World Expansion

Whether you’re in the fifth novel of the series or only a quarter of the way through your first, you might feel a little cramped. You probably feel that your world just isn’t big enough. It feels small and local, and, even worse, unimportant. All problems seem droll and not deserving of meaningful attention.

I’m not gonna lie: this is a fairly common problem for most writers. After all, not everyone has the time to think of all the little nuances that come when creating a world full of individuals with their own quirks and passions, wars and their histories, and, well, everything. Creating a world involves much more than a small cast of characters and then doing a few things with them in a world that vaguely resembles Tolkien’s.

You may have built what you thought is a pretty robust world. Perhaps it is. At one point, however, your world is going to begin to have growing pains. This is probably going to occur during the original draft of the first book, but can appear afterwards. Either way, you have the same problem: the world is too small.

The key to solving this problem lies in which kind of “no vacancy” besets you. Usually, it’s a problem with the characters: if your characters don’t need more space, then why give it to them? There are two main questions you need to ask here: are the characters too big for the world, or are the characters too nuanced for the world?

Most of the time, you could increase the size or complexity to the world to match the strength of the characters. Worded differently: if the characters are more nuanced than the the world is, increase the number and quality of small details in the world. If the characters are running out of places to go and things to do, make more things to do and places to go (i.e., make the world bigger).

Here’s why you don’t want to increase the size of the world if your characters are more nuanced: imagine some well-detailed figures in a painting. Then paint a massive, blurry background behind them. The characters would make your world look dingy and faded, which is anathema, of course. If you flip the script with our other problem, your characters are still immobilized for lack of space to roam.

But whatever your problem is, you need to expand your world. Luckily, now you know in which two ways you need to do the job: increase the number and quality of small details, or increase the number of things to do and places to go.

But how to do that? First off: if you need to increase the quality and number of details, look only at what the characters are noticing. Since the readers see the story through the eyes of the characters, they will notice what the characters do. in order to make your story more nuanced, go back through and notice what the characters would (the detective would notice things a detective would, the criminal would notice things that only a criminal would, and so on)

As for increasing the volume of details, you’re going to want to employ the same technique as last time, only instead of adding better descriptions to your details, add more details. Don’t just describe the building as a “Tall, gray structure with many stories of windows”. Play off the characters’ attitude, instead: “a dark abode of evil, it seemed. It looked tall and professional and expensive, and outwardly attractive, but Character X knew better than to believe such lies.” Make it sound important.

As far as increasing the size of the world is concerned, you probably know what to do: add new regions, new mountain ranges, new kingdoms, new towns, new valleys, lakes, empires, battles, histories, etc. Just add more matter to the story. Beef it up. Pretty much “more anything” will do.

Of course, with new places to go come their fair share of new problems to solve. Don’t sleep on this: add new villains and dilemmas with the addition of new content. After all, there needs to be a conflict for there to be a story: don’t be shy to add a warlord or two to your augmented plane of existence.

Good luck, and happy writing!

Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Until then, writers!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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