Previous entries in the Worldbuilding From Reality series are indexed here:
Part 11 is about "Worldbuilding Does Not A Story Make" -- which is true.
But Theme is the foundation of Worldbuilding -- what is the substance, nature and function of "reality" -- what does it mean, "the science fiction world," "the art world," "the financial world?"
"World" seems to have both an objective and subjective component or connotation.
Our subjective "world" is focused on our major interest of the moment, on the one thing that looms largest in our perceptions, what we understand as the generator of the parameters within which the future (or at least our own lives) will flourish.
In other words, "world" means "Happily Ever After."
World defines not only what we see, but what we don't (or refuse) to see.
So the subjective perception of "the world" around us does not make the story of our lives, but rather defines the options for actions that will generate the conflicts which, when resolved, reveal what the Story of Our Lives is really about.
One of the definitive points in the life/story/plot of a generation is the War of the Times.
We talk about World War I and World War II, which have generated many movies, many Romances. Romance flourishes during War because life-or-death-risks are so very primal.
We talk about the Korean War, especially these days with the North Korea vs South Korea conflict in play, with North Korea still allied with (or under the thumb of) China. We talk about Vietnam, still in living memory of adults now putting their children through college. Vietnam War is of special interest to today's young audiences because the US politics of the time fractured under the stressful question of whether the USA should be involved at all, while at the same time we still had the Draft which attempted to force young men to go fight.
Every generation has had young men (and now women) blooded in combat, and those who have fought aver that it changed them, opened a gulf between them and those who did not get deployed into real explosive danger.
While you're up to your ass in alligators, it is hard to remember your objective was to drain the swamp.
Our objective, as writers, is to explain how, in everyday reality, a reader can act in order to achieve an actual, Happily Ever After expanse of decades of life.
Right now, in 2020, the HEA as a real life achievement seems to be an idiotic idea.
But in Science Fiction Romance, in Paranormal Romance, you can find not only hope, but a workable plan.
There still exist aspects of everyday life that respond to your personal actions and decisions. Finding them is one thing, and then presenting those options to your readers is yet another hurdle to leap over.
Here is the principle behind using fiction to convince a reader that they have such options, and the personal ability, fortitude, heroism, and luck to be able to implement that option - make it real in everyday life.
People believe what they figure out for themselves.
The harder they have to work at figuring, the more convinced they become of the ultimate truth behind their discovery.
The writing principle is SHOW DON'T TELL.
Once the reader SEES, they figure out for themselves what it means.
Here are two series of posts about how to structure a convincing argument for the Happily Ever After ending.
SYMBOLISM is how the writer SHOWS without TELLING. Master its use.
The reader, in times like these, is looking at a world boiling over, spoiling for a fight (or an additional fight), whole massive groups of people trying to force other massive groups to change their behavior.
Historians have often determined that wars are, at their root, all about economics.
We seem to be in an epoch of human history boiling over with passionate religious convictions, one of which is that it is a religious duty to force everyone to adopt your religion, forsaking all others.
But look deeper, and you may find where that same hardwired human propensity for believing is filled up with belief in things other than deities.
Some believe in socialism with the same religious passion others believe in capitalism. A writer searching for a theme could ask questions about whether any "...ism" is healthy to believe in.
Apparently, humans must believe something. If that mental component of our "world" or "world view" is empty, something noxious will crawl in to inhabit it.
Whatever is hiding in the "belief" compartment of our world view will manifest in our behavior.
Behavior, both habitual and adopted (such as living on junk food vs. going on a keto diet) behaviors are plot generators because the internal conflict kicked up between what hides in "belief" and what we, ourselves, or others around us, try to stuff into that belief compartment is a War To The Death.
"War to the Death" internally generates the external behavior that matches it, thus driving the Plot.
To be a novel, that plot (or sequence of actions) must evolve all the way to a resolution (not the resolution, but at least a resolutions) of the internal and external conflicts.
In our everyday real world, the hatred and revenge fueled wars (large and small) are not likely to be resolved in our lifetimes. But the internal war between what we believe and what others insist we must believe (or die) can be resolved.
Once that internal conflict is resolved, the INDIVIDUAL is at peace, regardless of the video clips bombarding them from all sides.
That state of internal peace, shared by a couple, reinforced by the coupling itself, is in fact the Happily Ever After.
Here is an article which indicates a connecting link between economics (the source of war) and behavior (the source of dramatic plots).
Subtitled: The human brain doesn't make decisions in the way we think it "should."
The article is about how marketers use your beliefs to trick you into behaving as they want you to, even if it is against your best interests.
Find a story that goes with such conflict and plots as hinted at in that piece and you will have a novel series.
To find the story, find the Characters who live in that "world." Their subjective world is nestled in an objective world they can't see because of a belief jammed in under the beliefs they think they espouse.
If you can create that World-within-World structure with your worldbuilding, any story you tell will be vivid with verisimilitude.
Here are two more posts discussing how all this fits together with our modern, contemporary headlines -- ugly headlines we can rip Romance out of.