World-building has to be coherent and logical. You have to think about how your world fits together and the consequences of A, B, and C.
And that works.
But what I personally love is when a fictional world doesn’t necessarily make sense. The tiny contradictions are what make those worlds real. Things the characters themselves never stop to think about until it’s pointed out to them, and then they can go, “Wow, that really makes no sense” and laugh about it with each other. Because that’s what our world is like, too.
Marijuana is tolerated in the Netherlands. Not legal, but tolerated, as long as you stick to certain restrictions. (No, I don’t know the difference between “It’s against the law, but we don’t enforce that law” and “It’s totally legal”, but I’m sure there is one. Let’s call that weird detail number one.)
Those restrictions are things like “only five plants per household, for personal use only” and “only coffeeshops can sell pot” and “coffeeshops are not allowed to advertise” etc. All sensible stuff.
Take note of the “only coffeeshops can sell pot” and “one can only keep plants for personal use” regulations. An obvious question arises: Where do the coffeeshops get their product from?
If we were world-building a cool secondary world, we’d decide to have state-run plantations, or heavily regulated coffeeshop-owned plantations, right? We’d imagine well-guarded plantations with all sorts of fancy rules and check-ups.
Unfortunately, the real world doesn’t make that much sense. The only way for coffeeshops to get their marijuana is for them to buy it illegally. The police actively seeks out plantations to shut them down, while they’ll pass dozens of coffeeshops daily–they’re on every street corner!–without batting an eye.
This? Is really really weird, yo.
And the Dutch will laugh about it and make jokes and comment on stupid politics, and politicians will argue to close down coffeeshops entirely to combat organized crime, or to legalize the backdoor because the current situation is ridiculous. That’s just the way life is.
So when you’re world-building, don’t be afraid to ignore logic from time to time. Take something that sounds absurd and illogical and then make it a source of wonder and debate in the novel itself. Make it seem real to the characters, and your reader will swallow it whole.
Because it’s those kinds of details that make your world come alive.