One of my favourite parts of writing is worldbuilding.
But, as I’ve discovered through creating my various worlds and working with other storytellers, not all writers create worlds the same way, and knowing a bit about the kind of worldbuilder you are can help make the insane project of worldbuilding (literally building a world from scratch) more manageable and easier to organize.
There are countless resources online for building worlds, but not all resources are helpful for all writers. Today I’m going to help distinguish between the three most basic types of worldbuilders and how they most effectively work. I’ve based these three types on the common three writer types. Planners, Pansters, and Plansters.
We’ll start with this group. When it comes to worldbuilding, the planner thrives on checklists, questionaires, and detailed documents that keep track of everything from the floral and fauna of any particular region of the world to the common pop culture references, medical practices, and societal values that shaped the past two hundred years of the world’s history.
Pros Because each detail, system, and culture is so carefully made and designed, the world feels like it is alive, breathing and lived-in.
Cons A world this detailed can get in the way of actual starting or writing the story. Not only that, but it can be hard to write a story knowing only the tip of the iceberg of the world makes it into the story.
These worldbuilders discover the world as they write. The world develops as the writer creates their story. Cultures, societies, and histories are added as they are needed to help propel the story forward.
Pros All the worldbuilding done directly relates to the plot and characters. Everything revealed by the writer is important to helping the reader understand how the world contributes to the overall story the writer wants to tell.
Cons Consistency is hard to maintain when worldbuilding elements are being sporadically added to the story. It can be easy to lose track of which lunar cycle that specific festival occurs during when the writer needs to refer to it later.
This kind of worldbuilder probably has a map, some basic knowledge about the systems of government and knows the specific characteristics associated with certain races or cultures. The Plantser balances the spontaneity of the Pantser and the methodical approach of the Planner, blending the two methods as needed.
Pros This writer knows enough about their world that they can be consistent throughout their story, but their world is also able to support new ideas that get added throughout the writing process.
Cons Due to the combination of planning and discovering the world, the final project may not look anything like the writer initially set out to create.
I think of myself as a thorough Plantser with extreme Pantser tendencies. I want to flesh out my worlds before diving into the story I want to write, but I often don’t know all the ins and outs of my world when I try to fill out questionnaires and checklists. So I typically have to discover these things through scene writing for completely unrelated stories than the novel I aim to write.
Thus, I could spend years creating worlds (like a Planner) and never actually write the novel I intended to write because I get so sidetracked discovering my world (like a Pantser) through writing down all these other mini stories where the principles of my world are created/discovered and then cataloged.
What kind of worldbuilder are you? Don’t fit into these categories? How do you approach worldbuilding?