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Howdy y’all, my name is Nicholas McIntire and I am an epic fantasy writer and a YouTuber, and my debut novel, The Hunter’s Gambit, is out now. Today I’m going to be sharing five tips for world-building. If
you are in the midst of planning an epic fantasy series, or really anything that
doesn’t take place in the exact world we live in, world-building is going to be
a necessary part of your creative process. Some people find this really difficult,
others don’t seem to have that much of a problem with it, but there are a couple
of things that you will typically find in anybody’s process for creating a
believable and sustainable world. So because this video is meant to be
reasonably short, and I could probably talk about this for hours if left
unchecked, I’m gonna break this up into a continuing series. This is the first part
of that. It covers what are to me the more elemental aspects of how to
approach world-building and a good litmus test to figure out if the way
you’re approaching your world is right for the story you’re trying to tell.
Before we get any farther, hit the like and subscribe button down below, and ring
the bell if you want to be notified every time I release a video. I typically
release new videos on Mondays, but I’ll probably also be throwing in some bonus
videos, if you will, when things come up that really just get me excited, or that
don’t fit into exactly what I’ve designed this channel for. And of course,
all the views expressed in this video are entirely my own, and this is a super
subjective sort of thing, as is most creative writing, so bear that in mind.
The first thing I need to know before diving into world-building 100% is where my characters fit into the world and into this story.
My characters drive the stories that I create, and as a result, knowing where
they fit into the world around them, their placement in it, and the power they
have where they’re beginning is crucial to developing things further, and what is
determined by the world around them? Like class, status, agency, money.
All of these things will help you begin to fill in the world you’re trying to
create. Now, a quick caveat, that’s how I begin all of my plotting and writing
processes. That does not mean that you have to do it this way. Some people
create the world, and do like a really in-depth deep dive, and their story and
their characters come from the world that they create. That is a completely
viable way to do this, it’s just not one that I have a ton of experience with, but
for the sake of this video we are talking about the things that I do when
launching into creating the world that a series, or even a standalone, take place
in. Number two, what I call Zoom, which means how close or how distantly are you
viewing the world of the story you’re trying to tell? If it’s an epic tale that
takes place over a ton of books, you’re not going to be nearly as concerned with
the minutiae, the teeny tiny little details, at the very beginning, because
you’re still trying to explain this vast enormous world that all of these
different people inhabit. If you’re doing a short story, or even a novel or novella,
that takes place entirely within one town or one small country within this
much bigger world, then your focus is going to be a lot more zoomed in and
micro in the things you analyze, the things you underline when you’re
explaining how this world is obviously different than the one that we’re in,
but also things that help you convey to the reader that this is a viable
functioning world with eccentricities, and teeny tiny details that help people
be immersed in the world, and thus in the story you’re telling. One of the fastest
ways to get people to put down your book and sort of run away is a inconsistent
world where you’re focusing on all the things that make it weird, but either you
can’t consistently bring the storyline through, or the things you focus on have
nothing to do with the story or your characters. It’s just more of you
saying “Well hey, look at this cool world I created” but it doesn’t actually impact
your story or your character’s lives in any way. I’m going to give you an example
that I literally just made up. This is not from anything, and if anyone who
wants to take this idea and run with it, be my guest. But let’s say you’re talking
about a world that’s particularly arid, or even xeric, where there’s really very
little water or water is still somewhat scarce, and as a result let’s say the
people of this country have to rethink where to find a source of food, and it
just so happens that in this village, or country, or what have you, they have
decided to start hunting and eating a type of semi-sentient mucus, and that’s
been the way things are for hundreds of years, and they’re farmed and there’s a
whole system for it. However, at one point towards the beginning, your main
character realizes that all of these semi-sentient mucus people have
a language and they are all speaking to each other, and your character decides to
figure out if eating them is technically murder. Now, this is it was meant to be a
ridiculous idea but I could actually make that into something if I wanted to (laughs). That’s an example of a very micro idea. It’s very zoomed in on one particular
practice in one particular culture, and one character’s thoughts and feelings
about this one practice. The trick here is this could be a fantastic short story.
It could be a thought piece that could be a standalone story, but once again
that is taking you into a very very zoomed-in level of this culture or this
society. If you wanted to make this story into a much broader epic kind of tale,
you could still use this idea, but it would be a much much shorter, more
abbreviated version at the very beginning of the story to maybe tell the
audience something important about your main character. Maybe they’re really
passionate about the rights of others, and this was how they sort of discovered
that maybe they can talk to other creatures
mentally or magically, and as a result this awakens that ability inside of them,
and then they take that and they move it to a much larger scale later on in the
story. If you stay focused on that one idea, as I said, you could make
that into a short story very easily. But it’s really hard from that one idea to
then try to keep it going, and turn it into something more gripping,
unless you just abbreviate it, and put it at the beginning. It’s a quick 5 to 10 page
lesson that the main character learns before moving on to other things.
Tip Number 3 is determining the kind of world you’re trying to create. Now
that might sound obvious, but keep in mind that a world can be really anything
you want it to be. If you’re writing a story about anthropomorphic toys, a world
could be a child’s playroom. If you want to take it darker, it could be an
abandoned children’s hospital. You can really make this as expansive or as tiny
as you want to, depending on what fits the story, once again, that you are trying
to tell. So when determining the kind of world you’re building, some of the most
important questions are: Where do structures of power lie? If it’s divided,
how is it divided? Is it is divided by different kinds of government? Or
religions? Geography? Magic? There are all kinds of ways you can break people up
and create either divisions, or you could do it all about one country, and the
natural divisions that occur within that one place due to magic, money, agency, race, all kinds of different ways to show both divisions, and what brings people
together. But for example, if you’re using religion as a way of showing “Oh, in this
country everyone believes the same thing.” do you keep in mind that that’s
basically never true, no matter what population group you’re looking at.
Homogeneity is pretty much out. No one group has
believers who all believe the same thing with no dissenters. No political party, or
monarchy, has a country full of people who are all 100% into whatever is
happening. You’re always going to have dissent, and it really depends on your
story how big of a deal you make that dissent be. If this is going to be a
rebellion story, where they’re overthrowing the evil Empress, and
setting up a democracy, then descent is really really important. But just as
easily, you could take a country where everyone’s generally happy, and the
people who want to go back to the way it used to be, or whatever it is, can be
used instead for comic relief, or to provide a different way of looking at
the system that everyone else thinks is wonderful, and you get to determine how
big of a deal that actually is. Number 4, and this is extremely important, but
Number 4 is consistency. It sounds simple, and it shouldn’t be super super
difficult, as long as you don’t make your world initially insanely complex. One of
the reasons I would advise you not to start off with an insanely complex world,
meaning you can create an insanely complex world, that is fine, but don’t
dump all of that onto your reader at the very beginning, because it’s a whole lot
to take in, and readers are either going to just skim past it, or get frustrated
and shut down. You don’t want every tiny little detail to be super super super
important to understanding the story. As you begin, it’s a much more effective
tactic, for both your and the reader’s sanity, too slowly but consistently take
them deeper and deeper and deeper into your world as you move through the plot.
And if you’re writing a series, as you go through each book. You don’t want to
start off with this ridiculously high learning curve, because a lot of readers,
especially today, don’t have the attention span or the interest at the
very beginning to go that deep with you yet. You have to earn that by
exposing them to characters they love, and storylines they can really get
behind and emotionally connect to, and then once they’re invested, you can start
to take them deeper. So you can make the world as complicated as you wantl, but be
very judicious in how you release bits and pieces to your reader. I would say
start with the things that are the most important to your story and to your
characters, things that you have to understand, in order for the story to make
sense. And then, once you’ve got those, and people are pretty comfortable with that,
you can start layering in deeper and deeper elements of your world,
to make it feel more fleshed out, and colored in, and more believable, and
make it a place that your reader ultimately wants to go to, that they want
to live in, and they get to do that in a small way through reading your stuff. All
right, last one Number 5 is feasibility. One of the
easiest ways to spot a feasibility issue or success is on maps. If you have a
vast and terrifying desert, and it directly borders a lush green forest,
unless there’s a really strong reason for that, that’s not gonna work in “reality”, unless, you know that desert was created by a curse, or there’s some
specific reason, weather patterns don’t typically allow for that kind of stark
change, just like you typically don’t have just straight-up Plains, flat flat
flat, hitting a mountain range with no foothills in between. Pay attention to
the various things about how the real world works, and then try to echo that in
the way you create your world. There are also feasibility elements that come up,
like if you have a capital city, but there is literally no source of water
anywhere near it, you haven’t referenced that there’s a lake, or a river, or even
an ocean. There’s nothing around it that would sustain the people who have to
live there, and in a lot of medieval cases, take away their waste, and all that
sort of thing. Look at how London was built. It has the Thames going straight through
it. You need certain elements in whatever world you’re creating that make it feel
like yes, people could actually live here. Water is a big one, and it’s one of the
most often missed elements, and it’s not hard to to get around. You could say that
the entire capital city is right over an enormous aquifer, or that there’s a deep deep lake underneath, and that’s where they draw all their water
from. There are ways to fix this, but typically look at how cities in the past
were designed, and where they were placed, because that’s going to give you a
pretty good idea of what elements make for a good place for a bunch of people
to gather and live. As I said, I could go on for a really long time talking about
this, and discussing different ways to approach things, but if you’re just getting started, especially these are things I want you to think
about. And if you’ve built a world, and you’re working on it, and
you’re working through your story, see if the world you’ve created stands up to
these things, and if not, why. It might not be a problem for you at all, that it
doesn’t have some of these elements, but I would rather everybody know exactly
what they’re working with, and potentially spot any things
that they glossed over, or forgot to mention, then get five books into a
series and then realize “Oh, I never talked about how important that one
thing was, and now I’ve got to either retcon the entire history of this
place.” All of this is way way easier to fix if you catch at the beginning, than
if you’re trying to play catch up with your own inconsistencies and logic
issues later on down the line, when you’ve already established your world,
and what’s going on within it. Alright, thank you all so much for spending a
little time with me today. If you enjoyed, this please once again
like and subscribe down below, and leave a comment if you have any questions, or
there’s something I didn’t talk about that you would like to explore further. I
would love to have a discussion about this in the comments below, and as I said,
I’m gonna try to make this a series, so that we have a chance to go in
deeper to various elements. If there’s something you specifically want to see,
let me know! My debut novel, The Hunter’s Gambit, is available for Kindle on Amazon,
and in paperback wherever fine books are sold. You can
find links to that down below. Thank you so much for watching, and I will see you

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