Worldbuilding

Hi! I’m back! It’s me again! (Natasha, in case you were confused by the sudden influx of enthusiasm and superfluous exclamation marks. I am the Daughter.)

So… worldbuilding. It’s a term writers use a lot, and can effectively be defined as ‘constructing a world’. For example, if you’re writing a fantasy book which does not take place in the world right now, or even in a completely different world to our own (see Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, Herbert’s Dune, or GRR Martin’s Westeros – to name but a few of the more well-known examples) you would have to create the world you set the book in.

The setting defines how the characters act, how they interact with the environment around them and what effect the environment has on them. To create a setting (or a world) you need to take into consideration a multitude of factors:

  • What kind of a world is it? (Some literary genres, such as steampunk, science fiction, and high fantasy could act as a starting point for the writer)
  • Who lives there? (Is it a highly advanced civilisation? Will there be cities?)
  • What natural resources are there/what purpose do they serve? (If you’re on a desert planet like Dune, you’ll act differently to someone on a planet consisting 2/3 of ocean)
  • What is necessary for a world? (Is an atmosphere necessary for your characters? Is water? Is there strong sunlight (e.g. Vulcan)?)

(Of course, a ‘world’ isn’t necessarily restricted to a planet. Worldbuilding applies to the entire universe in which you place your characters, but for simplicity’s sake I’ll leave it to the more narrow definition of ‘planet’ or, more accurately, ‘place of habitation’.)

You may be wondering how this relates to design (this being my mom’s design blog and all), and I hope I’ve held closely enough to the train of my thoughts that the following still makes sense:

When you create a world, you have to think of all these factors, and use them to your advantage. If there’s strong sunlight on your world, you may have to adapt your characters to be able to deal with this (Vulcans, for example, have an inner eyelid which sweeps over their retinas to protect them from extremely bright light.)

Therefore, how does it affect your characters?

  • Skin colour? Eye colour? Special adaptations (webbed feet?)
  • How would these people differentiate from those inhabiting our world?

As a writer, you need to adapt your native characters to the world you designed around them (e.g. it is unlikely that you’ll find a pale-skinned person on a hot planet). If they aren’t adapted they’re either obviously foreign (and, in the case of Game of Thrones, will die shortly) or you as the writer have made an embarrassing mistake.

In a similar fashion, you have to think of all the external factors which could affect your design before you begin designing. Though a design should aesthetically reflect the environment it is in, it should be functional within the scope of the environment. A house built into some Alaskan mountain, undergound-fortress-esque may sound cool, it may even look cool. Unfortunately, it’ll be so cool that you’ll freeze your butt off. Take it from someone whose room is built into bedrock. Similarly, a house without ventilation should not be built in a tropical zone. You’ll melt. Your house needs to be practical: this should be the first line of thought in considering any design.

It’s always nice to have your house reflect the place you live, to fit in. Though a modernistic style is applicable almost anywhere (you could build a house with glass walls in a forest, I can almost guarantee you it’ll look great.), others might not be appropriate. I, for example, wouldn’t model the interior of an industrial building after that of a traditional Bavarian cottage.

There are multiple ways in which you can avoid this: you could look at the houses around you and see how they’ve done it (if you want to blend in and be part of the native community), or you could look for inspiration (the internet’s a hotspot for such things), and ideas on how to adapt your interior to the exterior (in a similar way as characters need to be a part of their environment).

However, you can’t simply take a lot of random ingredients you found online, or in the world around you, and patch an interior design out of them. The glue that holds all this together is you. Like a writer with their ideas (like as not, many books and works of fiction will include a smattering of elements out of different texts the author has read), you as the designer need to fit the inspiration and ideas together into a whole. You are the only one who can say whether something is right or wrong (remember: there are no mistakes in art), and it is your right, even your prerogative, as the designer, to use your own style and your own sense of style to combine inspiration. To combine elements of environment, situation, world, to mix them together into a grand whole.

Basically this was a very long winded way of saying ‘stay true to yourself, but not so true that you can’t adapt and be inspired’. Like a writer, be proud of what you’ve done, and, most importantly, make it your own.

Bye now!

– Tasha

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