Macro-worldbuilding Exercise: Build Your World

N. K. Jemisin

Lesson time 13:31 min

To build your world, start by creating the physical environment where your culture and story will take place, from the planetary level to a specific location. Then add the “Element X” that will affect everything.

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Topics include: Exercise: Build a World


[MUSIC PLAYING] N. K. JEMISIN: As you're creating this world that your readers understand, then you're able to create a world that feels more plausible. [MUSIC PLAYING] I break worldbuilding down into macro worldbuilding and micro worldbuilding. Macro worldbuilding is the creation of the physical environment in which this-- this culture developed, these characters emerged from this story takes place. So that can be everything from the-- the creation of the universe on down, the laws of physics on down, because we're dealing with fantasy and science fiction here. Or it can-- you know, even people who are writing stories set in the real world do a little bit of macro worldbuilding. Even if a story is set in New York, you need to decide which piece of New York, which block of New York, which neighborhood of New York, and so forth. So with macro worldbuilding, I normally will start with the creation of the planet and then work down from there. We go to continents. We go to environments, and then we start to create people who fit into these environments. [MUSIC PLAYING] Now, we're gonna actually start going through an exercise where we build a world. So if you've got sheets of blank paper handy, if you want to open a draw file on your laptop, somehow create a space where you can do some drawing and note taking for the next few minutes. Then I want you to start by drawing two circles. These are the two hemispheres of a planet. Now, like I said, with worldbuilding, we aren't always stuck with planets. We can start at the level of the universe. If you want to write a story about space wandering clouds of people that don't have a planet, go for what you know. But you're going to have to research that. But in general, because your audience is familiar with life on a planet, and you want to try and probably sell them on life on a different planet, it's best if you start with something that's relatively familiar, like a terrestrial earth-like world. And for the sake of our exercise today, we're going to stick with the terrestrial earth-like world. Once you've drawn your two hemispheres of the planet, then the next step is to draw continents onto this planet. Keep in mind that on our own world, continents are sort of like jigsaw puzzle pieces. They fit together. And because of plate tectonics, over time, our continents pull together and draw apart and so forth. And if you ever looked at our continents and sort of imagined the ways that they could fit together, that's realistically how they used to. And how they might again at some point in the future. So for the sake of this exercise though, draw as many continents or as few continents as you want. If you want to create a water world here, you can do that. If you want to create a world with just one giant landmass and like a small lake in the middle, you can do that. Draw as many continents or as few continents as you want right now. Once you'...

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.

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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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