Hi, I’m Corey, and these are some tips to help beginning fiction writers start world building. I’ve been writing a story for 3 years, so I know these have merit.
Create the world BEFORE you create the characters. A very easy way to avoid having the world revolve around your protagonists and feel more organic is creating the world BEFORE you create the characters. Once your world is sort of fleshed out, creating characters that can exist in that setting will be simpler. You’ll already have rules in place to streamline character creation
The world famous manga Dragon Ball (and its derivatives) started their story by setting up the world and its rules before diving into its characters and developing them, allowing them room to explore both the characters and the world at the same time, while still keeping both interesting.
Pick which type of story you are going to make
Pick which type of story you are going to make; a character driven one or a plot driven one. Why? Because picking both can make both you and your reader confused. Both of these plots have merit. A character-driven story can have a slower pace, get your readers to connect with your characters, and provide organic plots. A plot-driven story can be more fast paced, get your readers to admire the world you’ve crafted, and avoid stories that bend to one character’s whim. Having elements of both can make a story feel well thought out, but trying to switch between the two extremes can give the reader whiplash.
Harry Potter, with its well written cast, slow and steady pace, and soft magic system, is an excellent example of a character driven narrative. Meanwhile, Lord of the Rings is written with the express purpose of having the One Ring, a cursed artifact, be destroyed. This is the main plot point, and as such, takes precedence over other plot points that may occur, making it a strong plot-driven story.
For fantasy writers: Write down the rules for your special devices, such as magic
It is very easy to fall into the trap of making the rules for your special tools and energies as you write the rest of your story. This, however, can lead to your special item(s) solving every plot point in your story, creating plot holes where it could be used but wasn’t.
For an example of how having a preconceived idea of a rule system works well, read the Six of Crows duology. Each character has a certain set of unchanging skills that help balance each other out. If one character suddenly grew wings, the story would be forced to change into a more rushed and strange form.
Avoid reasons vs. excuses fallacy
Don’t have everything your protagonist does being seen as correct; there have to be consequences, protagonists can be fallible. Several great stories have fallen into the trap of protagonist-centered morality, where all of the heroes’ actions are justified by them being a hero. Having fallible characters makes a story feel realistic, and allows for those characters to develop. Excusing a character’s morally bankrupt actions is an easy way to take a reader out of a story.
The web series RWBY fell into the protagonist centered morality hole for a small period of time after the main cast lied about a villain’s immortality. This was after the main cast berated one of their mentors about keeping this a secret.
Flesh out the main characters
Flesh out your main such as the protagonist and antagonist, before adding in other characters. The protagonist(s) and antagonist(s) will most likely be the focus of your story, so flesh them out first. Once you have a solid base for these characters, make other characters to fill out the world and interact with the main characters.
The thriller anime/manga Death Note had a small cast of characters, but dove into the important members of the cast and vicariously gave its secondary and side characters their own time to shine and develop.