World Building vs Setting

I got about 60k words into something before really internalizing that setting and world aren’t the same.

The setting is the scene. It’s the hotel, the dragon’s lair, battlefield, or bar. The world is the connection between settings. The world dictates whether the hotel takes payment in dollars, doubloons, or credits. It determines the species of dragon, whether they are multitude or singular. Why are the armies battling? What kind of people are in the bar?

The best way to get to the world is through settings. If the hotel has some people, those people tell the readers concrete specifics about who lives in the world. If the old guys at the bar are complaining about passage rates to Alpha Proxima or the recent profusion of dragons, we know even more.

But the setting tells us more, things that can be in any world. Are A and B having a relationship argument? That’s common to all worlds with people as we know them. Their specifics are useful to the world, but we can’t have their argument about forces of nature, light speed, and good versus evil. They need to be mad about needs, who keeps eating the leftover cake, and why A keeps looking at C. Your story is based on setting. It takes place in the world.

They’re close but not the same.

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