Being able to build or create something is a powerful ability and is one of the most exhilarating things about being a writer. Building an entire world can be magical and fascinating— a whole new universe at your fingertips. But as awesome as it all is, it is just as difficult a task. From coming up with tiny details to blending them seamlessly, world-building needs a lot of care and dedication. It’s an enormous task that could not possibly be explained in a single article. Today, I just wanted to give a brief on the simplest methods of this process. Most of you will be able to recognise at least one of these methods and you might have been following it consciously or unconsciously.
Outside-in is also called the top down method. As the name suggests you build from the top and work your way downwards. This means that first you create general ideas for your world and then move down to specific ideas. For example, you start by creating a whole species, country or culture. They could have a set of characteristics and traits that are common. If you are writing a sci-fi, you could determine what level of technology your world uses or if it is a fantasy book, what kind of magical powers govern your universe. Once you lay out this whole idea, you can move into specific details like the house you characters live in or the characters themselves. Who are these people? What relation do they have with each other? What makes them special or what happens to them that affects the working of this world?
When you follow this method, you will discover that it creates a universe that is well integrated and the parts will fit together quite smoothly. The downside however, is that you can’t immediately put your world to use in your writing. You’re whole creation needs to be finished in order to make something out of it.
Also known as the bottom up method, this involves building from the bottom and working your way upwards. It works in the opposite direction as the outside in method. Here, you start with specific details. Usually you know who your main characters are. You start building around them; their powers, their circumstances, their relationships. Sometimes it could be a specific event that your story is built around or maybe a town. Once the main idea is fixed, you add details around this particular idea. This way you begin with building your bottom and create a more general top which will have rules or characteristics applying to everyone in common. When you are using this method, you’ll realise that once that small part that you need most is created in the beginning, you can start working on your narrative. With the first steps, you already have material to work with. The downside, however, is that it may not create a well-integrated world like the outside-in method. Sometimes, you may find yourself slacking when it comes to building the rest of the world since you already have your most important details. The parts may not come together as effortlessly as you believed they would.
This method includes a combination of both the outside-in and inside-out method. In this method, you start making your way from both sides. This means, as you construct the general rules and workings of your world as a whole, you also create the specifics of your main characters or places of interest. With this method you get the advantages of both the top down and bottom up methods. However, not everything is easy with this method. Because you are working from both sides simultaneously, it means you’ll have to put in double the effort and double the time. The narrative you build with this method will take a lot more dedication and time, but it will definitely be more solid for all the trouble.
These were just a few methods that writers generally use, either planned or otherwise. If there is any method you believe will help other authors, please do comment and let us know.