Most of the time when we think of world building as readers (and authors) we’re thinking of setting, of the back drop used for the characters to play in or on. We want to see the city or smell the warm grass in the countryside.
Authors who carefully craft the world building of the setting, using it to emphasize both the strengths and weaknesses of the characters will enrich and enhance the overall reader experience. In the “show don’t tell” school of writing, this emphasis – taking world building beyond setting to tie it to the character – illustrates the courage and fortitude of your characters.
It’s common knowledge perfect characters are boring, but by creating natural limits or things that trigger failings and doubts within the world itself, the stakes are automatically amped up and the reader stays engaged with your story.
But how to accomplish that?
First, think about what skills and contrasting weaknesses define your character. The challenges that impede progress toward the goal will keep your reader turning pages to find out how that character will succeed against what appear to be insurmountable odds.
When the very world of the story is an obstacle against the character, authors have more ways to show defining moments for that character’s journey. It’s an external influence that builds a sense of urgency within the story and increases anticipation for the reader.
For example, in a paranormal adventure, if you’ve created a world where the werewolf is strongest under a full moon, managing a crisis during the new moon is a bigger problem for that character. What else, what other skills, tools, or assets will that werewolf have to rely on in order to succeed? Who will pick him up if he fails?
The way the werewolf overcomes those intense obstacles, the choices he makes during the ‘crisis’, is an opportunity to give the reader a vivid illustration of character motivation and courage.
Live the adventure!