Advice from the Archives: How to Build a Believable World

It’s time for another Advice from the Archives! This gem was first seen in 2011 for the New Voices competition…enjoy! 🙂 

Here at Romance HQ we obviously adore a good character-driven love story and creating great characters that we want to root for is a major part of building your romance. But what about the world they live in?

Is your romance a rollicking Regency romp or a dark, dangerous paranormal? Or even an exotic escape to the Mediterranean island of your dreams? Well, all three take place in distinct locations that you want your reader to fall in love with. So here’s a few of our top world building tips…

Bring the world to life with your senses
– What can your characters see/hear/smell/taste/feel in your world?  How does the air smell on a Greek tycoon’s gorgeous private island? What does a vampire hero’s deep, dark lair look like? Showing the reader how the environment affect’s your hero or heroine’s senses really draws readers into your world.


Show, don’t tell– At Romance HQ, we know our readers are a smart bunch, so trust your readers by showing them your characters world rather than telling them about it. For example, rather than writing “The Rake’s country house intimidated Elizabeth,” writing “The Rake’s country house was large with wide looming windows. Elizabeth looked down at her tattered dress,” shows your reader that Elizabeth is intimidated by the Rake’s country house, rather than telling us that she is.


Wear your knowledge lightly – Researching a location or historical period can really help you feel confident in bringing that place or time to life. However, always remember that this is a story and that less is definitely more when it comes to showing off your research. Think about the little details that really add flavour rather than informing your reader about the place or time. What your Regency heroine wore or what kind of dance a hero and heroine may do at a Argentinian wedding is a fab little detail to add but remember not to get too bogged down with your research – have fun with it!


Remember where you’ve been – Fantastic world building relies on being consistent. If, in chapter one, you have established that your fallen angels can’t fly, then don’t have ones who can turn up later on. If your fictional Arabic country will only allow a Sheikh hero to ascend the throne once he is married, make sure that this rule applies to other/previous Sheikhs within the universe – unless you have character-driven reasons to break your own rules. Even then, you need to make sure a rule is clear before a character can break it.


And most importantly… Have fun! – Remember that this is your story and the place where you can truly let your imagination run wild. So what if Vampires don’t usually go out in the sunlight?  Maybe yours can! So what if a werewolf story isn’t ‘supposed’ to work that way? As long as you can make a consistent world for your characters that has its own rules and laws and you can bring it alive for your reader, then go to town with it!  It’s your story, write it your way!

 Happy writing!