Contributed by Hope Collier
Some genres involve greater attention than others. My paranormal novel (The Willows: Haven) takes place on earth, but involves some non-human characters in enhanced places. The primary focus of my world building revolves around the social structure of this new society, the biological aspects of the beings themselves, some ancient history, a little architecture and mythology, and the law. This means I don't have to worry about creating animals like a chimera or filling the heavens with a purple moon. Look at your story to determine which aspects affect your world-building.
I want to take a moment and highlight a few aspects in my own writing, since I can explain them a little easier.
Social Structure/Law: This is an extremely important feature in Haven. The characters don't live under the same rules as humans. They have their own social constructs and hierarchies. Different laws govern most aspects of their lives, and it's very important that I make those laws clear to the reader. If the weight of their choices isn't felt, it defeats the purpose and loses power.
Characters: I don't want to get into "what" my characters are as I don't want to spoil it, but you already know they aren't human. While they have human traits, their biology is entirely different. The way they react to things in their environment, their preferences and requirements to thrive, are different from humans. It makes them what they are! This is one area where detail is imperative. If typical things such as food and sleep don't sustain them, something else does. Just like humans, there are requirements and limitations to flesh out here.
History: The history behind my characters' lives and situations is the basis behind the whole story. It's the thing that drives the plot. If there isn't reason for the characters to behave the way they do, then the story is going to fail. The events leading up to my protag's current state are the drive behind their social structure and law. Even if you don't have the history in your story, it's important to have it in your head. Cause must drive action, otherwise it's unrealistic.
Architecture: For most of Haven, the architecture is modern but hints at the life my protag experienced during her life. As the story unfolds, she's introduced to a society where the beings value nature and bend it to their purposes rather than destroy it. In a world where the characters are as much a part of nature as nature itself, I had to find a way to incorporate that.
There are countless other aspects to consider when world building. Just look at ours. We have beliefs and moral issues, matters of religion, science-based, and such. Every tiny facet of life outside the norm has to be addressed and characterized if you want a believable setting.