The Key to a Great Story – Building a Macro World


Earth from space

In contrast to the micro-world, the macro-world is a lot harder to construct especially if you build a new world from scratch. This is because you have to make choices about how your world works that you might not have realised you need to consider.

If you are writing a story based in the real world, then the macro world is already in place for you. All of our religions, cultures, governments, emergency services, transport connections and a million other things that make up our world are already in place for you. All you need to do is research and make sure that the larger wider world of your story is accurate to the extent that you need it to be mentioned.

If you build a fantasy, parallel, alternative or futuristic work, then you need to understand how your world works. You don’t need to know everything, but you do need to know what is relevant to your story. For example:

  • How does religion/mythology have an effect on your characters: In Game of Thrones there are several prominent religions that have an influence on the characters. Some at different times pray to different aspects of the Seven. The Red Priestess burns non-believers alive. In Tolkien’s Middle Earth, there are many references to the Valar; in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings though these are just part of myth to the majority of people, even though they are real.
  • How do your characters get from point A to point B: do they have cars, do they use horses, do they have to hitch a lift in a space ship?
  • How to various cultural attitudes effect your characters? Do your characters agree with the majority or do they felt like outsiders looking in. A good example of cultural attitude is towards women and how they are viewed; is it expected that all women are merely there to marry a man and raise children for him, without any consideration for that women’s own dreams and desires.

When yo have considered the basics then you need to consider the variations; are there differences in how people worship the gods; are there social differences in terms of transport, can the rich afford horses whereas the rest have to walk. Are their movements in your world trying to change the cultural norm.

In many ways building a macro-world from scratch can be very complicated. My best advice for you is to not panic. You need to have a very good idea of what your story is about, the basic plot, the basics characteristics of your characters, and an understanding of how the wider world might have an effect on your characters micro-world.

In terms of the logistics of building your macro-world don’t be frightened to spend a little bit of time building it, even if you don’t end up using it, if you have it there ready then you can easily add some depth to your¬†story.¬†Just don’t spend so long building a great world, that you don’t have a good plot and characters to interact with it.


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