World Building with Heather O’Connor

Where Are We Now?

By: Loni Cameron

Did you know world-building is not just for the science-fiction/fantasy genres?

Writers must build the world for any story they create.

This October, Heather O’Connor taught the WCYR members how to do just that. The first point she emphasized was the difference between building a SFF world and a contemporary world.

With sci-fi/fantasy, a writer should ground the reader in what is familiar.

In a world like our own, a writer should find what is different.

World-building is connected to the story, to the people, nature, magic, etc., of the world. Heather also recommended “trying things on for size”, see what works best for the story, what solves and what creates problems.

Heather discussed the three pillars of world-building: Physical, Social, and Magic (Technology). It is important that your world makes sense. We were taken through a few exercises, giving us opportunities to explore the worlds of our current works, as well as creating the basics of a new world. The exercises emphasized the questions that we need to ask in order to create the world.

What is the climate? Geography? Laws of science? Laws of magic? Culture?

The answers to these questions can influence how the characters move through their environment and make decisions.

How do we shape the world?

Heather recommended using “fascinating details” carefully, as the world should not detract from the characters or story.

Ask yourself: How much is too much? How little is too little?

It’s not easy to answer, but the questions are important. The world, the setting, is a tool. Sometimes you’re going to “zoom in” to a particular part of the world, sometimes you’re going to “zoom out”, looking at world events. Look at different levels – at what has energy for your story.

Heather also reminded us that sometimes you need a map.

Whether a map of the house, the town, or the world something concrete to look at helps put things into perspective far better than solely relying on the image in your head.

Building a world is an integral part of any story. The world contributes to characters’ actions and reactions. Having a good understanding of the world will help move the characters forward and shape the story. A good world/setting can become a character in itself or represent the state of the main character. We want to thank Heather for coming out and helping us with building new worlds.

If you didn’t get a chance to pop by for Heather’s workshop, we look forward to seeing you next time.


We’d like to remind our members of the opportunity for you to display your books, whether traditionally published or self-published, at our meetings. A table will be set up where attendees can browse other members’ work.

Please take a look at our open volunteer positions. Want to know benefits of volunteering with the WCYR? Click here. Right now, we are in need of several positions to be filled, including volunteers to help with next year’s Bookshelf. We require day of volunteers, as well as a Volunteer Coordinator for that day. If you are interested, please contact MJ Moores or Nanci Pattenden.

Proposals for Member-Run Workshops will be accepted starting January 1st and run until the end of the month.

Upcoming Events:

Writing and Author Platform Go Hand in Hand with Elaine Cougler, at the Aurora Public Library (Magna Room), Sunday, November 4th, from 1:30pm to 4:30pm

The Pliable Writer with Craig Hodgins, at NewMakeIt in Newmarket, Thursday, November 22nd, from 7:00pm to 9:00pm.

Ugly Holiday Sweater Party & Open Mic, at Ray Twinney Recreation Complex, Saturday, December 8th, from 12:00pm to 4:00pm

Make Them Wonder: Sparking Curiosity, Surprise, and Awe in Our Readers with Daniel Scott Tysdal, at Ray Twinney Recreation Complex, Sunday, January 13th, from 1:00pm to 4:00pm

Written by

When Loni isn't reading other people's words or running around after her two young children, she spends time writing stories of her own. She finds inspiration in the little things, but also in momentous events. Loni currently resides in York Region. Twitter: @LoniStorm Instagram: loni_storm Facebook: @LoniCameronWriter

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