Elements of Worldbuilding

N. K. Jemisin

Lesson time 11:57 min

Nora shares her methodology and framework for building a rich and believable world.

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Topics include: Take Your Readers Away From the Real World • Acclimate Your Reader to the Day-to-Day • Work on the Whole Iceberg • Avoid a Common Worldbuilding Mistake


[MUSIC PLAYING] NARRATOR: You've already stepped away from our world a little bit, so don't be hesitant about really striding away. Get into world building and have fun with it. Go forth and create something new. If you're writing science fiction and fantasy, world building is kind of essential. It's one of the pieces that make science fiction and fantasy different from other genre fiction. So it's-- in a lot of cases, you're going to be writing things that are set on Earth, which we call the first world, but sometimes you're going to be writing things at one removed from Earth, i.e. secondary world material. And you want your world to feel real. You want it to feel lived in. And then if it does feel real and lived in, then people are going to be able to pay attention to characters and plot, which hopefully is what you really want them to pay attention to, and the world will sort of fade into the background. [MUSIC PLAYING] If you're building a new world, you are able to sort of go into topics and materials that can be a little uncomfortable for readers to engage with when they're set in the real world. We have personal feelings attached to all of the politics of our world, and politics is anything having to do with people. So even if you don't think that you're talking about the politics, if you've got a story that has people in it, you are talking about politics. So if you're trying to tell a story about just an ordinary kid going to school every day, you're going to evoke emotions attached to that because people who have gone to school are going to remember their own school incidents. They're going to remember what it was like to walk to school. They're going to have flashbacks of the time they got beat up by some bully on the way to school. If you're writing a story set in the real world, you may want to use those brush strokes of emotion and deliberately evoke something that your audience is trying to kind of meet you halfway on. But if you're writing something set in another world and you want people to engage just with the ideas or just with the characters in that setting, then you take them away from the real world on purpose. You're doing that as a means of detaching your reader from their own personal experiences to some degree. Now, because you're telling a story about people and because stories about people always evoke some sort of emotion, you're still going to get a little bit of that in there, but not as much. And in a way, it's sort of an imagination cleanser, and that way you can draw people into ideas or allegories for the real world that take them away from their own personal experiences as much. [MUSIC PLAYING] You need to know all the minutia, and as the artist, that means that you have to understand the day to day. How does a person get up every day? How do they put their clothes on? How do they brush their teeth? How do they go to the bathroom? When I was researc...

About the Instructor

The winner of the Hugo Award for three consecutive years for her Broken Earth Trilogy, N. K. Jemisin has sold millions of books and created new cultures and histories. Now the acclaimed science fiction and fantasy writer is teaching you how to create a world from scratch, develop compelling characters, and get published. Build your craft and share your voice with inclusive fiction that reflects your experience.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

N. K. Jemisin

Bestselling sci-fi and fantasy writer N. K. Jemisin teaches you how to create diverse characters, build a world from scratch, and get published.

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