Having a goal helps us reduce both the number of tasks and the depth of world building in which we engage. Otherwise we can spend too much time and energy on activities that don’t warrant them. We should always ask ourselves what we are hoping to achieve, and this is typically an enjoyable, immersive, and unique experience for our audience. World building isn’t the only way to achieve this, as good storytelling or gameplay can do the same, so world building is one trick in our arsenal – one we shouldn’t do at the expense of all others. “Moderation in all things.”
Decide on goals by asking yourself some questions:
- Do I want to focus on storytelling and feel little desire to do world building?
- Do I plan to write many books or just a few to test the waters?
- Do I feel creative enough to invent a believable world in some detail? Will the setting be unusual enough to warrant the time spent on it?
- Do I have the time to do extensive world building, or something less extreme?
- Do I have the patience to stick with it for months or years?
- How will I feel if I spend years on a setting only to have rejections from agents and publishers? Am I willing to self-publish?
- Do I want (italics) to do this or do I have (italics) to do this?
- Do I think it’s fun and exciting or a chore and a burden?
Much of what we could do is optional, but certain elements are not. For example, we’ll probably need at least one sovereign power, maybe two, plus a few settlements within each. If the characters travel, land features between origin and destination will be encountered unless it’s SF and ground features can be bypassed. While we can develop only the areas to be shown in the story, we can suggest a wider world without actually creating it. Most other elements aren’t universally required but are project dependent. Most chapters in this series presented a breakdown of how to assess whether or not to invent something, or to what degree, but this is a general reminder to avoid becoming overwhelmed by choosing wisely.
It’s also worth mentioning that, while we often invent for a particular setting, sometimes we might not use an idea. If it’s not truly integrated with the world, we can reuse it elsewhere. Always be willing to jot down ideas.