Generic Worldbuilding VS Unique Worldbuilding

Poncho top hats and steam-powered revolvers in a pseudo-fantasy setting? Unique, certainly, but is it better than the tried-and-true tropes of traditional sword n’ sorcery fiction? Both have been tried and to great effect, and the two of them have had certain weaknesses or strengths revealed.

But as the Critical Drinker says, “An idea is only ever as good as its execution.” It’s a great maxim to live by as a writer (and before you ask, “show, don’t tell” isn’t a maxim to live by, but a technique to implement), and if you filter all your ideas through it, you’ll come to the inevitable solution: any idea is worthy, as long as the execution is good.

So I’ll quickly review some strengths and weaknesses of generic worldbuilding vs unique worldbuilding. Ultimately, this will narrow down to how you like your worldbuilding, but even as I describe these two methods, always keep in mind that an idea’s only ever as good as its execution.

Generic worldbuilding is a bit like building your own fort with your dad’s tools. The tools are solid and sturdy, and you can do quite a bit with them. And if you’re just as good as your dad, you should have no trouble using your dad’s old tools to create a masterpiece. Whether your story’s set in a place that kinda looks like the Forgotten Realms or downtown Chicago, if you fill it with characters we love and plots that keep us on the edge of our seats, we won’t know the difference.

Unique worldbuilding is like going out and buying your own tools. Starting from scratch can be a good thing, as sometimes a change to the formula is what’s needed to keep things fresh. You can buy some new, wacky tools (like using fruit as a system of currency in mainline culture) or stick to the basics with a minor twist (like a generic fantasy world with no humans).

Now for the cons of generic worldbuilding: to get the obvious out of the way, a mediocre execution of a generic world will inevitably result in a mid-level novel, and we don’t write those around here. Becoming “just another fantasy novel” is just a fancy term for failure. If you make your world generic, that’s going to be just one more thing that doesn’t stand out to the reader.

Some may think the main con of unique worldbuilding is that you might accidentally put in an idea that’s bad, but as we already established, no ideas are bad. If it seems bad, then it’s your execution that’s the problem. A more likely flaw of unique worldbuilding is trouble when it comes to explaining it to the reader. Info dumps as well as not explaining enough are a danger here.

I’ve tried to keep it as short and sweet as I can, outlining some of the dangers and benefits to either method of worldbuilding, but in the end it doesn’t matter as much as you think. Storytelling is two parts: brainstorming and execution. Execution is explaining, developing characters, writing battle scenes, scripting dialogue, and lots and lots of editing. The execution is what really counts when you’re writing a book.

That’s all.


Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Plus, I mean, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the Resources tab. It’s full of super helpful material and I promise it will help you out. 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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