According to Wikipedia, worldbuilding is the process of contructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a fictional universe. The term is often used in conjunction with science fiction, but in no way is limited to this genre. Think about it: every good book has a sense of place, time, history, geography, etc. that pulls us right into the story. No aliens or zombies, or oobeleck needed.
As a writer, you may think the only tool at your disposal to accurately develop a world is your words. Well, yes…and no. What’s worked best for me is to work on an idea board by gathering images, words, phrases that I feel best represent my novel’s world.
Undoubtably, you have a host of junk mail that clogs your mailbox. Why not use some of it to build your fictional world? That Ballard Designs catalog could have a really great bedroom advertised. Would it do for your protagonist? Snip it out and add it to your board. How about color swatches that you’d like to have a recurring role in your manuscript? Go ahead, add those, too. My board also has photos of L.L. Bean models because that’s how I see my protagonist’s hubby. (Although he apparently needs some work–my critique partner doesn’t see him as handsome as I do).
Since my story is based on an urban legend, the board also contains real newspaper articles about the area, as well as maps. One map is actual–the other is derived from my brain based on the descriptions I’ve given to the protagonist’s subdivision. I’ve even written her address down because it comes up from time to time and I forget it (it’s all made up, anyway!) so, instead of culling through pages and pages of manuscript where I originally made note of it, it’s on the board: 1247 Rock Hollow Lane.
I’ve also cut out book cover images (from catalogs, magazines) I think mesh with how I’d like the finished product to look–think of it as motivation.
As I write, I look at the board from time to time. What I may not be thinking of consciously, slips into the words of my manuscript almost magically. It helps to submerge myself into the work, rather than be a standby.
So, what are you waiting for?! Write on, Wednesday!