Building a World the Reader Can Believe In

Ask any sci-fi or fantasy author about worldbuilding and they’ll tell you it’s tough stuff. There have to be rules about everything from which way the planets spin–if there are any planets at all–to the sometimes wacky ways their characters speak and interact. In the YA genre I feel like this can be especially hard because the author is not only tasked with creating a world that is consistent, but also one that will appeal to young readers in a way that’s analogous to the world they know.

Here’s a quick trio of worlds I love that I think are pretty dope examples of worldbuilding awesomeness. Also, I’m totally jealous I didn’t think of them first.

  1. The Girl of Fire and Thorns — I know that this is a relatively new book but this story yanked me in from the first word. Carson took elements of real-world history–Catholicism, Spanish culture, and even Sub-Saharan Africa–and made this whole new place that was totally easy to believe. I’m planning on writing a whole blog post about how much I loved this book so you’ll be reading more about this later.
  2. Firefly — I know it’s kind of a stretch for YA, but I’m counting it because there are comic books–and because I’m totally in love with it. It’s set in the distant future where humanity has packed its bags and headed off into The Black–Firefly’s cool word for space–leaving behind “Earth that was.” They don’t go into detail about what prompted the mass exodus from Earth–non-existent global warming, perhaps?–but I always got the feeling that humans trashed it to the point of being uninhabitable. What I really love about this series is that Joss Whedon took today’s political situation where the US and China pretty much lead the world and projected it into what things might look like when humans leave the Sol solar system. What you end up with are space-dwelling, gunslinging frontier folk who speak a bastard mix of English and Chinese (Chinglish?). If you haven’t seen or read this then you are totally cheating your inner nerd out of something sweet.
  3. The Lord of the Rings — This one has it all: maps, history, even a whole bunch of fricken languages that Tokien created specifically for the books. And talk about dedication–the guy worked on developing the languages up until his death in 1973. That’s almost twenty years after the books were published! Think of that the next time you think about procrastinating on your manuscript.

Well, those are the three that come to mind right now. I know there are so many others that deserve mentioning, but I have to sleep sometime. Got any favs of your own? Put them in the comments!

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