In writing, one of the key elements to making a story great is determining where your story takes place. The location, the culture, and the people in that culture are key when figuring out what happens in your story.
The setting is, in a lot of ways, the most important thing in your story. In a lot of ways, it impacts your characters more than even the plot itself. Without setting, what is to determine how your characters feel about religion and politics? Setting can also define how the characters in question dress. Do they wear cloaks? A turban?
I say all of this because knowing where your story is set is an important thing for you to know even before you write the first word. If you’re setting your story in the real world, it’s key to figure out where. If it’s fantasy, do you have two parallel worlds set in the same place like Harry Potter, or do you have a single world set apart from our own like in Lord of the Rings? In both those cases, some world building is required, but in Harry Potter, some knowledge of the real world is also required.
When it comes to world building, you make everything up from the culture to the religion. But if you incorporate real world settings in the mix, research is mandatory. The bottom line is that if you want a setting for your world, you need to know everything you can about that setting before you even type the first word.
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