While some authors set stories on modern Earth, many place their stories in the past, future, or on another world entirely. A story set in modern times, or the past, or even the future will require research and creativity, but authors who set their books in another world have their work cut out for them, as I know from experience.
Over the summer I spent hours Worldbuilding for my book-world, for lack of a better name. This is also the world my short story for this class is set in, and it is full of talking animals who build castles, trade, farm and fight wars against one another. You may think that that’s fine, what more do you need to know? Well, the readers may not need to know a whole lot about how the world’s weather patterns work, but as the author, I need to know because it affects my characters. Snow may stop the wolves from attacking my protagonist’s fortress, rain may present difficulties in working the machines of war both sides have.
Worldbuilding adds depth. It adds realism and texture to the world you’re creating. In order to immerse your readers you need to know where and when you’re operating, and you need to know it very well. I discovered this one day last year, when I sat down after a class here at college, trying to figure out why my stories just didn’t feel dangerous, why they didn’t seem real. I realized this was because up till that point my stories were entirely character driven, meaning I created settings purely for the characters, instead of plopping my characters down into an already partially formed world.
This can work for a time, but even in the case of a short story you need to set the scene, and display knowledge of the world you’re writing about. You must be competent. Sometimes this means research, sometimes this means making up a rule for your story’s world and sticking to it. You have to pick which rules you want for your world and why you want them, and then you need to figure out how your characters fit into that world. Whatever you do, though, know your setting, otherwise readers will sense discrepancies, and some of them will be critical, or worse, put your story down.
So if your story doesn’t seem to have the proper amount of seriousness or depth, try worldbuilding a little. You don’t have to go in as deep as I did, but write a little history of your world, or where your main character lives, and explain why it’s like that. Sometimes just knowing can help you clarify plot points for your readers, and having the knowledge in your head or on paper means that you can easily add in information to your story when you find your readers have questions. Most of all, I recommend that if you’re thinking about writing a longer piece of fiction, that you worldbuild before you get very far into the story- it will make everything easier, trust me.