When you think of some of the popular book series of all time, they are all connected by one thing: an imaginary world. Would Game of Thrones would be anything without Westeros? What would The Hunger Games be without Panem?
Even if you aren’t writing a fantasy book, you are still, even unconsciously, building your own version of Earth around your protagonist. So, to help you keep readers engaged, we’ve put together our top three must-dos for creating immersive world-building in your writing.
Open on a High
Honestly? If you’re looking for the most important portion of your book, look no further than the first page. A first page dense with overly complicated place names, prescriptive and rambly writing does nothing to engage a passer-by. Start punchy and powerful, focusing in on the connection between your character and this new world you’ll be building throughout the story. The first page is your playground to demonstrate your writing chops and make the mental image of your world a striking one.
A few general rules you might want to follow are:
What do aspects of your world mean to your characters? Do we learn more about the world as the characters do? Or could you use your world-building to build anticipation in the reader behind the characters’ backs? Picture the unseen man lurking in the darkness of an alley, a creeping sense of unease, an already shady street becoming even more dangerous in the pitch-black night.
This world is feared by its protagonist, who paints a gloomy picture of what might be just another ordinary street. There is much to be discovered about the character’s reaction to the world, a history and personality that will hopefully become clearer as the book goes on. Alternatively, writing a character more at ease with your world could encourage a reader to look for hidden meanings and more sinister undertones, maybe even filling in some gaps themselves.
Perspectives can be relatable, encouraging readers to engage in the world itself by identifying with its protagonist is a sure fire way to build immersion fast.
Use Your Infodumps Well
As a writer, sometimes info-dumps are unavoidable. When specific information advances the plot along, the best you can do is make your info-dump match the tone, pace and style of the rest of the story. Victor Hugo provides a handy “what not to do” example of this when he describes the sewer system in Les Misérables.
By over-describing, you leave no room for the reader’s imagination. Readers want to fill in some of the gaps themselves, so giving them every detail removes that mystery. Fantasy authors can fall into this trap by over-describing social mechanics between different species in their world.
“…and the elves ruled the kingdom, who hated the orcs, who hated the goblins!”
Consider whether an info-dump can wait until later in the book, whereafter you have created an emotional link between your reader and your world. Most importantly: be consistent, be concise and be clear!
When it’s incredibly difficult to get sincere criticism on your book from family and friends and even trickier to find unbiased new readers, authors have to play the guessing game of whether their world is as engaging and interesting as they think it is.
Rowanvale offers a bespoke beta-reading service that matches up your manuscript with regular readers of your genre. Decide how many readers you want, what you need from them, and receive feedback within a week. Beta-reader feedback pre-publication could save you money on edits later and is absolutely crucial for pitching just right.