What Makes Good Worldbuilding?
Something I focus on while writing a novel is the world behind the story you’re reading. It’s incredibly important – just as much as the story itself. Without worldbuilding, the story seems shallow and unfounded.
For some writers, this is easier said than done.
How do you create a fake world that doesn’t exist? And if you manage it, how do you legitimize that world in both the mind of the reader, as well as your own mind. This ties in to the marketing and overall image of the book itself, informing what path you take on how you start to tell people about the story.
The Plight of Steel series, for example, needs to be marketed in a way that aligns with the overall image and feeling of the story. I need to establish a presence for the novel on the internet, as well as in people’s minds, using things that legitimize the story; images, videos, and merchandise are a few things that work in this way.
I’ve created innumerable pieces of imagery, videos, and artworks based on certain elements from the novels, which I’ve used on social media and my websites to give the book some body.
I am also a guitar player, and so I managed to write some music pieces based on written songs in the books. Why is that helpful and cool? Well, it allows those who read the books to go online and have actual music to match the lyrics they just read.
The content above is just a small portion of the imagery, but you can start to create a visual collage in your mind by looking at them – thereby giving The Plight of Steel a visual identity.
Videos, people. Use them.
To the right is a video I made about some of the Plight of Steel lore. Interested readers can go online and find this, and get a better understanding of the world behind the story. It’s also a piece of video in a world where visual content reigns over written.
A large portion of the people who read your novels are not going to care about going online to find all this extra content. That effort is not something the casual reader is going to expend. It takes a fan – someone who gets really engaged in the story – to go hunting for this content. Your job then is to ensure it’s there, because if it’s not, you’re losing on a brilliant opportunity.
I’ve had people message me on social media to say that they were incredibly impressed by the breadth of content I’d made for my stories. It fascinated them, and made them curious to learn more.
This is the second benefit of this practice.
If you have a presence on the internet, along with your novels, people can stumble across things that lead them down a rabbit hole. Ideally, the hole ends at the Amazon page for your novel.
If you, like me, have access to a 3D printer, or knowledge in sculpting and model making, you can do what I did for my novel Ceres.
I loaded up Blender – a program for 3D modeling and compositing – and sculpted the characters from the book. Afterward, I printed and painted them, and amassed a little collection of figurines that I could use for marketing.
This is a tangible connection to the novel that allows readers to see the characters in a scaled-down 3D aspect.
If I were so inclined, I could either publish the models to an online database for others to print, or actually sell figurines to people – fully painted. Something like that would require some infrastructure – perhaps an Etsy store, or something – but it allows for a unique merchandising route that not many authors tap into, aside from the big ones with merchandising deals.
It’s hard to figure out what you can do as an author of a written novel to give the thing a visual identity. Artists can be expensive, especially when you are needing more than just one image, so DIY is often the way to go. However, there are people who are not artists – let’s be honest here. I, myself, am not a visual artist, but I know enough in certain things to get by. Use what you’re good at and add your own unique touch.
Maybe you make little dioramas as a hobby. Make one for your book. If you are good at 3D rendering, then render something from your book. If you are a painter, then paint something.
But if you’re not a digital artist, don’t try and draw something. Please. It actually works against you in the eyes of most people.
Then, of course, the most important part.
Your cover is the face of your book. Without a good one, people won’t read it. Sorry.
People judge books by their covers, and if yours is shoddy, they won’t bother with you. The cover I had for Ceres before this one was alright in my eyes, but I soon realized – with the help of some online “persuasion” – that it was actually pretty cheap-looking.
Ceres is a project I’m proud of, and it needed a nice face to reflect the effort I put into writing it. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by spending months on the story and skimping on the cover. You market your book around the cover, and it will float or sink you more effectively than anything else.
Yes – even at an online storefront like Amazon.