World Building

World building is usually associated with science fiction and fantasy genres, but all fiction requires a credible creation—or recreation—of the world in which the story is set.

I try to set stories in real world places in order to ground the more exceptional (or preposterous) aspects of my fiction in a realistic setting. Using real places enables me to short cut the “world building” but it does not get me off the hook entirely. Most of the action in my current novel-in-progress takes place in New York City right now. It’s my turf so I’m more than familiar with the subways, the restaurants, the art galleries, etc. where the story unfolds.

But this does not mean that every venue is a specific, real life place. For this storyline, I decided it was best that I invent a particular museum, a specific at gallery, a diner, a townhouse, an apartment, etc. etc. etc. Everything that I’ve PLACED in my invented version of New York City makes sense and fits into the environment because similar places actually exist. I didn’t use actual places all the time because that would limit the possibilities of the story.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a real place—with a world-class collection of art from a wide range of periods and places. The made-up museum called The City Collection is reminiscent of The Met, but since I took a class on Art Conservators & Conservation at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and some of the principal characters are art conservators in a museum, I created a fictional museum and drew upon my real world knowledge of The Met AND the class I took at MoMA that gave me access to a real life art conservation lab to create the work place setting.

My world building combines the real and the not-quite real. You can’t locate my City Collection on a map of NYC, but I hope it will feel real and NY-ish to readers. If it does, my world-building efforts have been successful.

As a reader, I’m conscious of the worlds created by fiction writers. Do they ‘hang together’ or feel disjointed? I recently read a mystery set in New Orleans that made me feel like I’d traveled a city I’ve yet to visit. I’d call that successful world-building!

Where have you ‘traveled’ in a author-built world?


  1. I actually had the pleasure of reading and reviewing one of your books where a young lady had suspicions about her neighbour in the adjoining apartment, The Summer Sublet. You took me on a lovely tour of the area including to a restaurant and for a walk in the park if I recall.
    It was all totally believable as far as the area went, and I’m sure you had to invent the address though I felt I could go and knock on the door.
    That’s a great skill Candy.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    • Candy Korman

      About 95% of that one was set in real places in NYC. I fudged the precise address of the building, using the location of a friend’s apartment and a description of another place from a similar era in NYC architecture. The cafes, museums, the park, flea markets, bookstores, etc. were all real places. Of course, that was written a few years ago and New York is constantly changing. Of course the big landmarks remain, but not every single restaurant and coffee bar. That was an easy world for me to build as it’s the one I live in!

  2. As a sci-fi fanatic I’d have to say my favourite imagined world would have to be Arrakis – the setting for Dune. Oddly enough, Arrakis felt real to me for exactly the reasons you’ve named, i.e. because it was woven from real world scientific ‘possibilities’ and a vivid imagination.

    I’m really looking forward to seeing the ‘world’ you create in this novel of yours. 😀

    • Candy Korman

      Arrakis did feel real. And that’s not an easy thing to do. I think you nailed the future world as an extension of current trends in ‘The Vintage Egg’ and, judging from my sneak preview, the new one has a true sense of reality.

      I’m often disturbed by inconsistencies or outright HOLES in the worlds built to hold some stories. It’s sloppy writing. On the other hand, I’ve read lot of books where the world building was excellent and the plot disappeared. LOL… I guess it’s about balance. You need all the pieces to make the pie whole. Did I just use that edible analogy? I must be hungry.

      Keep building credible worlds and keep other writers on track by reading with a critical eye!