World Building for Paranormal story

World Building for Paranormal story - student project

I found this class to be very helpful. I admit I've done some research but maybe not enough thinking and sorting out of all the rules that govern my paranormal story world/s. Thanks for your knowledge, insight and experience in this class.

Here's my project.


My world building so far…

My story is set in the human world we know and crosses over into multiple paranormal/fantasy realms through a bric-a-brac shop with objects that create portals which is located on the edge of reality out of a small coastal/hinterland town. 

Each scene builds on the paranormal/horror beats and world building hooks from the past one. This allows my story to deepen and broaden with each new discovery my main character makes.

In my story’s world magic does exist. It is connected to energy exchanges, bloodlines and objects used as focal points for manifesting or manipulating.

There are demons in my story and my main character figures out the human world is not the one she thought she knew when a demon bites her after she walks into the town’s run-down-scene-of-a-gruesome-bloody-murder (abandoned/haunted cabin). Having said that she’s always been a bit psychically sensitive.

I think I do a lot of world building in layers as I write and rewrite each section of my story. I do basic settings at the start so I know the big setting and a number of smaller settings then I move on to develop the characters and conflicts, and connect them with the ambience/tone of the story and further develop the setting.

My favourite authors/stories (at the moment) with world building instances I like are:

  • “This is the bright candlelit room where the lifetimers are stored – shelf upon shelf of them, squat hourglasses, one for every living person, pouring their fine sand from the future into the past.” Page 11, Mort, by Terry Pratchett.
  • “One afternoon, just outside a village quite like this, a child was swallowed whole by a serpent.” Page 3, Serpent’s Wake: A Tale for the Bitten, by L.E. Daniels.
  • “Effigies of the Earth King festooned the city around Castle Sylvarresta. Everywhere the effigies could be seen – hanging beneath shopwindows, standing upright against the walls of the city gates, or nailed beside doorways – stationed any place where the Earth King might find ingress into a home.” Page 3, The Sum of All Men, By David Farland.

Five ways I could flesh out and expand my world building:

  1. I could start a chapter scene focusing on what the small details that that will create an atmosphere and set the tone of the story – especially if I use this as an opening as David Farland has done.
  2. I could use a matter-of-fact statement/exposition that tells the reader the type of story they are going to read, sets the expectations up for the reader and hooks them to keep reading as Lauren Daniels has done in her Serpents Wake story.
  3. I could use Terry Pratchett’s approach and write a creation story that underpins the world and is used as an anchor at the start of each story that relates to the world I am building.
  4. I could use paranormal details such as using the senses of my character to see things beyond the physical world after she is bitten to show that her world has changed and the expanded beyond what she understood before. I could also use her emotional/visceral responses to show her reaction to the world and develop a sense of wonder as J.K. Rowling did in the Harry Potter series. I could use beverages as a way of showing her new dietary requirements.
  5. As I write each scene I could sprinkle new (relevant) details in that will both expand and deepen my character (and the readers) experience of the world. I could change the things my character sees in a setting she has been to several times before so that she and the reader see different parts of the world. I could also use the different races in my story to further develop the world building as each society will have rules, myths, beliefs, religions, taboos etc that connect with the realm she is entering.

Here's part of a world building scene I'm working on.  

Mr Hubert had lived a quiet life in a wooden house nestled deep in the Australian bush. Once it was kept in pristine condition, now it's old and rotten and hunched over waiting for inquisitive innocents like me to come calling. 

“Somethin' unsavoury happened up there in the bush," said the old farmer. "Somethin’ wicked strung his inner bits from beam to floorboard an' when the police found him he was nuffin but blood and entrails hanging like streamers waiting for trick or treaters come knocking.” 

I peered at the horizon. The sun was sinking and that familiar feeling from my night terrors crept icy fingers over the nape of my neck.

On nights when the moon doesn't shine, I dream of old Mr Hubert's house. It creaks and groans, and I’ve heard his screams echoing from the door that gapes like a monstrous mouth. Darkness shrouds me and I see a painful, raw and discordant scar cut straight across the heart of the house.

I wake up sweating. The images haunt me. Stay with me in the daylight and I'm spooked from my night terrors. Still I have to figure out what's in that place. I have to answer the call. 



Selina Shapland
Art, Writing, Creativity Coaching