Today’s lesson is the art of building your world. Now, building your world is tricky but with the right steps and a lot of outlines - we can get there. So, let’s begin.
So, what is the definition of world-building? Essentially, world-building is using your creative juices to create your own city, town, or in some cases - an entire universe. Building a world allows your audience to get lost in the story you’re creating and thus, enjoying and wanting to be a part of it.
Now, I understand how frustrating the pre-writing process can be. Sometimes you just want to forgo all the back work and just write your beautiful screenplay and hope for the best - however, by doing that, you’ll only further your anguish. Creating a world is one of the most important elements in screenwriting. It’s great that you have the characters, the plot and the story in your mind but where are they?
Are they in the middle of space? A small town in South Africa? Maybe the eclectic arts district in Los Angeles? Wherever you decide to put your characters, you must take the time to build your world so your audience can be just as excited as you are.
Now, just because you aren’t writing the next Harry Potter or Hunger Games doesn’t mean you can’t skip on building your world. While Sci-fi is usually what we think when we talk about world-building, we must have that same energy in terms of drama, romance and action films as well. Just think? Could you imagine Gossip Girl anywhere other than Manhattan's Upper East Side? And don’t even think about shooting Issa Rae’s insecure anywhere other than Inglewood. Am I right?
So, remember the magic word. LOCATION. A great location has the power to turn a ‘meh’ script into ‘girl, did you see that show?’
Now, the next step after choosing your location is to study it. If you, the screenwriter, is confused about your world then how can you expect your audience not to be lost? You must know your world inside and out. How’s the weather? Are there magical trees that eat people when the sun goes down? Is this a place where food deserts run rampant? Are the people generally nice or is there an underlying sense of fear in the community? We need to know, we want to know and we must know if you want your audience to keep watching.
Next up: Consistency. Now, I’m all for a little spontaneity once in a while but we can’t think we understand your world one day and then the next - we are so confused we just wanna scream? Whether it’s fantasy, science fiction or drama, you need to be consistent and understand the rules of your world. Take for example the movie Parasite.
A clear rule in this film was the distant class and greed discrimination differences between the wealthy Park family and the destitute Kim family. As an audience we saw how each family lived and how when interacting with each other, it wasn’t buddy-buddy. It was I work for you and I do as you say. The world showed how unless you are wealthy, you are not seen. When building your world, the audience should know right away what they are dealing with. Is this a world where the rich shun the poor and the poor rise up to scam the rich? The more you know the rules of your world, the easier and more enjoyable it’ll be for your audience to follow them.
After you tackle consistency, you should think about finding your inspiration from similar worlds. Do you like the dystopian elements of ‘the platform?’ Or maybe you thought Tris’s character was really cool in the futuristic world of Divergent?
Now please, don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. I’m not saying copy these movies - but what I am saying is if you are planning on creating an entire world from scratch, study your favorite worlds that are similar first and ask yourself what elements you enjoyed or didn’t enjoy from those movies.
I think you’re gonna like the next rule to create a great world. Culture. Who doesn’t love creating culture? What religion do most of your characters practice? Is there a predominant race or ethnicity? What about traditions? Is there a shooting star every ten years that brings the whole community outside? Is there a long-standing feud between the neighbors over a leaning fence? Once you add in these necessary elements, your world will naturally feel more comfortable and organic.
After you’ve taken care of the culture of your world, you should physically write down your rules and timeline events to keep you organized. Trying to remember the backstory off the fly is extremely hard and will throw you off. If it helps, you can keep a running WORD document that has all of your world-building rules and historical events so you understand each character’s motivations and needs.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of this video! If you happened to just skip through it, I’ll give you a quick recap of what we’ve covered. One: Make sure you figure out your location. Two: Remain consistent on your rules and your world-building. Three: Build your world by focusing on culture. And lastly, keep a running document on your world's historical events so you can remain on track with your character’s motivations.
Today we learned about the art of building your world. I hope you learned something today. If you want to help us, please leave a comment on what videos you’d like to see next and make sure to like, share and subscribe for more videos like these! And remember, knowledge is power… the more you know, the better you’ll be. Peace.