Online | Fiction | Seminar

4-Week Fiction Seminar: Worldbuilding for Speculative Fiction Writers

Whether you're writing a portal fantasy or a solarpunk masterpiece, worldbuilding is essential to your project. The choices you make about your world and the people in it will dictate what kind of story you can tell and can help set you up for success in your writing.

In this class, we'll examine three elements of worldbuilding: 1) the physical world and how it shapes the stories in it, 2) characters and the choices available to them, and 3) the systems that allow the world to operate (and sometimes need to be fixed to make the world better). Select readings from authors like N. K. Jemisin, Seanan McGuire, and Ursula K. Le Guin and in-class writing and mapping exercises will help students refine the worlds they're creating and bring them to life.

This class is open to students of all levels. Students will leave this class with a map to serve as a blueprint for building out their world and writing their stories, as well as new work created with the goal of fleshing out characters and their motivations.

Our class platform works best on laptop or desktop computers. Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features. The Zoom calls will have automated transcription enabled. Please let us know ([email protected]) if you have any questions or concerns about accessibility. 

Check out this page for details about payment plans and discount opportunities.  


- A functional map students can use to further their projects

- A strong understanding of the process of worldbuilding

- New work produced through in-class writing exercises

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Weekly readings not to exceed 25 pages, in-class writing prompts and exercises. There is no workshop so no feedback will be given on written work, but there will be options to share work in class.


Week One: Setting as Foundation

Week Two: Characters Moving through Space

Week Three: Systems and How to Break Them

Week Four: In-world Artifacts & Excerpts

Ruth Joffre

Ruth Joffre is the author of the story collection Night Beast. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Lightspeed, Nightmare, Pleiades, khōréō, The Florida Review Online, Wigleaf, Baffling Magazine, and the anthologies Best Microfiction 2021 & 2022, Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness, and Evergreen: Grim Tales & Verses from the Gloomy Northwest. She co-organized the performance series Fight for Our Lives and served as the 2020-2022 Prose Writer-in-Residence at Hugo House. In 2023, she will be a visiting writer at University of Washington Bothell.


"What pure pleasure to recommend to you the debut collection of Ruth Joffre, whose stories are nimble, audacious, and far seeing."

Kelly Link author of GET IN TROUBLE

"The force of NIGHT BEAST is seismic; I was startled to read a first book so daringly original. Ruth Joffre’s dissident, imperiled characters are intricately drawn and deeply surprising. While working in the tradition of Djuna Barnes, Isak Dinesen, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Mary Gaitskill, Ruth Joffre manages to be sui generis, a singular young writer reconfiguring the possibilities of fiction at the dawn of—please gods—a dazzling career. There is nothing like her. And there never was."

Alice Fulton author of BARELY COMPOSED

"So many of the characters in Ruth Joffre’s stories are, literally and figuratively, sleepwalking through ‘some dark and frightful dream that our minds had conjured,’ and it's a testament to Joffre’s meticulous and abundant talent that she can guide the reader through these constrained and inhospitable spaces. No matter how dark the stories become, her language, so precise and beautiful, shines a light so that you can go deeper into these worlds, where no one else has ever been. A wonderful debut."


"A fearless and startlingly talented writer… [Ruth Joffre blends] the quiet horror of Mary Gaitskill and the reality-bending mischievousness of David Lynch and Kelly Link. You will leave this book gratefully unsettled."

Benjamin Percy author of THE DARK NET, THRILL ME, RED MOON, and THE DEAD LANDS

"Ruth Joffre turns the lights on all around her characters yet still permits them their mystery, so that beneath their sharp lines and vivid colors one senses something considerably darker and more enigmatic. They face you not like constructions on a page but like people in the world."


"Hypnotic and elegant, NIGHT BEAST built to a resonance that resounds in me still. These stories are unforgettable, full of longing and hunger and alert tenderness. Finishing the collection was like waking from a night of disquieting and luminous dreams. I did not want this book to end."