Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Tips for World Building When You Write

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

As authors, we all create worlds. It doesn’t matter if we write speculative, contemporary, historical settings or some combination, we all have to transport our readers to a place beyond where they are sitting.

Surprisingly, there are many common things we must do, no matter what genre we’re writing. 

World Building Tips

First, when you’re building a world don’t forget the five senses – six if your world has magic or some kind of extra sensory perception.

  • What are the customs and tradition around touch.
  • Do men and women have the same moral base as we do?
  • What are some ways you can describe the world and make it real through what your characters are touching.
  • How does aging affect sight on your world? Does it degenerate or get better?
  • What are some things your character sees as he/she is going about their daily lives?
  • What are the normal colors for eyes on your world? Are they all blue, brown, green and gray? Or are they all yellow?
  • What do the people on your world eat? 
  • Are they vegetarians, meat eaters, omnivores?
  • What are the customs around meals?
  • Is there a beverage of choice—like coffee or soda?
  • How do you describe taste without using our words, like cinnamon or oatmeal?
  • What do the people on your world hear? 
  • Is the night time populated with industrial noise, music, insects? 
  • What sounds bring comfort?
  • What sounds bring peace?
  • What do the people on your world smell?
  • If you’ve invented flowers and trees and food, how can you describe something that’s supposed to smell like lilac without saying it smells like lilac?
Sixth Sense
  • Do the people on your world have a sixth sense?
  • Can they read minds?
  • Can they sense magic?
  • What are the rules with this other sense? Does everyone have it or just a select few?
My World Building Checklist:

1. Believability

2. Terminology

3. Flora, Fauna and Physical Locale

4. Seasons – consider your calendar and watch your timeline. If you’re making up a world, 
  • Does it rotate the primary in a 12 month cycle? 
  • Does it have polar icecaps? Seasons? 
  • How many moons? Remember with just one moon our oceans are impacted. 
  • What happens if you have two moons? If you’re not dealing with oceans it may not matter. 
  • What are the seasons called?
5. Transportation 

6. Technology

7. Society Hierarchy

8. Dialect and Language
  • Sprinkle in some made-up words with plenty of context to make the meaning clear.
  • Utilize a different sentence structure. 
  • Give them a different way to measure time and distance.
5. Keep Your Setting Uncomfortable

Bottom Line:
World building may be something we love, but it still takes work. We have to be willing to go deep and wide to make our settings believable and vibrant. It’s up to us to plant the reader in a place that allows their imagination to roam free while keeping their attention firmly focused on story that’s unfolding. 

What are some tips, or challenges you have when it comes to world building? Be sure to share them in the comments section below. 

Don't forget to join the conversation!


Edie Melson is a woman of faith with ink-stained fingers observing life through the lens of her camera. No matter whether she’s talking to writers, entrepreneurs, or readers, her first advice is always “Find your voice, live your story.” As an author, blogger, and speaker she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her numerous books reflect her passion to help others develop the strength of their God-given gifts and apply them to their lives.Connect with her on her website, through Facebook, Twitter and on Instagram.


  1. This is such a great article, Edie! What really stood out to me is, "We have to be willing to go deep and wide to make our settings believable and vibrant." That's the key to excellence. The more we invest in our writing, the more we will engage our readers.

  2. Lots of helpful words and sentences in this blog, Edie. Thank you for it. I learn so much from all the blogs in The Write Conversation!

  3. Thank you Edie! Excellent suggestions. I like to cut out pictures creating a collage to inspire these sensations.