worldbuilding vs storybuilding skills

I used “static” to describe the foundational structures that build the world and the time the characters live in but I think “worldbuilding skills” works better. Static describes language that doesn’t need to interact with another aspect of craft the way conflict fuels character development which develops tension.

But worldbuilding skills include more than description. It also includes exposition and backstory, and telling. Exposition is what a character knows at the start of the story. Backstory tells us what has happened. Telling is needed when what has happened hasn’t happened in the “now” of the story. They all build the world, not the current events in it.

Storybuilding skills are the skills that craft the plot, theme and characters of the story. POV is allowing the character’s personality and emotional state impact how they see the world where description only describes objectively what the characer is “looking” at, how ever that is defined in the story.

Storybuilding is the engine that drives the story forward. It’s a character with a problem who acts on the solution to an outcome yet to be determined. It needs conflicts that drive character development one way or the other and a source of tension that is escalated and hopefully by the character’s actions. The pacing serves the story and a thematic resonance are all needed to make a fictional story memorable to a flesh and blood reader who has limited time and money to enjoy what they want to spend it doing.

External conflict guides the plot. Internal conflict guides the theme. The external conflict should cause the internal conflict to change in some fashion or stay in the same state meaningfully. A story doesn’t need to do all of it but the less growth in one section, the more the other two need to do to be on par with a story that can do all three well.

The biggest barrier to structural critique has always been the author not wanting or willing to consider changing anything but surface edits. It feels to me like the goal of critique has become to share finished work, not improve it.

Learning to world-build isn’t easy to do but learning the story-building skills is harder. Even work with huge universes focus on the stories of the characters that live in them. Without a story that matters to the reader, there is only nice description.

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