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"Worldbuilding," in English, is a term used in fiction to describe the creation of an imaginary world in which the fiction takes place. The idea is to make the world consistent and logical to provide a level of verisimilitude, even if the rules of how the world works are different than our own.

I have attempted to find a translation using Google Translate, but only get translations of the words individually, such as construction mondiale or construction de monde, both of which refer to buildings. Switching to building the world gives me construire le monde, as expected. However, googling these phrases shows they are not used in the sense of "worldbuilding" as defined above.

I cannot find "worldbuilding" (or spelling variants) in any Googleable English-to-French dictionary, either. Any suggestions by other speakers (e.g. la création de monde) do not find widespread use.

I wish to translate a simple sentence such as "I adore the worldbuilding in this webcomic."

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    En littérature de science-fiction, on qualifie le produit de ce "worldbuilding" de livres-univers, par exemple Dune de Franck Herbert ou Fondation / Les Robots d'Isaac Asimov. – mouviciel Aug 4 '17 at 6:17
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    le résultat est un univers (comme Dune, Tolkien, Asimov), mais l'acte de construire cet univers n'a pas de mot ou d'expression consacrée. – Archemar Aug 4 '17 at 6:35
  • @Archemar Le rapport en anglais entre world et universe en sci-fi est le même qu'en français entre « monde » et « univers ». – Laure Aug 4 '17 at 11:41
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    Google translate does not do literature. Banish the thought of using it for this type of thing. La construction d''un monde imaginaire. There will not be a single word in French as in English. The languages are not symmetrical like that. – Lambie Aug 4 '17 at 20:31
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    @HydrangéacéeslesHydrangelles I do not have a source for the definition. I was simply trying to concisely explain a word that I already understand. A better guide would probably be the English Wikipedia article on the subject. To briefly answer your questions: consistency is inherent. Logical means more "makes sense" than "follows the formal rules of logic," and is good worldbuilding. Credibility can vary. And it would usually take a while to understand the worldbuilding, or if any has been done at all. – trlkly Aug 5 '17 at 8:53
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There's no set term in French that translates the English worldbuilding. When considering the word we must have in mind that when speaking of worldbuiding, we are not dealing with one world but with as many hypothetical worlds as there are creators.
In English the first term of the compound word being considered as an adjective it is invariable, in French if referring to worldbuilding in general we will have to show it grammatically, i.e. use the plural.

In the French school curriculum for French secondary schools we see there's a part entitled Regarder le monde, inventer des mondes. Inventer des mondes is what would best corresponds to the act of constructing an imaginary world.

Constuire des mondes is also used, e.g. in La science-fiction: Lecture et poétique d'un genre littéraire (Irène Langlet, 2006).

The use of the infinitive (inventer, constuire) refers to the act, when referring to the activity one would use the nouns:

  • construction de mondes
  • invention de mondes

and note that when switching from the infinitive to the noun des (use of the definite article) becomes de (no definite article).

In your sentence :

I adore the worldbuilding in this webcomic.

I would use a singular construction (ce monde for instance) because it seems you are referring to one particular (constructed) world.

An option would be to use monde(s) fictif(s) instead of just monde(s), but I expect it would be superfluous in most cases since you construct or invent, you are not dealing with the real world. That being said, if I were to propose a French version of SE Worldbuiding site I would entitle it Créer des mondes fictifs to put the stress on the artistic creativity.

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    Selon moi, univers fonctionne mieux que monde dans ce contexte. En plus, il permet de simuler l'invariabilité de l'original anglais. – mouviciel Aug 4 '17 at 8:14
  • @mouviciel L'anglais employant aussi world et universe et le français « monde(s) » et univers, mon avis personnel est de garder « monde » pour world. Par ailleurs fictional universe est parfois traduit par « monde imaginaire » ou « monde fictif », je ne vois pas pourquoi univers fonctionnerait mieux, les deux mots sont très proches, autant en anglais qu'en français. Mais bon, je ne demande pas mieux que d'être persuadé du contraire. – Laure Aug 4 '17 at 8:41
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    Everything about your post is quite useful. It is surprising, but switching to googling construction de mondes does actually find articles on worldbuilding, rather than buildings (e.g. an office building). (Google normally finds both plural and singular.) However, I do not think your translation communicates the same thing as my example sentence. I am not praising the world, but the building: the creative process. I do not yet know all about the world. I am enjoying how the world (or possibly worlds) is being created in front of me. Not just the world(s) itself. – trlkly Aug 4 '17 at 10:45
  • Because it appears the subject of the subordinate clause is monde or world. At the very least, the English translation to me says something different than my example sentence. World is an adjective describing building. I do not enjoy how the world is built (or is being built), but I enjoy the building of the world. It also seems to come out of nowhere, since nothing you say before this relates to the translation. – trlkly Aug 5 '17 at 8:37
  • No, I am not the one writing the story. It would be extremely conceited of me to praise my own worldbuildling, akin to praising my own writing. The sentence I gave is included as an example for how the word "worldbuilding" is actually used in the wild (outside of writing classes and such). I believe it has only a single meaning to an English speaker, and your translation does not appear to actually capture this meaning. As you have chosen to include a translation, it must be accurate for me to upvote or Accept your answer. [cont] – trlkly Aug 5 '17 at 12:20
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I think that saying that you appreciate the "univers" may be a wrong solution, because I think what you want to say is somehow that you like how the author make you feel in the world, more than the fact that you like this particular world.

"Worldbuilding" is the name of what the author does, and I think that in french in this situation it would be more natural to describe the corresponding feelings of the reader. You can say that "Mon immersion dans cet univers a été totale" if you feel in this world as if it were true, or "J'aime la précision avec laquelle tu décris ceci ou cela" if you want to insist on how precise the description of some element is, or you can also speak about "la cohérence du monde" if you want to insist on the consistance of the world.

  • Now crap. I'm really torn. I really, really like this practical guide, and am not sure if I should Accept this answer instead. I mean, it agrees with some of what I've observed--that the concept of worldbuilding just isn't discussed in French. The comic I wanted to comment this on had someone referencing "l'histoire", for example. I think the best answer is actually a combination of your and @Laure's posts. – trlkly Aug 9 '17 at 5:14
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The description provided for Worldbuilding reminds me the art of staging a play (theatre) : building the context and the action whether it is likely to happen in our world or not, to make it credible.

To translate Worldbuilding as described, i would use

La mise en scène

which also has a verbal form

mettre en scène (to stage)

Another idiom which fits particulary well is

planter le décor

which litteraly means to set up the background.

  • The major difference is that worldbuilding is about the fictional world being built, not the props and sets in the real world being used to represent the fictional world. The usual quintessential example of worldbuilding is in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, where he had his fictional world very much planned out, to the point that people to this day study his world almost as if it were a real one. – trlkly Aug 5 '17 at 8:58
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    *I don't think that worldbuilding has theatrical overtones at all. mise en scene means scène. – Lambie Aug 5 '17 at 15:10

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