Worldbuilding: What does your world want?

currently playing on my laptop: I’m Shipping Up to Boston by Dropkick Murphys

I’ve noticed something. The stories that cling to me like dark, wildflower-scented honey are housed in living worlds.

Huh? you say. Alisha, you may need to shove your kid’s craft glue another foot away. It’s affecting your words.

No. Listen.

Many authors know to include sights, smells, and sounds in their stories. After all, drawing in readers’ senses helps them experience the sordid tale of the werefairy and her lizard king, the painful pages dedicated to the defiant misfit and his genius bestie, or whathaveyou.

But not so many authors shape their world into a fully realized character.

A world—be it fantasy or a version of this one we’re stuck in—should want.

Does it want to push its inhabitants? Or protect them? Does the story world punish strangers for interfering or welcome all who traipse onto its cotton candy shores?

Look at these pics. Age-old volcanic rock along a walkway. A door crowded with locks. An imposing temple with a moon like an eye looking down. An immaculate cathedral beside a bridge covered in messy tokens of memory and love. A canal swallowing a window’s attempt at light. Each photo shows an example of how alive the world can be.

(Near Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland. A door somewhere in Britain. The pantheon in Rome. Pont des Arts bridge in Paris. And, ah, Venice. *please tell me someone gets the Indiana Jones reference)

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Victoria Schwab (aka V.E. Schwab)’s A Darker Shade of Magic excels at giving fantasy worlds a want, a drive, a fully developed personality. Three Londons breathe life into this magical story. Red, White, and Gray.

I picked up the following world personality traits from her worldbuilding.

Red—juicy with color and magic, satisfying and yet mysterious, wants to fill you with magic and watch you become more dramatic, full of pomp and circumstance

Gray—dark and scrappy, challenges you with simple yet cutting realities of poverty and sexism, gives moments of choice and possibility

White—a fantastic beast with an ever-hungry maw aimed right at you, punishing, passive-agressive on some days, outright cutthroat on others, hurt and broken and angry, angry, angry

Your own story’s world should be just as alive. What does your world desire from its inhabitants? Or does it ignore them and turn on without a care? What does your world want?


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2 Responses to Worldbuilding: What does your world want?

  1. Seth says:

    My story world in the novel that I am writing wants to choke the joy out of anyone who comes there. It almost always succeeds.

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