Every story needs a setting. A world, a universe, even. And if your story doesn’t take place here, you’ll have to create the world. This is worldbuilding. Worldbuilding is like building an iceberg. Only a tiny bit shows, but this piece is supported by the rest of the iceberg. The purpose of worldbuilding is to make your world deeper, to make it more realized and thus more immersive.
There are two main approaches to worldbuilding: narrow and wide. Narrow worldbuilding involves building a world around only the elements shown in the story. This has the advantage of requiring very little worldbuilding. However, the world may feel shallow, or unrealistic without deeper construction. This type of worldbuilding is good for when you already have a premise in mind, and want to expand on it. By contrast, wide worldbuilding creates a world from the bottom up, fleshing out every aspect of the world. This can create a very realistic world, and is good for when you are planning to create a new world from scratch. However, it does require much more work. It should be remembered that these are on the two ends of a spectrum, and are not absolutes.
Worldbuilding can also vary when it comes to the level of detail. Typically, aspects crucial to the plot are given much more depth, while more tertiary aspects are outlined in broad strokes. More dedicated worldbuilders, though, can create a vast world in great detail, in the vein of Tolkein. Again, it should be remembered that these are on the ends of a spectrum.
There are many things to consider when creating a new world. I find it useful to start by creating a basic world map. Planets, continents, cities, etc. This helps keep continuity, and also can establish the interactions of political entities in the world. In our world, geography affects many aspects of life, from military engagement to voting, and thus a map is crucial to creating a new world.
You should also create multiple distinct political entities. These can create essential conflict, and also shape the world around them. These can vary from local village councils to massive nations on a planetary scale. Of course, these are not completely necessary. A story with a smaller scope may not deal with higher level politics.
Another aspect shaped by the political entities is the culture of the area. Many places in our world have unique and diverse cultures, and this can be reflected in a fictional world. A place’s traditions, clothing, holidays, religion, etc. are determined by things such as its history and people.
Of course, all the things I have mentioned in this chapter are only recommendations to create a world more believable in our terms. You don’t need to follow them, and worldbuilding can be accomplished in many different ways. In the meantime, try building a new world.