Camping Out in Your Storyworld

I went camping this past weekend. The weather was perfect. The view was breathtaking. The company was fascinating. And it got me thinking about my storyworld.

Creating a storyworld is an art. Whether it's a contemporary setting in your own town, or a mystical forest on another planet, getting the sense of it on paper, so your reader is there, is a tough job.

One exercise that helps me, is camping out in my storyworld. What that means is I will choose a day in which I experience everything just as if I lived in that setting.

If I'm watching the sun come up, I imagine what it would look like in the world of my story. Are the colors I see touching mountain peaks or a smog-filled cityscape? How will my main character view this particular sunrise? Is she resigned to another day, untouched by the beauty, or does the scene remind her of someone in her past?

If your story is a fantasy, you’ll wonder other things. How many suns are there? How often do they rise? What colors can you imagine for such an alien world?

Even if you’re pouring yourself a cup of coffee, think through what your characters will have to do to get a hot drink in your story. Whether it’s hitting the local coffee shop because their ratty apartment doesn’t have a coffee maker, or trying to start a fire on the Icelandic tundra, it will help you live the lives of your characters.

Don’t forget your villain. They live there, too. You might be surprised to discover that your “bad guy” tears up watching a mother and child on the playground. Or that someone taking the last spot in the elevator will bring your antagonist fits of rage. These storyworld experiences will have you asking “why”. They’ll help you get to know your characters more deeply.

Each of us is affected by the world we live in. How crowded or uncrowded it is. What kinds of transportation we use. The methods with which we choose to communicate. The ease (or lack thereof) of obtaining the necessities of life.

Why not try walking through today in your storyworld?  The experience might bring dimension to your descriptions, and depth to your characters.

It’s worth a try.

The photo above is one I shot while backpacking at 11,000 feet elevation a few summers ago.


  1. What a great exercise! Your post makes me want to go camping too. I left something for you on my blog :)

  2. Aww . . . thanks so much, Jess!

    Everyone, check out the surprise at

  3. What a fun approach to world building! I've done something similar to a much smaller degree, but never considered "camping" in a story world before. -Giselle G.

  4. Thanks, Giselle! We miss you at the writer's group!

  5. I love world building and I love making my characters real. I believe we are of like minds. Too bad the rice doesn't take longer to cook.

  6. Great idea, Debbie! I love how you incorporate the villian, too. One of my favorite parts of research is to go where my characters live. I'll have to get even more in depth like you suggest and live a full day with them.

    Anyone want my kids for a day? ;)

  7. You're right, Anna. Rice should take at least a couple of hours!

    It's fascinating how you live in such a remote place! That's great for having time to write.

  8. Shelley--with a villain like yours, you definitely need your kids someplace else. He's not very child-safe!



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