world building, world creation, details, creative writing
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Which Details Matter in World Creation

written by Thomas Mühlematter on Sun Jun 14 2020 20:02:26

In this article, we will discuss which details matter when we are creating fictional worlds and which do not. We have all seen worlds that are very large and very detailed but which fail to inspire us and we also know about very simple worlds or very basic but which touched us on a deep level. Here are two examples of a vanilla volcano planets of about the same length and level of detail. Both would have taken the same effort to write but the result is completely different.

Bad Example

Geordanna is a volcanic planet set in the galaxy of Creos and set close to its Sun. It is a very dangerous and violent planet. There are three important locations. Thea, Thetys and Rylor. These are three cities of a similar size and which are all set around lava lakes. They communicate through a network of electromagnetic arrays and make their income from trading rich minerals they take from planet core. The population of these cities is mostly working on the extraction of that mineral. The main mining corporation is taking charge of governing the planet and its cities.

Good Example

Geordanna is a volcanic planet. Its geography is mainly composed of lava lakes with archipelagos of mountains where beautiful small forests of pine and flowers can survive in the cooler areas around water sources. It is a planet far away from the main hubs in the galaxy and its population is desperate and poor. Most of the population is working in deep underground mines where they extract a precious mineral used in hyperdrives of capital spaceships. To help in the extraction and avoid public rebellions, the main mining corporation is providing a narcotic beverage.


Before reading on, you should take five minutes to read again the two descriptions and think about the thoughts and emotions they evoke in you. In a couple of lines we can see a completely different feeling. In the first example, there is no emotional connection but a simple list of facts around the planet. The first thing is that for the audience, the first difference is that except for the fact that it is a volcanic planet, there is no detail given to help people picture it in an interesting way in their mind while in the second example, there are some small interesting details that make it a bit different than a completely generic planet. The second main difference is that in the first example, there is no possibility to establish an emotional connection or to relate to the planet as there is no emotion expressed while in the second one, we learn a bit more about the people inhabiting this planet. And the last point is that the first description replaces emotions and interesting facts with neutral facts the audience will not care about and random names which do not serve any purpose.

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