Reviewed: On Writing and Worldbuilding

Illustration by Mark A. (me)

Title: On Writing and Worldbuilding
Author: Timothy Hickson
Publisher: Timothy Hickson
Rating: 5/5
Buy: Amazon (Affiliate link)


Writing advice tends to be full of ‘rules’ and ‘tips’ which are either too broad to be helpful or outright wrong. In On Writing and Worldbuilding, we will discuss specific and applicable ideas to consider, from effective methods of delivering exposition and foreshadowing, to how communication, commerce, and control play into the fall of an empire.


It’s one thing to say it, but it is another to show it. That is what I love so much about this book. Not only does the author ‘talk’ about the rules or ways a particular thing can be done, but he shows it using a plethora of examples from the work of well-known authors and media. Below you will find my big takeaways.

The Prologue

When I started this book I was already in a predicament with writing side-projects. I was trying to determine whether I would include a prologue. In general, I’ve always sort-of included a prologue as a way to set the tone of my story and or to create a hook that says “this is what is going to be in the story,” and to my surprise, Timothy says so much of the same.

The prologue-hook should be something that cannot be effectively communicated early in the main narrative because the main characters cannot know about it but is still crucial to the development of the tension in the narrative.

Hickson, Timothy. On Writing and Worldbuilding: Volume I (p. 7).

On Worldbuilding

Off to the races we were as I poured over the pages that described all the essentials for building a fantasy world. Timothy dives into the basics from hooking your reader with the first chapter, the many ways to deliver exposition to your reader, to designing your magic system, religions, and empires. I think back to my favorite author, George R.R. Martin, and his burning question regarding Lord of the Rings, what is Aragorn’s tax policy?

What is, even more, is that you dive into these questions and their long-term impacts when implemented. How does it affect the story if your magic system isn’t well defined? Will the reader expect your powerful character to intervene? And if they don’t, will the reader be upset? Do they understand the bounds of what a character can and cannot do? Surely you can understand this feeling when you’re upset that a character came in to save the day, or despite performing miraculous acts earlier, they simply stand on the sideline as if they could do nothing but.

Depending on what your fictional society values, some gods in your pantheon may be portrayed as more important, and this may affect how much political power that group has, cultural capital, financial influence, and how ingrained their institutional traditions and practices are in society.

Hickson, Timothy. On Writing and Worldbuilding: Volume I (p. 146).

Timothy weaves between key attributes of world-building and gives examples by comparing and contrasting how authors and show creators have tackled the subject. And this is what is most helpful of all. Seeing the way that you can implement a character, or religion into your story and how it can shape your world gives your story color. It gives it a depth that was previously shallow in your first take of writing. For those uninitiated, they begin to dissect the stories they see and hear. Suddenly, the passing comments of a background characters election take on more weight leaving you to wonder – how will their tax policy impact the citizens of this nation?

In Closing

The rating gave it away, and the text only confirmed it, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I have already recommended it to other writer friends. Even more so, I find that I may continue to reference this book and the ideas that Timothy has put forth as I continue to craft my stories. Though what I appreciate most of all, considering that I’ve been reading several books on and about writing recently, is that Timothy has injected his own personality into this text. Or, his voice, if you prefer. This kept me interested. Engaged. And engrossed.