When I first started writing—around the age of eleven or so—I did so for one reason alone: to stretch the limits of my imagination and create something. I never thought about writing as an art form or as a career—those ideas came much later in life. In the beginning, writing was about creating, and if I’m being honest, it still is. Even though I consider my writing today to be more professional and career-minded, at its root, I write out of a need to create. Which brings me to worldbuilding—the act of creating an imaginary world from the ground up.
Before I learned to actually write my ideas down and create cohesive stories, I used the most powerful tool at my disposal to create—my imagination. I’d always had an overactive imagination, and I would spend hours with friends or by myself fantasizing about new worlds, then taking notes and drawing pictures to back them up. As soon as I focused on writing, it was only natural for me to start writing about these worlds I had created, but that didn’t stop me from worldbuilding. To this day, worldbuilding is integral to my writing process.
Worldbuilding is something that comes naturally to me. I usually start with some little bit of science or magic that can do something wonderful or terrifying. Next, I frame a story around my newfound power that explains what it can do and the consequences it exacts. Characters spring to mind, mere action figures in the beginning that interact with this new power. Over time, my characters develop personalities, back stories, dreams, and futures.
But my mind doesn’t let me rest with one simple story, one random occurrence.
Surely this newfound power I had dreamed up didn’t come from nowhere. Questions usually pour from my mind, and my imagination generates the answers. If it was a science-based power, I would explore its roots and determine where it had come from. I always had more fun with magic-based powers though. Did it come from some ancient earth history, or did it come from off world? Is this a new power that’s never been used, or do more people use it than my characters (or even I) suspect? The answers don’t always come right away, but my imagination works in overdrive to find them.
Once I figure out a general outline for my stories, I decide where they will take place exactly. Sometimes our very own Earth is an ideal setting. This is fun because I can figure out ways in which my new power was hidden or discovered, and I can rewrite our own world history to accommodate my stories. Even if my stories take place on some other planet or plane of existence, I am compelled to think about its history. I can’t leap into some unknown world without knowing something about where it came from. This line of thinking often leads into the future of my world, which then generates even more stories.
Before I know it, an entire world has developed. I have a history and a future, and I have a base of characters in which to play with. I have cultures and religions and societal roles to intertwine with my stories.
Most importantly, I have a constant source of story in which to draw from. I can draw from an entire length of history, or I can look to the future or farther into the past where new magics and sciences might be waiting to be realized or unearthed.
Worldbuilding means so much more to me than a simple framework for my stories. It becomes a real world that I can share with others.