I'm writing a novel with a fictional world in it. I've already planned many events and the history of its nations, but I feel that there is missing something for it as I write the chapters.

In my vision, the way we turn the world more active and alive is by making impact over the character's psychology. Their beliefs, their morals, their opinions and how they act upon that. The world builds the character and the character builds the world.

If you guys have know a way of how could I enhance this weight of the world in the characters and their actions and/or if you guys have an alternate view of how to turn the world more alive, I would like to hear it.

  • 3
    Personally, when I think of a world that is "alive" I think of ones where more is going on than just what is required for the plot. Like in the Harry Potter universe, Fred and George at one point went and started their own candy and toy shop because that fit them as characters. Yes, it wasn't required for the plot, but it gave them life outside of pushing the plot.
    – Cyberson
    May 14, 2017 at 7:12
  • 1
    Fred and George's candy shop are an excelent example. Maybe its because their personalities are externalized into the world. Their own identities are externalized into a candy shop. Just like a sad character maybe would have a messed room for himself, instead of a happy character who would have his room organized, clean and well lighted.
    – Hanilucas
    May 15, 2017 at 10:49

2 Answers 2


Worlds and their histories are abstractions. People don't live in worlds and they don't live in history. They live in a particular neighborhood at a particular time. Their horizons are small. Only their local bubble is known by direct experience. The wider world is known largely through stories, which have an utterly different texture from common experience.

Consider how the world of LOTR is developed. It starts not even in the Shire, but in a single Hobbit Hole. Harry Potter begins in Privet Lane. Wind in the Willows begins with a particularly lovely descriptions of the riverbank. Brideshead Revisited begins with a bank of roadside flowers. Cannery Row begins with the particular sights and sounds of Monterrey, California.

Just as all politics is local, so all experience is local. You cannot make a universe come alive for the reader. The scale it too great. But you can make a place, come alive, a house, a street, a riverbank, a town. Once the reader accepts the liveliness of the local, that liveliness will lend life to the wider world, in the same seen-from-a-distance way in which we accept the liveliness of the things that dot our horizons in the real world. But if the things close to us are made of canvas and paint, then we will assume the distant scene is canvas and paint as well.


I am not a fan of fantasy nor do I have any world-building skills, however, I've an understanding of storytelling techniques and have witnessed the errors of many fantasy writers.

You want to build your world with detailed description, relying heavily on vision.

The majority of people do not enjoy being lectured to for endless hours - which is what you may doing. Think of the best teachers and lecturers, they involve their audience.

The key to bringing a novel alive is through empathy, dragging the reader inside the story, and letting them do some of the work. The story comes more alive when the reader supplements your text with their own experiences.

Two different ways of conveying the same information.

  1. The little girl hung her head as her father screamed at her in front of the entire village. Eventually she burst into tears. I rushed to step in but her father punched me. I fell to the ground - unconscious.

  2. The little girl hung her head as her father screamed at her. With the entire village watching she tried to be brave but eventually the bottom lip began to quiver. "This has gone far enough," I insisted, rushing to her aid. My advance was halted by loud thud, followed by a white light, followed by a sound reminiscent of a Jew's Harp . . .

The second version throws a couple of hooks to bring the reader into the scene.

  • "she tried to be brave but eventually the bottom lip began to quiver." (Ha-ha, my little brother used to do that too before turning purple and bursting into tears).

  • "My advance was halted by loud thud, followed by a white light, followed by a sound reminiscent of a Jew's Harp . . ." (I remember that. Jimmy Smith accidentally hit me with baseball bat in 5th grade - I was out cold).

This is more exciting for the reader. You are forcing him to live the events by revisiting past experiences. Obviously, not every reader will bite at every hook.

Good luck.

  • I like your answer because its from a non-fantasy reader. Your answer reminds me a bit of Mark Baker's answer in this topic: writers.stackexchange.com/questions/28041/… In order to build a more concrete world, I need for the reader to feel empathy. I can do this by bringing along something of the past. Good answer
    – Hanilucas
    May 17, 2017 at 15:23

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