Writing: Creating a Convincing World

post apocalyse 2

Getting my second story moving is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now. I figure this is the first time I can make that cross from second draft of the first novel through to first draft of the second novel. Have both burning slowly so to speak. I’d like to think I will continue this and become amazingly prolific but life will throw up a few barriers as always. For now though I’m going to live in the fantasy world that I will and can do it.

So, back to the second story and more specifically my weird ideas of world building …

Now, I’ve always loved creating characters and I’ve spoken about that in the past here but now I want to focus on creating a vibrant world that feels alive, something convincing even. For this I could use a real city, somewhere I know and feel comfortable writing about but unfortunately for my second novel I’ve decided to move into a post apocalyptic adventure world with some references to the world of today but that’s about it. It’s shaping up to be a mutated version of the world we know today and a post war (invasion maybe) world that has had many issues rebuilding itself (disease, tribal skirmishes, new and dangerous inhabitants… possibly more). I want a world that people could read about and say to themselves, ‘That’s could happen if this was to occur or that was to occur etc.’ To create this world and do it well I figure I need to write a little history of the world itself. Background information of why circumstances came to pass, what they were specifically and how this shaped the world I’m about to place my story in now.

I’ve seen other writers do this in Sci FI and Fantasy and until now I had no idea why they’d put so much work into something with seemingly little value to the story. Lord of the rings has several books dedicated to it’s inhabited world. The Dark tower series has a couple and star wars, although not a book, has dozens of books based on the universe and myriad of others story’s from the same universe all helping in some way to explain the world works in the original. I didn’t care for the background of what came before, it was the story at hand that I was interested in. Now though I can see (and a little embarrassingly admit) the immense value in writing a background history and context to your current story.

Listening to the guys from the self publishing podcast regarding their project ‘Fiction Unboxed’ (which you should go to and take a look) has sparked this interest in me to write a history for the world I want to write about before I start the main story. The guys discuss their current book and the work they’ve put into building a world history and context to their current story setting. In order to better explain the nuances of the current world and current story, a little background knowledge will go a long way. Sci Fi and fantasy can push the boundary of what’s believable and what’s not, but with some prior knowledge of for instance, why such an object has come to be or why a particular section of society acts as they do, all adds weight to what you are trying to portray to the reader. It legitimised the possible fantastic claims made within your main story. To the writer it will make the story world more real and will hopefully translate to believability in the read words on each page or screen.

With my current project, I’ve thrown away my preconceived ideas of background information and history being just for hard-core fans and will attempt to write on before I start the story itself. Whether I will publish this background history, I’m not sure. What I write may no see the light of day (the background stuff that is) but it will hopefully allow me to write a world of more depth and vibrancy and legitimise it in my eyes so that I can portray it to the reader in a much more convincing way. I’ll let it guide me along the way keeping me within the boundaries of what’s possible and impossible in a fictional universe.

That’s enough of my strange world building rambling. Why now let me know what you do when it comes to world creation?



  1. Warning: Long comment ahead.

    I’ll tell you how I created worlds within my MG fantasy universe.
    First of all, the primary setting is on earth, but because the story is about a new race of magical humans, I had to create the “world” they live in. This took a long time because I was finishing high school, college, and grad school. But it gave me sufficient time to let the world stew.

    I thought about the laws of our current world order and how/if they should be applied to my own. I had to know what my characters/world was allowed to do and be before landing the physical characteristics of the setting. That probably took longer than anything because there are so many aspects to consider. How do people communicate? How to they travel? What sorts of foods do they eat? What type of government/dictatorship/monarchy is in place? Is there any type of law enforcement? Are they in peace or at war? You get the idea.

    When that was done, which took time, I drew a lot of pictures (and I’m the worst artist I know), because I needed an idea of what it looked like so that I could accurately describe and portray the landscape, setting, architecture, botany, etc. I also google searched a million different things to get a more realistic idea of what that all would look like, and if it matched the picture I had in my imagination.

    I also created a secondary world that the characters will travel to in the midst of the series, and that has still been stewing. I know primarily how it looks and acts, but because the characters haven’t yet interacted with that world, it won’t be fully actualized until they are in it. No matter how much planning takes place, I believe that characters will change the world(s) they are in and we can’t anticipate the ways in which that will happen.

    Is that clear as mud? I guess, to sum up… research, research, research. I prefer magical realism, so I wanted the laws and principles of the worlds I created to be more applicable and understandable to the audience I’m writing for. I think understanding the physicalities and phenomenons in the world we live in will give great insight into any world-building we undertake as writers.

    Great post, as always!


    • That’s a really great insight into your world building process. I never used to find it as exciting as characters but when you build a vast one like the one you’ve described here it’s just as exciting (o:


      • It can be! I absolutely love creating characters. And naming them. It’s like my crack. But world-building can be just as exciting, because there are no rules! I mean, of course, I like to have some physical/scientific rules of some kind otherwise it doesn’t feel real, but in general, nobody can tell you what to do! Nobody can say that rocks can’t talk. Maybe in your world, they can! Hmm… now I’m going to have to go create some new creatures…


  2. I love to create worlds. For me, it very much depends on what I want to have happen there. In my first book, I needed to cut my protagonist from an easy escape, and so a newly colonized world gave me a scattering of small settlements and an almost non-existent police force. That newness also allowed for different settlements to have different characteristics, each with their own rules and regulations, giving greater scope for side-stories and stories in the future (I’m in the process of writing book 3 of a sci-fi series).

    So they are very much backdrop, but also the vital base and details can be built up over time.


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