Every fiction writer engages in world building, the creation of a fictional universe in order to make their work believable for the reader. This is particularly critical for historical fiction writers who write a fine line between the real and the unreal. Their stories may be fiction, but those stories are set in real worlds of the past. Below are some particularly useful online articles to help with that process.
Tim Weed (https://timweed.net/essays-articles/on-the-writing-craft/narrative-as-time-machine-five-tools-for-world-building-in-historical-fiction/) discusses five world building tools, with examples: vivid descriptions of nature, accurate portrayal of recognizable human emotions, incorporating the exotic, defamiliarization, and using period details sparingly.
On Reedsy (https://blog.reedsy.com/worldbuilding-historical-fiction/), a selection of authors talk about elements that they have found helpful in creating a historical world.
David Gaughran (https://davidgaughran.com/2011/11/13/incorporating-historical-figures-into-a-narrative/) discusses the challenges of incorporating historical figures into a narrative and, in a later post (https://davidgaughran.com/2011/11/25/world-building-in-historical-fiction/) offers a perspective on world building and point of view, discussing why he chose third person omniscient point of view for his novel, A Storm Hits Valparaiso.
And, in my last post, I referenced M. K. Tod (https://awriterofhistory.com/tag/world-building-in-historical-fiction/) and her seven elements of historical fiction, one of which is world building.
In an interview, Jenny Davidson wrote: “Your world will inevitably be colored by other fictional worlds that you’ve encountered… but try to go back to the ‘real stuff’ for your world-building, i.e., your own imagination plus historical materials” (https://www.creative-writing-now.com/world-building.html), succinct advice I find helpful.
I know the importance of world building, but it’s easy to let it recede to the back of my mind as I focus on other elements of my novel–characters, plot, and so on. As I work through my current novel, set in WWII, I go back to these writers’ posts periodically to re-set my focus on this all-important element.