3 Deadliest Sins of World Building

Let me start by saying this; world building is a skill that I believe, every writer should master. The point of – in my estimation, anyway – of writing is to tell a story. Not just to yourself but to those you intend on having read it. Immerse them. Make it come alive. Once you learn the rules, then you can break them. However, there are a few rules that you break at your own risk. Today, I’ll share three.


One Race Centric


Specifically, the human race (I’ll delve into the Eurocentric race model in a later post). Oh, the sci-fi books I have read (oi vey!). Pardon me, while I barf! Ok, so we launch our spaceships and travel the farthest reaches of the galaxy, “discovering” and exploring new races and cultures. Somehow, humans are better than them, smarter than them, more attractive than them. We just happen to be less technologically advanced, yet we present the biggest threat because we learn so quickly and our spirit is just so unshakable.

Crap! Complete and utter crap. It breaks immersion into a story if the world is being skewed to inflate the human ego. If we are just another race, then we are just another race. That’s that.


Pro Tip:

If humans are one race, in a world of many, then think how our species differ. Not in the terms of what makes us better, but showcase what makes each race unique. For example, that pesky little human habit of needing to eat constantly in order to survive. Or the need to always sleep for a certain length of time. How do other races cope with that? How do they recycle and purge the waste from their bodies. Do they need to? Etc.


Events With No Explanation

WW2 SoldierPeople! If there is ONE thing I hate with all the passions within me; it is a story with no explanation as to why these events are happening now as opposed to any other time in history. Why is the maggot army infesting the capital, now? Why not last year? Could it happen forty years from now? What kept the maggot king in check until now? Has the frog king and all his descendants finally died? Would there be none to stop their rotten, slimy reign? Mwahahaha! What historical basis does the event have for happening now.

Similarly, histories are often not linear, either. Meaning, small oddities can dramatically alter the world your characters live in. For example, the invention of paper. By all accounts, its just a simple little piece of plant fiber that has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on life. It should have been an inconsequential invention. Yet, this small piece of plant fiber has been so integral to human history up until our modern time.

Pro Tip:

Think outside the popularized box. History is written from the viewpoint of the winner, so be sure to seek other sources of information when researching your topic. For example, most fantasy novels are set in Medieval Europe. Instead of focusing on historical accounts of kings and queens, try researching the common folk or histories from other places in the world during your era. You can combine classic elements to make your world fresh and original.


Under-Developed Magic/Tech

Snow White Evil Queen

Let’s say your character is a master puppeteer that creates amazing puppets that can come to life. They have the ability to take human form, and mimic their behaviors down to nth degree. The puppeteer sells his works and the puppets do whatever their new owner requires of them.

Simple. Effective. Under developed. With technology like this, think of the ramifications it could have. If there was the possibility that puppets could harm a human and commit all manners of crimes, what would the law enforcement community do to try and crack down? How would they trace the puppet back to their owner? Could your MC really trust their love interests?

Lets consider it another way. Lets say half of your population suddenly learned how to breathe fire. What effects would that have on society? What technology would be invented to market to the fire breathers? Could they talk on cellphones without their breath melting their device? Would the government enlist them as law enforcement? If not, how would law enforcement handle the threat they posed?

You could be here for hours imagining all the ways that your magic/tech would change the world, and you’d probably still just be scratching the surface. But, your world will be a lot richer for it.


***Need help with world building? Check out this little book by Janeen Ippolito. It was a quick read and incredibly insightful. I think you’ll really like it. I did!


Well, that’s all I have for you today folks! Do you think any other sins should have made the list? Drop me a line in the comments below. Love to hear from you soon! Genesys Out!