Previously I shared some thoughts about writing characters. However, that is just part of the entire process.
This time I thought it would be a good idea to talk about world building. World building is basically creating the setting for your story, be it a fictional world, the real world or an alternate reality. How much world building is needed is something you need to decide, and I wouldn’t dare to give you a “rule of world building.”
For example, in Avatar, you get to experience a lot of the culture of the Na’vi because a good amount of the movie is spent exploring that. On the other hand, in Star Wars you visit different planets but you don’t spend time learning about the ins-and-outs of the life of the Tusken Raiders (of course there’s a lot of literature explaining those, but that exists outside the movies and explaining them was never the plan of George Lucas).
In one of my favorite books, Dune, you are presented a very specific social and political system, and you have different “factions” that have their own culture, religion and structure. I am not a fan of what the book did to explain this, though, as it used the format of “appendices” to do that. The following books in the Dune series explained things directly in every book.
I usually do world building only for stories set in a fictional world. Going back to my example of that game about aliens I mentioned in my first article about writing characters, I also came up with some of the world building because I needed to have a starting point for events and visual designs that would happen in the game. The list of things I think about for my world building are society, family, religion (or lack of), culture, technology, living environment. For example, is it a society where everyone collaborates, a society where everyone is just looking after himself/herself, or a mixture; what kind of technology do they have; do they have cities, towns, do they live underground, under the sea, or in big bases out in space (or a combination of those, and how those different settings play a role in the story); do they have the same concept of family as humans, do they even have families at all.
When it comes to “technology” remember that technology is defined as “the sum of techniques, skills, methods, and processes used in the production of goods or services or in the accomplishment of objectives.” What this means is that, for your fictional culture, high speed space travel or hand-created tools to grow food count as technology.
One thing I find interesting is coming up with alternate ideas for human concepts. For example, while humans have the concept of marriage or civil union, the werewolves in Twilight have this concept of “imprinting” where they are bound to one another in some form of “marriage” but without the actual process.
Depending on your story you may also need factions, but that is a subject for another day.