“Something Wicked” Thursday with Staci Troilo and World-Building

By the pricking of our thumbs, something wicked this way comes.

Welcome again to the Something Wicked Tour from the authors at Story Empire. I’m a happy to welcome Staci Troilo to the Thursday edition of the tour here on Archer’s Aim where she’ll be sharing about world-building. For a complete tour schedule for the day, please visit Story Empire and make sure to read all the stops and share on social media or re-blog on your site. Handing off to Staci!

Creating a Story World

Thanks for welcoming me here today, P.H.

The Gate

Ciao, amici! Yesterday in the Story Empire Something Wicked tour, I discussed how science fiction writers can introduce advanced technology in a believable way, using examples from my Astral Conspiracy series (specifically the first book, The Gate).

Today, I’d like to expand the topic and go from specific technologies to story worlds in general.

Every genre requires a certain amount of world-building.

There’s a lot that goes into world-building, and writers need to consider macro- and micro-level details. Focusing on either can really cement the reader in the world.

Macro-Level Details

Plan of the City of Rome MET DP826508
Photo Attribution: Antonio Tempesta [CC0]

This is a section of broad scope and general classifications. Things to consider on the macro-level include cosmic location, land geography, climate, historical development.

If your story is space-based, you’ll need to know the galaxy, the solar system, and the planet or moon (or space station). Once the astronomical details are set, you need to look at the characters’ locations. Space ship? Submarine? On land? Mountain or valley? Urban or rural? Is the locale cold, temperate, or hot? What are the building materials and are they scarce or readily available? Is the civilization in its infancy? At its zenith? On the decline? Is it a barter society or some form of payment (commodities, money, or credit)? What form of government is in charge—king, president, dictator? How technologically-advanced are they? How important is religion—are the people polytheistic, monotheistic, or atheist?

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If your story isn’t in the real world, it may help you to draw a map. Remember, even though you created this land, it still needs to comply with natural topological rules. Water runs down mountains and pools in valleys or runs off to oceans. Plains are subject to heavy winds. Rain forests thrive in hot, humid conditions. Study topological maps to get a feel for how land and water coexist on our planet, then create your continent/country accordingly.

At the macro-level, think of a camera far in the distance, taking in the broad vista and panning across the town. Nothing is zoomed in on, but we get a generalized impression of the society as a whole.

Micro-Level Details

This is where we get down to character development.

What does the hero look like? What is his job—blue-collar or white? Where does he live—shack, cabin, apartment, house, mansion? Who are his closest relations—love interest, parents, siblings, friends—and are they good or bad relationships?

To build up the world in this manner, the closer the camera gets, the more a reader will relate. We’re not just learning the hero lives in Pittsburgh, we see he lives in an industrial loft with exposed brick and ductwork in the South Side right on the river. His closet has two distinct sections—suits and ties for work and jeans and t-shirts for everything else. His refrigerator is filled with Moretti LaRossa beer, leftover pizza from Fiori’s, and a huge Tupperware bowl of his mom’s gnocchi that she forced him to take after their weekly Sunday dinner. His flatscreen practically defaults to ESPN, and he has three playlists on his phone—Rat Pack for when family visits, Bruno Mars for dates, and a classic rock/contemporary country blend for everything else.


We don’t have to learn about Pittsburgh politics, Italian-American culture, or nearby churches. Sure, we already know what contemporary life is like in an ethnically-diverse city, so that could be redundant information, anyway. But seeing what this one person is like can reveal not just character, but world details, as well.

I, personally, like to mix the two when I write. And I avoid information dumps. Sure, it would be easy to give two pages of details of land and government and commerce, and maybe another page and a half to description of the character and his loft, but readers don’t want to read that. It’s best to sprinkle those details in gradually so the plot doesn’t slow while giving readers a chance to experience the world.

In my current series, I have eight POV characters in various fields (military, academia, government agency, clergy) and in different cities. They live in the not-so-distant future, so there are some advancements in technology from what we’re used to, but it’s all easy-to-relate-to changes. And, of course, there are the aliens who invade. They’re all over the globe and interact with these characters in various ways. I’ve used religion, ancient lore, and modern technology to develop this story world, and as of right now (the middle of book three), I’ve had characters in three different continents. That’s several different landscapes and governments and cultures to represent.

Hopefully I’ve done them all justice. If you’re interested in seeing how I handled the macro- and micro-level world development, I invite you to read the first book.

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The Gate

He lost his job. Lost his girl. Now it’s all he can do not to lose his life.

Landon Thorne is a disgraced archaeologist, a laughing stock in his field because of his unconventional beliefs – he’s an ancient astronaut theorist. No one takes him seriously.

Until an alien armada targets Earth.

Now Landon’s in high demand – by the US government and someone far more sinister.

They race across two continents to the Gate of the Gods, the one place on Earth that might give humans an advantage over the aliens. But no one is prepared for what they’ll find.

And not everyone will make it out alive.

The Gate is the first of five novels in the Astral Conspiracy Series, part of Sterling and Stone’s Invasion Universe.

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Thanks for dropping by for the post today. Please leave your thoughts in the comments section and we’ll respond as soon as possible. Here’s the rest of the tour schedule. Please share this one and then visit the other stops to share those once read them:


27 thoughts on ““Something Wicked” Thursday with Staci Troilo and World-Building

  1. Thanks for an informative and helpful post today, Staci. Great explanation about world building and the different scales. I read and loved The Gate and am eagerly awaiting the next book in the series. 🙂

  2. You did a great job with world-building in this book (as with all your books). I’m with you on information dumps. They are a sure-fire way to turn a reader off.

  3. I love your world building. It isn’t always the fantastic that makes it real. Sometimes it’s the little things, like the snags in a sweater, or the crack in a window pane. I’ve been trying to beef mine up without going too far.

  4. What a great look at world building. I loved your line “the closer he camera gets, the more the reader can relate.”

    You provided excellent details and examples, and asked great leading questions, I need to save this post for reference,now that I’m attempting to become a plotter 🙂

    I can’t wait to read more in the Astral Conspiracy series. I devoured The Gate!

  5. I want to read more about the guy who lives in the loft. He sounds fun. I think you should set him up with somebody cool:) Great post and examples. I loved The Gate. The rest of the series has EIGHT POV characters? Whew! That should make each book new and exciting, but I want Landon to find his happy ever after.

    1. I won’t tell Landon’s future, but I do hope the eight POV characters keep things interesting.

      And I kind of want to write Mr. Pittsburgh, too. So glad you liked him! Thanks, Judi.

  6. This is super informative, Staci, thank you! As a pantser, I add most of these details as I go, but you’ve given me a fresh perspective on layering them in. I love the camera idea, as well. It’s all about the angles we want to represent. 🙂

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