The role of a great world builder is to create an environment that encourages conflict, because conflict is essential to a great story. Though conflict doesn’t have to mean violence.
If you build a world that achieves this then you will never run out of stories that want to be told. Games Workship do a marvellous job of this. Warhammer and Warhammer 40K are two settings that burst with opportunities for conflict. Most of it is combat of military focused, but these worlds urge thousands of fans to build their own armies, and tell their own stories using the world Games Workshop has created.
That is the role of great world building – to reach the point where a story HAS to be told.
How Big Can 1 World Builder Realistically Build?
With these foundations in place I now want to zoom in and focus on developing opportunities for conflict on a character level, because it’s character relationships that keep readers hooked. People love “the human element” to a story – even if the characters are not human.
I’ve also pondered over what is the biggest area a single world builder could feasibly build to scale in their life time. Tolkein built Middle Earth in his but still much of it was painted with a wide brush stroke.
I’m not sure what the actual area would be, or if it’s actually possible at all, however a few stories have recently lead me to settle upon the Scale of one single city. I don’t believe that Fantasy or Sci-Fi has to be written across thousands of miles just to tell a good story or reveal an interesting world.
1001 Stories within a City
Assassins Creed first enticed me to build a single city. Brotherhood and Revelations were both set in a single city (for the most part) – Rome and Constantinople – and both games provided a fascination of things to do and stories to tell.
If you’ve ever played an Assassins Creed game then I’m sure you will have also spent many hours running along the roof tops of one of these cities imaging what life would be like as one of Ezio’s Assassins. Each city is designed to such detail that you start to wonder who lives at a particular building as you scale it’s walls.
Similarly many detective stories are set within just one city. For example, Sherlock Holmes spends most of his time solving crimes in London.
With the introduction of politics and family feuds there is plenty of scope within one city to develop the intrigue and conflict required of a great story.
So it is with this in mind that I now choose to build one city. A city that will be developed in such rich detail that stories demand to be told in it – not just by the person who has created it but by other writers, authors and artists.
I ask that you come with me and build a city of your own. Enjoy deep world building with a focus to tell great stories.
What do you think is the biggest area that one world builder could hope to build in their lifetime?