Worldbuilding is required when crafting a story that deviates from what is generally accepted as the world we occupy. That’s right, I said required. If a story doesn’t follow the “rules” of today, then you actually need to sit and think about the reasons it’s different and build a new world around those reasons.
If it’s different then you need to do some worldbuilding. Period. Regardless of the size of those differences, you’ll need to know what they are. As you’re picking those differences apart, let’s look at a few mistakes and pitfalls to avoid so you’re not left with a messy world and angry readers.
Some common mistakes are…
Spending too much time on worldbuilding.
Yes, you need to build your world and yes, you need to make sure you explain the whys and hows, but don’t allow yourself to get buried beneath everything until you’re spending more time building a world than actually writing. There’s no reason to develop a massive alphabet or grammatical structure of sentences for a magical being that only uses one word in their language. If all your character does is use the word goge to mean dog, then I want you to stop right there with the language research and construction.
Creating things you’ll never use.
This was touched on in item 1, but I’ll reiterate. If you aren’t going to use grammar, don’t spend the time figuring it out. If the familial structure isn’t addressed in any story, don’t bother with it. If a family tree isn’t important to a book, don’t build one.
Forgetting to look ahead.
If you’re writing a series, the biggest hiccup is not thinking about how a rule you established in book one will affect book two, three, or five. If werewolves are born not made and immortal in book one, what are you going to do with a human mate in book five that needs to be turned into a werewolf?
A world without conflict.
There’s conflict everywhere in our everyday world. There should be conflict in your fantasy world as well. Not everything can be happy-shiny perfect. Perfect is boring! Make sure there’s a conflict that affects or touches your characters.
A world we’ve seen before.
It’s totally fine to be inspired by various books you’ve read or movies you’ve seen. It’s utterly impossible to come up with something that’s wholly original anymore. That said, don’t copy another’s world in its entirety. Put your own flavor and twist on things that tweak your imagination. Just don’t copy another’s work. Don’t be guilty of derivative copyright infringement! (Yes, it’s a thing.)
Forgetting and breaking the rules.
You’ve made up a bunch of rules for your world, so don’t forget them. Why? Because then you’ll break them! A reader is willing to suspend belief for your fantasy world, but they won’t forgive you for breaking your own rules. That’s why I created my SERIES BIBLE. It’s also why I have a FREE worldbuilding workbook available at the end of this post. Write your rules and never break them.
Those are the biggies in my opinion, but what are others you may have experienced? Is there anything that’s acted as a huge stumbling block for you? Share your thoughts so we can all avoid these hiccups and build better worlds for our fantabulous readers!
Looking for a place to keep track of your worldbuilding? My SERIES BIBLE is available in my shop and you can also download my FREE worldbuilding workbook below. Just drop in your email and have a download link sent right to your inbox.