NaNoWriMo Bootcamp #4 – World Building

Okay, second to last Bootcamp post and then you guys get to go nuts on your own 50k words. Today we’re talking about World Building so…

Drop and give me 20!

Brainstorm 20 words or things that describe/apply to your favorite story’s setting. For example, if I were brainstorming about Harry Potter, I’d say magic, no science, weird people, animate food, pictures move…You have your favorite story in mind? Good! Get to it!

Alright, what have you guys got? Throw them in the comments and see if we can guess what story you are talking about!

Now that your brain is working, tell me a few things that you think you should know about your world. Go ahead, shout them out at your computer screen, I’ll wait…

Oh, that’s a good one.

And that one!

Wanna know what I’ve come up with? Here you go (and download the pdf):


These are the most simple of things that you need to know about a world, things that may have a real impact on your story. They are all pretty self-explanatory, but we’ll go over them briefly.

  • Where are we? Do the characters know the name of their world/country/town? Do we as readers need to know the name? Don’t draw a map of the continent if we don’t need it, the name of the town might suffice.
  • Weather – Is it sunny and everyone wears sunglasses? Are there storms that make it harder to get things done? Are there dust storms caused by global warming?
  • Terrain – Does the story take place in a flat city? In craggy mountains? Across vast stretches of farmland? Underground? These will all dictate how easy it is to move around and how the characters get from point a to point b.
  • People – Are they all small and blue? Are they all humans of various sizes and colors? Are they all aliens? What kind of populations do you have to play with?
  • Politics – Do the elves and dwarves hate each other? Is there a world war on? Are the usual popular kids suddenly unpopular? How does this impact the main character?
  • Economy – Are people well off, or are we dealing with people living from paycheck to paycheck? Is your main character aware of the situation or are they used to and accepting of the status quo?
  • Religion – Is there one state religion and all others shunned? Are all welcome? Is there religion at all?
  • Culture – Again, are we dealing with a single culture or a melting pot like New York City? Are people equal or is there a subset of people who are subjugated?
  • Science, Magic, or a mix of the two? How does your world run? Do we have scientists and the scientific method? Or is everything magically run? Or, there’s the old adage that any science sufficiently advanced will seem like magic anyway…

Now that we’ve explored that list, let’s see what happens when we apply this to Harry Potter.


Fun, huh? Now comes the best part though…setting up your world rules. These are things about your world that are the hard and fast rules that absolutely cannot be broken.Wanna see what I’m talking about? Here’s some rules I feel apply to Harry Potter:


Are there any others you feel should apply? Fill in the rest of the commandments!

Now comes the best part: breaking your own rules. You get to set up all these rules, set up your reader’s expectations, and then pulling the rug out from under their feet. Hermione always has the answer? Well, what happens when she doesn’t?! There’s only one thing you have to make sure you do if you’re going to break your own rules–support the break. If you are going to break the rules, the why and the how must be absolutely air tight. No deus ex machina (will of god), no random serendipity. The reader has to be able to look back and go, oh man, I should have seen that coming! Breaking the world’s rules can be one of your most powerful writing tricks, but you have to be very careful to make sure you do it in such a way that you don’t break your reader’s faith as well.

That said, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to describe your world and figure out its commandments. We’re almost to November 1st, so we’re running out of time to prepare for our stories! See you in a few days for a few last minute writing tips, but until then, happy writing!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s