There is a terrible secret and I’m not sure that I should share it. A secret that countless people have tried desperately to hide. A secret that entire countries have built economies to hide. A secret entire people groups have profited from A secret that the internet is desperately trying to ignore.
Fine, I’ll share it.
Everywhere is the same.
All places on earth are the same. If you don’t like where you are, you simply have to stay somewhere else for a while and you will come to find that it is just as terrible. It is like the immutable rule of chairs. All chairs eventually reach a point where they are uncomfortable to sit in, so long as you sit in them long enough. What does this have to do with worldbuilding? Hold on, I’m getting to that.
The reason that everywhere is the same is simple. Everywhere you go, you bring yourself. You bring your eyes, your mind, and your heart. You bring your worldview, and you apply that worldview to everything you encounter. Guess what? If you don’t like saltwater in your hometown, you will not like it when cliff jumping in Hawaii. If you don’t like spicy food in your hometown, you won’t like it when you’re trying fufu and palm soup in Ghana.
If you don’t like annoying people in your hometown, I have bad news for you. There are people practically EVERYWHERE.
Alright, alright, you get it. So, let’s get on to the important bit. Worldbuilding. One would assume that growing up traveling would prevent boredom and foster a sense of adventure. But, if you reread the first part, you’ll understand why it doesn’t. Every airport? The same. Every new place full of new people? The same. Whoops, looks like I haven’t gotten it all out of my system.
But this sameness is a massive blessing when building a world. The elements that we find all around us can be found everywhere, and that includes in the worlds we imagine. Using the mundane elements that we find all around us makes our worlds accessible. Your world doesn’t have to be over the top or exotic. In fact, a well built world won’t be. It doesn’t need to reject the ordinary, or avoid sameness. Rather, it is those worlds that are often the best.
Remember, worldbuilding is the practice of drawing the boundaries of your world, so using elements that we find mediocre can often be incredibly effective. Let’s say we want to imagine a world where an infinite amount of ants of different sizes (from tiny to the size of a bus) roam the forested landscape and humans life in city sized dirigibles that float over the hills and mountains. Seems pretty foreign to us. Adding a mundane detail, like a school that all children are obligated to attend, does not reduce the foreignness of the world, rather it highlights it.
Why? Because I can guarantee that if humans lived in a world with ants the size of buses were competing for food, the things they learned in school would be very different. Introducing something “normal” simply highlights what is “strange” while also creating a feeling of empathy between us and the beings of the world we are creating. Ants or no ants, we can all relate to a student who walks into class only to get hit with a surprise test.
Stay tuned for more writing from the WorldCraft Club as we explore worldbuilding and the crafting of fictional settings to inspire your creativity.
Seth is a host of the Worldcraft Club Podcast and he wrote this blog. He writes a Gamelit series called Nova Terra that you can find here on Amazon. He currently lives somewhere in Pennsylvania with his wife, kids and neurotically cuddly labradoodle.
We’re happy to host guest blogs on here whenever we can, it gives James a break and let’s other people contribute their ideas. Let us know if you have a worldbuilding concept or strategy to get off your chest, we’d love to hear it.