If you want a realistic setting or world for your story, you need to do some world-building. world-building involves defining, exploring and understanding how your story’s world is similar and different to the real world.
Your genre will influence the detail, focus, and level of your world-building. For instance, it’s a convention of fantasy stories to have detailed settings that are quite different from our world. In a romance story, readers don’t need super unique settings. They’re happy for the author to not put as much effort into worldbuilding, because the story’s world is usually a copy of the real world. Understand your genre before you start world-building!
And now … the super useful link to help you build amazing settings!
This online list is an incredibly useful (and free!) resource. I’ve only recently found it, but I know it’s going to become an essential part of my writing. In the words of Patricia:
“The following list of questions is meant to aid authors of fantasy fiction who are seeking to create believable imaginary settings for their stories. While many of these questions may be helpful or crucial to certain stories, they will not all apply to every story. It is not necessary for an author to answer all, or even any, of the questions in order to start writing, (or to finish writing, either). The idea is simply to provoke people into thinking about the ways their settings and backgrounds hang together … or don’t. If it’s useful, use it. If not, don’t.” – Patricia C. Wrede
Yes, ‘fantasy’ is in the title, but this list will be useful for world-building in any genre. Check it out here – it won’t disappoint!