Story World Creation Guide: 4 Steps

story world

Step 1 – The one line description

Create a one line description of the story world.

Step 2 – Finding the visual oppositions

Define the story world by dramatizing the visual oppositions, similar to how you define support characters in the web that populates the world. The world can contain several sub-world. For example, Harry Potter lives in the ordinary world at first and then continues his story at the magical world of Hogwarts. To help the reader transition from realistic to fantastical, a passageway is used. The passageway is a sub-world in itself and should be filled with things and inhabitants both strange and natural to the story. In our example, the passageway between Harry’s worlds is the train that takes him to the magical place.

Step 3 – Drawing visual opposites

Detail the visual oppositions and world itself by combining four elements:

  1. The natural setting; the land
  2. The people and man-made spaces
  3. Technology and tools
  4. optional: time, how the world develops over the course of time within the story

Step 4 – The change in the world reflects the protagonist’s change

Consider the protagonist’s overall change and how the world can reflect that change. The world is a visual expression of who the protagonist is and how he develops. An old clich√© is to start the story in summer, working towards the protagonist’s darkest moment in winter and his victory followed by rising back up at the start of spring. However, you can also use a smaller element to reflect the protagonist’s change in the passage of time, such as the ticking of the clock as it runs out of battery.

The story world linked to the protagonist’s need

At the start, show a sub-world that is a physical manifestation of the protagonist’s weakness and/or need. A sub-world can express his goal. A sub-world is the home of the opponent, expressing his power and ability to attack. In the moment of near-death or seemingly ultimate failure, put the protagonist in the narrowest space of the story (to that point). This adds to the pressure and tension to build the conflict up to the climax.

Truby, J. (2007) The Anatomy of Story