[World Clinic] A Question for Prospective Worldbuilders

If you’ve been following along on the live beta testing on CREATE A WORLD CLINIC, I’d like to know if you’re getting a clear picture of what you’ll be able to do with the book, or if you need to know something different.

What questions do you still have that haven’t yet been answered.

Please ask them here, and I’ll figure out a format that get you some answers.

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48 responses to “[World Clinic] A Question for Prospective Worldbuilders”

  1. Rebecca Anne Avatar
    Rebecca Anne

    Hi Holly I have just bought the world clinic and I am a little confused where do the video’s fit with the worksheets.

    1. Kathleen Roberts Avatar
      Kathleen Roberts

      From what I got they belong with the Geek Deep builds. i won’t use them myself for awhile but I have them

    2. wednesday Avatar

      At the top of the “CAWC Geek Deep: Basic Worldbuilding Demo Videos #1—#5” page (which can be found under your “General Classes: Create a World Clinic eBook” menu if you’re logged into the classrooms), Holly tells us how she recommends we use the videos and worksheets, thusly:


      I’ve included worksheets for each of the the Geek-Deep Worldbuilding video demos below and on the second video page.

      To get the best results from this section of the course:

      1. Read the Create A World Clinic Geek-Deep text that refers you to this video.

      2. Watch the applicable video and do the worksheet for that video.

      3. Make sure you have understand both the concept and the application for what you’re building before moving on to the next section of the Create A World Clinic Geek-Deep training.

      1. wednesday Avatar

        I forgot to add that there are two sets of worksheets. As per the Create a Word Menu under your classrooms:

        Create A World Clinic Ebook

        CAWC Geek Deep: Basic Worldbuilding Demo Videos #1—#5 (WORKSHEETS INCLUDED UNDER EACH VIDEO, IF APPLICABLE)
        CAWC Geek Deep: Basic Worldbuilding Demo Videos #6—#11 (WORKSHEETS INCLUDED UNDER EACH VIDEO, IF APPLICABLE)


        I hope that helps.

  2. Leslie Avatar

    I have all the short courses but haven’t taken HTTS yet. I am stuck at world building for my current novel. Looking at the beta lessons I have seen so far I realize we have to start something new to learn the actual techniques. Will we also be able to work on worlds where we have the main characters and rough plot outlines already worked out in this course?

    1. Holly Avatar

      The course works for existing worlds and stories. If it didn’t, I’d never be able to finish anything.

      HOWEVER, I start writers out by building new worlds for two CRITICAL reasons:

      1) To eliminate any bad habits you picked up and embedded in existing work.

      2) To allow you to build good habits working on worlds in which you have no investment (time, characters, plots, existing stories).

      Once you know how to make functional worlds, you can then go into your existing fiction and put the processes to work, knowing that you’ll get usable material out of them.

  3. Kelsey Avatar

    I second the comment about finding the best character and plot to match a world that makes your heart go pitter-patter. I run into this problem a lot, where a world draws me in but then I struggle to find a non-obvious plot that puts that world to best use. When this happens I get “and then” plots instead of “therefore” plots.

  4. Jass Avatar

    I hope my question falls under Worldbuilding. One of my biggest problems when I start writing a scene is knowing where to stage the scene. Do I put it in a doctor’s office? A picnic at a park? A packed baseball stadium? Is the worldbuilding clinic going to guide me as to where to stage my dramatic action, cause in each of those places they would affect the characters differently. What kind of guidance does the WBC have for that?

  5. Kyralae Avatar

    Something I haven’t seen in all the comments is anything on putting the whole world together – culture, language, science/physics. Maybe I’m missing something but what I have seen are a series of exercises in methods of world building but not a cohesive whole. I’m curious and can hardly wait for the final version to be released for purchase.

  6. Elizabeth Poole Avatar


    I’ve read through the beta testers’ comments, and I haven’t seen anything that pertains to my question, so I’ll ask here.

    I know most, if not all, of your Create a ____ Clinics exercises deal directly or indirectly with the current book you are writing. I have all the clinics, and have taken all the classes, so I am familiar with your methods of teaching. Nothing is ever wasted or done without purpose.

    Still, for some lessons it’s not as obvious of how to apply it to the story as others. So while I know every lesson will help me build better worlds, my question is whether anything addresses how to get the story out of the world.

    Like you, I can happily spend weeks building a world, so it took me a long time to figure out why, in worlds I was most eager to write in, was I having such a hard time with the character and plot?

    The answer was I only had a vague idea for the character, and even attempts to flesh out the character went sideways. I had a cool character, but one who no longer fit the world I was working on. It feels like they are sometimes side by side each other, with a separate cool setting and a separate cool character, but neither was right for the other.

    I was hoping Create a World have some exercises that helps you get a plot or character out of the world you’re building. Because while my latest idea about a gritty New York subway that goes to places other than just Lower Manhattan (places that might not even exist) makes my muse jump with unrestrained joy, I don’t always know how to find the story in the place I’m building, no matter how detailed I get.

    I was also wondering if you address building Alternate History, where you’re still on Earth, but in the near future or distant past, and special physics (like time travel) and how they tie into the world.

    1. Nicole Avatar

      I have similar questions, Elizabeth: How does one generate the perfect character/foil for a world? Conversely, how does one generate the perfect world/foil for a given character? Ditto and vice-versa for plot. How does one make it all coherent?

  7. Nicole Avatar

    My models for worldbuilding have always been the Pern novels. Generally speaking, I have wondered the following:

    1) How do you make the world coherent, especially when it incorporates some actual, but specialized, physics or chemistry or biology, etc. (think Thread spores, dragon rock-chewing / fire-breathing biology, Thread weather patterns) from our world?

    2) How do you do the right (and enough) research to make your specialized physics, biology, etc. believable, including to any hard-core science types who might read it?

    3) How do you spot any inconsistencies or bad rules (for instance, I hate clunky magic) that would make the world less believable?

    4) How do you make your world the perfect foil for your themes, stories, and characters (e.g. I could *never* imagine the Pern novels happening in any other world; Pern is the perfect foil for the stories McCaffrey has to tell, and it fits them hand-in-glove)?

    5) How do you build a world that showcases the *themes* you’d most deeply like to write about? (variation of #4, but from a slightly different angle)

    6) How do you build a utopian world (e.g. Pern) that nevertheless has enough conflict to be interesting (and to sustain multiple novels)?


  8. Kirsten Avatar

    I’m enjoying all the updates, and the course sounds amazing!
    My question might already be covered, but I wanted to be perfectly sure on the answer so I’ll ask it again. 🙂

    I usually end up writing a lot of drafts before my story world starts coming together. (I’d like to change that someday, but that’s a different problem altogether!) Case in point, I’m in the planning stage for the first draft of a third book in a trilogy. The other two stories are also finished first drafts, so basically I have a lot of this written and will be taking it through a HTRYN revision at some point to start building this world more cohesively.
    I’d love to head into this third book with my world in place, but at the same time, the writing of the story gives me so much joy that I’m always loathe to pull over, slow down, and get things more organized.

    So, is it too late for me to take the story through the World Building Clinic? Will I be able to apply the techniques in the clinic to a story world that already has some elements in place, but needs parts filled in to make it more complete?

    1. Mike C. Baker Avatar
      Mike C. Baker

      Worldbuilding techniques should be adaptable to your situation – with perhaps one small tweak? You’ve established what I think of as a Line across two prior works in the same World. Now, with the third, you have a Dot / Point that will eventually add to the line.

      Whose Point is it? Where do THEY start (what’s their immediate surroundings, how are they going to oonnect to the existing society, how does that connection vary when viewed from the reverse direction, ETC!)

  9. Jennifer Lewis Williams Avatar

    After reading the comments from your beta testers, I don’t get a sense that this course is for genres other than scy-fy or fantasy or paranormal or possibly historical fiction where one changes something in that time period. So my question would be how would this course relate to those of us who write mystery/crime/thriller novels set in known locations and contemporary times?

    1. Holly Avatar

      Hi, Jennifer,

      I’ve posted Chapter 1 of the course in the next post so you (and other folks) can SEE how worldbuilding applies to you work.


    2. Kathleen Roberts Avatar
      Kathleen Roberts

      not a beta tester, but I do write mysteries so I am going to offer a thought.
      Often when we build a world for our books we have to change things, even if it is procedural (see CSI they ignore a lot of things about real crime scene techs)and the world built around it has to support that. We world build whether we know it or not, though in my case I did know it because I altered history to build my world, so that our world makes sense and our detective can get away with things most real civilians or even real officers cannot.

      1. Jennifer Lewis Williams Avatar

        Hi Kathleen,

        I now with your comments, especially now that Holly was kind enough to post her first chapter that showed me how I world-build in my crime fiction. Your comments have made it even more crystal clear to me, and I so appreciate that.

  10. wednesday Avatar

    I have every clinic and class you’ve written and love them all, but have had endless trouble with Dot & Line, even after rereading the HTTS material and reviewing what’s on the discussion boards. From what a beta reader posted, it sounds like Dot & Line may be have an additional application in the Worldbuilding clinic. If so, I’m hoping to finally get it….

    1. Holly Avatar

      Go to the next post and build your first Dot World. Worldbuilding uses different angles on both Dot and Line—and will help you with the concept elsewhere, too.

  11. Lina Avatar

    (I’m a writer from Germany, so I want to apologize right upfront for all the embarrassing grammar an spelling mistakes in the following text. I will try to keep them to a minimum and please don’t think I’m a lunatic for attempting to write a book because of this. (There are far better reasons to think I’m a lunatic, Anyways))
    I’m currently working 10 hours a day on a book-project that’s very dear to me and I just started my worldbuilding-month after I got my very basic outline. This time limit is something I set for myself to not overbuild or procrastinate things, but I was very tempted to delay the start to wait for the worldbuilding-clinic.

    Like Christine, I have trouble to determined what to work on first. I decided to work out my magic system, because it required special attention (plot is practically based on it). Simultaneously, I made some worksheets for my races, to note differences in each type of magic (Every race has a different one) and how it will influence their body, behavior…. After I noted how this would effect the culture they life in (I love the culture-clinic!) my head began to hurt very badly. Then I noticed I have to change something in the magic-system again…
    Well, the changes made me wish I didn’t try to develop everything at once. Nearly all the things I noted in the racesheeds and culturesheeds turned to utter rubbish…
    I would sing (very badly) if the Worldbuilding-clinic could help me to avoid things like that in my next project. (And I could use it right this minute to make my process easier, but I set myself a deadline an there is no time to wait)

    There is another problem I have to think about. I’ve got to convey complex information about the world to the reader (Especially the creation of magic for plot reasons), but I don’t want to loose him along the way. From the beta-reader-live- updates I got the notion you already have information regarding this issue, but I wanted to mention it nonetheless.

    Oh, and I wanted to ask if you wrote something about using all the clinics together in an effective way (create a world, create a culture, create a language, create a character)

    I hope I could help you getting this clearer picture you wanted and I can’t wait to see this book published. 
    I would have liked to be beta-reader myself, but it always takes me a while to really understand everything andto make use of it in my own language. You seem to be a bit under pressure and I would probably not be fast enough to fit your timetable.

  12. Kathleen Roberts Avatar
    Kathleen Roberts

    I am a writer of many genres and I’ve built worlds around one change in history. i am not sure this is a question for this blog or not but one person who used to read my old writing read my published novel actually emailed me screaming at me for building rules that block her writing fanfiction. is that a good thing to do in world building? is there anything in the book that touches on others wanting to play with your world but you building rules that block it?
    I am not sure how to ask this question really, but this seems like the only place I can.
    I am also a fantasy writer, new genre, and I am doing one that flips a stereotype of the abused/used/downtrodden women and I was wondering if there should be special rules for that. I guess my question is about rules in general. Does the book cover if there any rules that are bad to make?

    1. Elizabeth Poole Avatar

      I am not a beta tester, so I cannot answer your question directly.

      But I’m going out on a limb and adding my two cents here.

      I’m having a hard time picturing a world you built that blocks her from writing fanfiction, since fanfiction pretty much does what it wants to. If someone has a great idea for shipping two characters that specifically never, ever, in a million years would get together, they write it anyway (See: Supernatural, Star Trek, Harry Potter, etc). It’s part of the reason why fanfiction exists.

      It just sounds like the person who emailed you is crazy, to put it bluntly.

      I’m sure there’s a more technically explanation though, and maybe Holly can address that. 😀

      1. Kate Roberts Avatar
        Kate Roberts

        Her favorite character worked three years construction, one of the rules for the mason’s guild in my alternate history murder mystery world is the apprenticeship is still 14-15 years and college is mandatory, her favorite character barely passed high school and only has three year in US construction which is different from Guild building styles and skill.

      2. Niche Avatar

        I agree with the crazy. Fanfic lives for tweaking the rules usually. Few writers don’t change something in canon. Your job is to tell a good story, not to make an easy platform for fanfic. They must like it or they wouldn’t have wanted to play there. But it’s your world, and they can’t think of a justifiable way to handle an exception or change for a rule they don’t like it’s NOT your problem. At most, writers can request from fans that they not post our ‘what if’ musings, but I don’t thank a writer can prevent fanfic ideas.

        I admit that seems a long apprenticeship and then adding college (which usually is for a world without apprenticeship/journeymen/masters) but it’s your world and makes for older characters. That may be the issue that they want a 18 yr old as lead and done with schooling. I don’t think I will ever be done with study.

        (also not a world beta)

        1. Kathleen Roberts Avatar
          Kathleen Roberts

          actually apprentice is age 10-17, Journeyman is done in college and is the other seven years or so though the requirement is only four years. the reason for the degree is that the Guild must be educated about the world. Even though the Guild lives apart from the mainstream, they do interact with it and they must understand it.

    2. wednesday Avatar

      Holly wrote a section (I think it’s in one of the How to Think Sideways lessons?) that deals with why it’s not a good idea for a writer to invite others to play in his/her universe. I hope she’ll reference the lesson — her reasoning is solid and based on painful wisdom gained through her own experience.

      IMHO, if a reader is infuriated that you’ve created rules for your original creation that block her from writing fanfic on it, then perhaps that reader might be encouraged to create her own universe and go play in it? Her fury sounds a great deal like ingratitude and an assumption that your creativity should be her personal playground into perpetuity.

      Personally, it took me a great many years before I understood (and here again, Holly helped me to understand) that most people in this world don’t have the imagination or the ability to create what some of us can and must do, and invest the money, years, and determination to learn how to do it.

      Also, while there are authors who don’t mind if readers write fanfic based on their works, other authors refuse to allow it. Legal issues as well as personal issues can be involved, as a short Google search will reveal.

      All things considered, “Don’t write fanfiction based on my characters or my world” has come to be a very good worldbuilding rule to me, but Holly and perhaps your own experience can tell you much more clearly why.

      1. Kate Roberts Avatar
        Kate Roberts

        Yeah, the problem is she thinks, and actually told me, if its out there is her right to do as she pleases. I said the rules were meant to say no as much as I did to playing with it and that’s when she started screaming, at first she asked if there were exceptions to the rule about a 14-15 year apprenticeship and the college being mandatory thing. When i said no, even soldiers start year one, she got nasty.
        thank you for the feedback.

        1. Elizabeth Poole Avatar

          Yes, I believe the lesson about fan fiction and shared worlds is in HTTS, in the later lessons. She talks about how it does nothing for your name while promoting the bigger author, and can lead to some conflict when you have different ideas of how things work than the other authors in your shared world.

          I know a lot of authors who go on record to say they don’t read fan fiction for fear of a law suit. No writer wants to be sued because a fan fiction author believes the author “stole” their ideas.

          A lot of fan fiction writers feel the same way as your reader, that if you publish a book they are free to write their own stories; its the general philosophy. I say this with no malice. I’ve read stories on fan fiction.net and mostly I don’t think they’re hurting anyone. But legally, they have no standing. You publishing a book actually makes your ideas “yours” and not everyone else’s. If she has issue with your worldbuilding because you built specific time lines into the education of your people, that’s her problem, not yours.

          As a writer, you need to build what works for your story. You can’t write a decent plot without rules and constraint, so your reader doesn’t precisely understand what she’s talking about.

          In the end, this is her problem. You write the stories you need to write, and let people like that deal with their issues themselves. Again, I’ve seen fan fiction ignore all rules and relationships established by canon material, so you making rules in your book is not stopping fan fiction from existing.

          Again, this is just my two cents. Make what you will of my opinions. 😀

          1. kathleen roberts Avatar
            kathleen roberts

            Thanks, I think I just needed to hear rules are okay even if they do upset people who are mad character X cannot be the hero.

            1. wednesday Avatar

              It’s your world and your characters. You get to do what YOU want. Nyah! 🙂

              1. Kathleen Roberts Avatar
                Kathleen Roberts


                Thanks, I needed that.

          2. wednesday Avatar

            I remember her advice to not collaborate with another professional author, but there’s also another section where she addresses (I think it was in relation to her original fans and boards and asking things like, “What would you like to see happen in novel X featuring character A?”) ways of a writer letting readers/fans play in their universe that will only lead to upset for the readers and the writer as well. I think I may have extrapolated from that portion that it’s also a bad idea to let readers write in your universe.

            1. Kathleen Roberts Avatar
              Kathleen Roberts

              I actually told them no, most of my worlds, current and all soon I hope, have rules that block things but this girl, she just went off when i said the rules don’t change.

        2. Holly Avatar

          I’d recommend disengaging from this particular reader right away.

          I’d also recommend NEVER reading any fanfic done in your worlds.
          If you have reasonable readers, you can ask them—as I’ve done—not to write fanfic in your worlds. If they comply, you have awesome fans.


          Your job as the writer is to:

          * Make sure you keep your copyright clear for your own use,

          * Let readers know that you don’t permit fanfic and will not EVER read any fanfic written in your worlds,

          * And stick to this by NOT reading fanfic in your worlds that’s out there

          If you are known to read fanfic, and you write something that contains significant similarities to a piece of fanfic written in your world that predates what you’ve written, you can lose your right to publish your own book in your own world. (This has happened to some pros.)

          If you have someone who insists on writing in your world in spite of your publicly stated and documented request that writers not write fanfic in your world, don’t argue with the writer in question, and don’t engage at all personally (don’t reply do emails, don’t reply to posts to your blog.)

          If you must communicate with this person, do so through a lawyer.

          PLEASE NOTE: What I have offered here does not constitute legal advice. It does constitute my strong recommendation that if you have a hostile writer infringing on your copyright, you seek legal advice.

          1. Kathleen Roberts Avatar
            Kathleen Roberts

            I said no to fanfic. when I set the rules for the Guild World I intended to block it. Than you for telling me the rules are okay to set. I try not to speak to her I delete all comments from her after that last one which I did not reply to. When I realized one idea I played with almost totally original I pulled it off anyone see it and removed what was not original, reoutlined the entire book and world and made it completely mine.
            the problem is she likes to ignore rules, her and one of her favorite sites which i severed all ties with.
            Thank you for the advice, holly. Sometimes I find myself needing it from other writers and encouragement as well as assurance rules in my own worlds are good even if they upset someone else.
            I am waiting for the world clinic eagerly for help with a High Fantasy novel.

            1. Kathleen Roberts Avatar
              Kathleen Roberts

              PS, I have HTTS but I bought the individual lessons, I am hoping eventually I can get the money to run the course with you. HTRYN taught me a lot doing it guided.

  13. Teresa Meherg Avatar
    Teresa Meherg

    I’m an HTTS student and have all of your other clinics, which I love btw, and have read through the BT comments. I can’t wait to find out what SANE is… I’m an avid over-builder fantasy dork, and often gleam a lot of candy bar scenes through specific world building exercises. I do too much, I know, but it does give me a greater confidence in my writing when I can fully write from inside the story world. I just need to know that I can hang on to that creative confidence (icky word for what I’m trying to describe) and stop spending butt-in-chair writing time playing in the big playground of world building. Is there a happy medium that doesn’t slow the creative juice of the muse. She can be a monkey-poo flinginging diva when I take away her colored pens.

  14. Calum D Avatar
    Calum D

    I had a read through of the comments section but found that I did not get a feel of the book. The comments were hard to read due to the formatting, and were better when testers wrote as paragraphs. I think I got a feel more from reading the contents.

    I am in the fantasy section, and likely did create my story from the dot world (assuming that means you are building everything around one concept). One part that I have hit is Fire, or rather my world not having fire. Obviously that makes things rather complicated when you have to remove anything that is made with fire. If I add fire in though, it causes problems as I have other heat and light sources that are essential to the story.

    So does the book address the problems caused by world loops? also world history too would be nice to cover (especially for the fantasy side). Hope that makes sense.

    Currently going through HTRYN (Wk 4) and although I can see what the purpose of the lesson is, I don’t necessarily always agree with the method (obviously coming from a different background). So would be better to answer whether I would purchase after I see where the other course ends up.

    1. Holly Avatar

      The Create A World course addresses how to develop special physics, which sounds like what you’re referring to.

      And deals with developing rule sets to establish limitations in your world, of which “no fire” would be an example.

      To create a world in which fire does not exist, though, requires really special physics, since fire is a simple chemical reaction, and eliminating it would require some major changes in the chemistry of your world and universe. I’d be fascinated to find out how you’re dealing with that.

      1. Calum D Avatar
        Calum D

        As a chemist, I would not want to open that can of worms as it would change the environment (inert atmosphere)and the blood chemistry of the people (not having oxygen) which I would have to brush over as they would not be at that level of that technology to know such things.

        The world without fire is less about it not existing, rather that the people do not have the ability. It means the society is built around creatures for light, local heat (boiling water) and city heat. This means I need to avoid things that require fire (metal weapons, bricks, glass, etc…) as if I now add fire, then it causes a problem with the world premise. Hence the world loop problem. Although adding in Fire in a later novel, and how it impacts society is something I am now thinking about based on comment.

  15. Julia Mozingo Avatar

    I’ve always thought of world building as physically being other worlds, sci fi, planets, time periods, non-human species inhabitants, etc. and wasn’t sure I could use the course information for modern day / contemporary stories with ordinary people found in extraordinary situations. In reading the beta reader comments, some of the readers refer to “story worlds,” which immediately grabbed my attention. So my question is … will the world building course help me build my story world even though no fantasy, no sci fi, etc. elements are present?

    1. meham Avatar

      Julia (waves madly)!
      Worldbuilding is, as Holly says, perfect for writing “real world” stories. Looking through the lens that is usually used by spec fic writers offers a slightly different perspective on very ordinary things.
      For example, magic. We don’t think of magic in terms of everyday life, but there are such things as coincidences. How would your character respond to a series of coincidences? Is there a cultural rule that encourages your characters to dismiss them? What about superstitions? That’s a kind of magic. Magical belief, anyway.
      Other questions about worldbuilding might get you to notice things about the ordinary world that you might not pay close attention to as catalysts for plot and character movement. Maybe there is a plot twist in how government intersects with language, for instance. How exactly is a “spin doctor” different from a witch doctor?

      I’ve benefitted greatly from applying my fantasy stuff to the little ordinary stuff I’ve done. Hope that helps 🙂

      1. Julia Mozingo Avatar

        Great tips, Meham! Thanks for sharing. That helps a lot. So good to hear from you and see you around and meet up here on Holly’s site.

  16. Sarah Avatar

    I’ve been watching out the whole way along, and I just wondered about social interaction and its associated topics. Manners, greetings, castes/social classes, etc. Will they be part of religion, or is it just something that tends to flow naturally as you write?

    I’ve probably missed this somewhere, but I just thought I’d ask!


    1. Holly Avatar

      I cover all of that in Book Two of the Worldbuilding Trilogy, Create A Culture Clinic. Which is already available. 😀

      1. Sarah Avatar

        Thank you!

  17. Christine Avatar

    I didn’t have time to read every beta tester update, but here’s the main issue that I have with world-building that I hope is addressed.

    I’d like to know _where_ to start. If I come up with a seed idea, do I look at family life, religion, politics, technology first? How much detail do I create before I stop for the initial pass? When do I go back for more, after I’ve gotten the characters fully formed or plot points laid out or all simultaneously?

    Most importantly, how do I know when to stop and when to cull? I have a tendency to turn even simple short story ideas into novel-length projects because of world-building. Is there a way to know how much world-building is enough for the length and type of story I’m writing?

    I’m sure you’ve probably answered most of this in the Clinic (the SANE comments sound interesting), but these are the issues that I struggle with most.

    Can’t wait till the release date!


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