If you’re new to worldbuilding or are struggling with the massive task of building an entire world from scratch, it can be an overwhelming process. It’s easy to make some common mistakes while worldbuilding. So, this post will highlight which ones I see most often so you know to avoid them in your own stories. These are mistakes I have made myself because I’ve been too lazy to think of the details or I simply haven’t thought of it at all.
Here are some of the top fantasy worldbuilding mistakes I see a few people make (published authors or otherwise).
Having a rigid culture which never changes
A lot of people create a culture in their world, complete with religion, politics and even some history sprinkled in there but the problem is that nothing ever changes. The people don’t seem to change their opinion on politics or religion, social issues never come up and the whole thing seems rigid.
Unless you’re making a point about this e.g. it’s a dictatorship where everyone’s too scared to act, then it comes off as lazy worldbuilding. Culture naturally adapts when people aren’t happy with the status quo – and people are never happy.
Having no historical background
A lot of people dive right into the present storyline without thinking of a historical timeline. They then make stuff up about the past as they go so the timeline makes little sense.
Other people do think carefully about a historical timeline and make it very logical and linear. However, history is anything but. History is messy, no one really knows the truth and a lot of it really doesn’t make sense.
It’s worth taking some time to create a timeline for your world. You can start with brief points and a rough outline and then later expand on them in your notes.
Including things that look cool but make zero sense
Having a society where everyone flies is fine but if there is no attempt to explain or show the implications on wider society, then those people are flying in a vacuum. If people can fly – there’s no point talking about roads, horses, carts and so on because there would be no need for the world to ever build or use them.
Good worldbuilding takes a cool idea and feeds it through every part of the world to make it feel real.
Assuming the world has to follow the same rules as this one
Your fantasy world, though it may be set vaguely “in the past” i.e in a medieval-style world, doesn’t need to follow the same rules as this world. You don’t need a patriarchal society, homophobia, racism just because it’s “in the past” – that stuff is in the present anyway and it doesn’t have to be in your fantasy world.
No thoughts on infrastructure
Yeah, it’s probably a bit boring. However, infrastructure literally makes the world go round. No one’s saying you’ve got to sit there and plan bus routes for your entire world (unless bus travel features heavily in it). But having some idea of how people get around and function in your world is key to providing the juicy details that make your world feel real.
If travelling around the city sounds vague to you, it will to the reader too. Take some time to establish different transport routes, methods and how long it’ll take on average. You can be as specific as you want here, but even some notes will really help here.
Having everyone in one country the same
Not everyone in the same country will look or act the same. There may be a dominant religion but not everyone will follow it. A lot of people will love the King, others will hate him. Some will be rich, some will be poor.
When we write about different cultures in fantasy, a lot of us tend to write about the X culture as if they are one uniform mass of people who all look and think the same. That’s not true of any culture and it’s also a bit lazy. Take time to develop different cultures and characters and this will make your world feel so much richer and vivid.
That’s all we have for today. There will be other common fantasy worldbuilding mistakes that I’m sure so if you can think of. If you can think of any common mistakes, feel free to pop them down in the comments.
Making any of these fantasy worldbuilding mistakes doesn’t mean you’re a bad fantasy writer – we all do them at some point. I just hope this post and posts like it can help you build better fantasy worlds.