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Worldbuilding is a key component of genre fiction, and with the new WriteMovies Sci-Fi and Fantasy Award now open, a lot of you will now be hard at work creating new worlds! But how do you do it successfully? Here are what we see as the first principles of great worldbuilding.

  • Create something unique. There’s nothing wrong with writing a traditional sci-fi or fantasy story, but there needs to be something special about it we haven’t seen before. Even just one unique element can be enough – as long as you build the rest of the world around it and maximize its potential.
  • Go deep… but not too deep. The real world is a complex place, and fictional worlds need to be complex too. Otherwise we won’t believe in them! However, you also need to know when to streamline and simplify things. Throw too many ideas at your audience, and they’re just going to get confused and lose track of everything.
  • Avoid exposition. You might be eager to share every last detail about your world, but don’t do it through clunky, unnatural exposition. Instead, incorporate visuals that explain your concepts – and consider whether your audience even needs to know it all. Above all else, avoid the dreaded “infodump” that overwhelms us with information all at once.
  • Use the world in your narrative. Your world is part of your story just as much as the characters, plot points, and dialogue. Everything in it should therefore help tell the story by actively participating in it. It’s not just a backdrop – treat it like a character in itself!
  • Don’t break your own rules. Reality has rules you can’t break; they’re called physics. Your fictional world needs rules too, even if it includes magic or highly advanced technology. And magic should abide by those rules, not be used to break them! If you do, you’ll also be breaking the audience’s suspension of disbelief.

There you have it – our first principles of great worldbuilding. Enter the WriteMovies Sci-Fi and Fantasy Award when your worlds are ready, and show us somewhere we’ve never seen before! There are great prizes on offer, and you also get free, automatic entry to the Spring Screenwriting Contest!

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