seen as a funnel, with the epic ‘and the land was parted from the waters’ at the large end and the ordinary ‘the decor the privy’ at the spout.

worldbuilding funnel

You need to know how your world was created, or at the very least, some idea of who your characters think the world was created.   This helps to understand why your characters think about the world in the way they do, on a collective consciousness level.  Was the world created violently or in a loving and peaceful manner?  What effect does this belief have on the way the people, as a whole, live in the world you’re building?

But you also need to know the decor of the privy.  Well, not this exactly (but maybe, depending on the story), but knowing how the toilet is decorated says a great deal about the character and the world in which they live.  What kind of toilet is it?  Why is it that way?  Is there any decoration in it?  Why or why not?

Knowledge of both of these things is essential.  It makes your world a real place, filled with real people, doing things for real reasons.  Either way is appropriate.  But both ways must serve the story.

What Is World Building?

This is such a simple question to ask, and it actually has a simple answer, but the answer has not-so-simple implications.

Many people want to answer the question with “setting”, but that is only partially correct.  Setting is “the time, place, and conditions in which the action of a book, movie, etc., takes place” (Merriam-Webster).  It is only the within the story you are writing.

But there are other things happening that do not take place in the time, physical space, or conditions of your story.  Things have happened before the story, they will happen afterward.  People exist outside of the story you’re telling, in places that exist outside of the story you’re telling.

It is these empty spaces, the ones you don’t tell us about in your work, that is world building.

World building is everything that happens in the reality of your story, both inside and outside of it.  And I mean absolutely everything.  No matter what world you create, people have to remove waste from their bodies.  How do the characters do that?  How does the society handle it?  This is a very simple aspect of world building, what you’re characters are doing, no matter who they might be, off-camera.

There is more to your world than your story.  What’s happening outside of it?


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