30 Scene Ideas for World Development

Worldbuilding ideas

Getting lost in the story world is every writer’s (and reader’s) favourite past-time, isn’t it?

These 30 scene ideas are just a small sample, but they’re sure to send you on some exciting worldbuilding tangents.

Don’t miss the previous posts: 30 Scene Ideas for Character Development and 30 Scene Ideas for Plot Development, and subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss future instalments…

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What develops the story world?

  1. TRAVEL – journeying from one location to another not only gives you opportunities to describe different places, it also allows you to develop:
    1. Relative distances
    2. Relative locations
    3. Roads or ways
    4. Modes of transport
    5. Methods of navigation
    6. The status of travellers/foreigners
    7. The state of the home world
  2. VIEWPOINTS – using a variety of different characters as lenses through which to view the world helps you develop greater depth and breadth.
  3. GROUPS vs. INDIVIDUALS– cultures are created by the interaction between groups and individuals. Although dealing with larger groups of characters may lead you to make generalisations, it’s helpful for developing the “big picture” and contrasting it to the private and specific.
  4. INTERNAL vs. EXTERNAL – the counterchange between the character’s internal and external worlds, and how the perception of one influences the other (for example, through symbols, metaphors, projection, manifestation, and bias) is a rich vein of material for developing your story world.
  5. HOME – a character’s home or “ordinary world” is often an essential component of the story world, allowing you to create contrast and determine the character’s (and reader’s) perception of new cultures. And of course, it makes the return journey possible.
  6. REVISITING – if you’ve never studied the worldbuilding of your favourite novels, you might be surprised to find how often characters revisit locations. This kind of repetition really cements the importance of a particular place in the character’s life.
  7. TIME – placing the world in a timeline has many uses:
    1. Develop history
    2. Emphasise mortality
    3. Describe (degenerative or regenerative) cycles
    4. Show repetition
    5. Show how things are forgotten or lost
    6. Describe slower, long-term change
    7. Give events varying degrees of temporal (and narrative) weight

Scene Ideas

  1. A character discovers a secret (or forbidden) passage or location.
  2. A character journeys beyond their settlement to the unknown, uncharted (waste)lands beyond.
  3. An elder tells youngsters or foreigners the history and legends of their people.
  4. An artefact is discovered that reveals something new about the world’s history.
  5. A character or group of characters find a resting place on their journey.
  6. A narrator provides an overview of the world.
  7. A character discovers a world within the world.
  8. A character or group of characters are forced to seek refuge in a hostile environment or settlement.
  9. A character leaves home.
  10. A character arrives at their work place.
  11. A way is blocked and a character has to take an alternative route.
  12. A character enters a spiritual space.
  13. A narrator provides an overview of a world’s cycles (possibly seasons).
  14. A character journeys to the underworld or world of the dead.
  15. A character comes in contact with a culture with very different technology to their own.
  16. A character explores the world at night-time, or when most people are resting.
  17. A character encounters the world’s most valuable resource.
  18. There is a magical or supernatural disturbance in the world.
  19. A character or group of characters come across a landmark.
  20. The world’s flora helps or hinders the characters in a task.
  21. The world’s fauna helps or hinders the characters in a task.
  22. A character or group of characters attend a rite or ritual.
  23. A character or group of characters study a map.
  24. A character encounters an unusual geographical feature.
  25. A character revisits a location.
  26. A character enters their culture’s political centre.
  27. A character is brought to a place of incarceration or punishment.
  28. A character or group of characters try to figure out the purpose of a particular location.
  29. A character describes what they sense from a different vantage point.
  30. A character arrives at a crossing point between two important locations.
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