Regarding Fantasy #5: Worldbuilding

When I first thought of doing the series a few weeks ago, I was positively certain that I wouldn’t touch worldbuilding. A million people have touched on it before and it isn’t unique to Fantasy. Every story requires worldbuilding to a degree. But denying Fantasy’s close link and necessity of worldbuilding would be foolish.

The Importance
Worldbuilding is necessary to ground someone in your world. If it isn’t done right, your characters and story exist on a blank slate. Unless, you are writing a story in which the world altered to constantly fit the current needs of the protagonist, a blank slate won’t work. Though, I would definitely read a story with that premise. Worldbuilding can set and enforce the tone of the story. A fully realized world will be a platform in which someone stepping in from the outside can feel a part of, whether they understand it or not. With Fantasy, some fantastical element is present and as a result will immediately alter the world. The world that is built has to react or behave in a way that makes sense for the world you are creating.

Degree
The reaction one has to the building of a new world can vary greatly. In magical realism, a fantastical element is often not made a big deal. The story lies elsewhere, but the element is still there. The way the world receives tat element is worldbuilding. Say we have one unique fantastical element. A magical realism story is going to handle that element than an Urban Fantasy is going to handle that element. But in either situation the element is treated in a way useful to the story and says something important about the world.

A story such as an Urban Fantasy that may heavily resembles the world we know it may not involve as much worldbuilding as a story set on an alternate world. While the Urban Fantasy may have to deal with establishing the way a group of people or society handle a fantastical element, how a government receives it, and general attitude toward something, they may not have to redesign all of society. Whereas, someone building an alternate world must design and establish everything in that world and how it is received. There is no telling which story requires more time and worldbuilding because each creator is different.

How to Worldbuild
There is no one way to build a world. Everyone will do it differently and if there was some sort of formula, I’m sure people would have stolen it by now. Instead, what you can do while worldbuilding is look to see if the world feels real. When you look around at your characters can you understand the type of world they live in. Are you able to imagine an interaction between people that aren’t your characters. Stepping out and allowing yourself to imagine your world as an outsider will help with seeing if your world is fleshed out enough.

The Goal
I’m certain there are going to be people who disagree, but I find the goal of worldbuilding isn’t just creating a world that supports the character and story. Certainly that is part of it, but I believe the major goal of worldbuilding is to create a world that is so rich you want to experience it. A world  created that is interesting not just for the characters and story, but actually feels like a world is more rewarding than one I wish to leave behind. It is also the major reason certain stories will stick with me. The stories stick because I still imagine the world. I’ve also found many times that the story will fade while the world remains.

Do you enjoy worldbuilding? What sort of worlds do you find most fascinating?

Find the other Regarding Fantasy Series Posts:
Regarding Fantasy #1: Fantasy is all about the What If.
Regarding Fantasy #2: Black Female Protagonists in Fantasy. Where are they?
Regarding Fantasy #3: About why Fantasy is primed for escapism.
Regarding Fantasy #4: Fantasy is the cross genre genre.

14 thoughts on “Regarding Fantasy #5: Worldbuilding

  1. I agree. It’s like Tolkien’s Middle Earth and George R.R. Martin’s Westeros. You’ve got to live in it, breathe the air and see it with your inner eyes so much that you bring people in it and it will feel like home.

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