A big part of the sci-fi and fantasy genre is the world that the creator makes – sprawling kingdoms filled with magic or galaxies crawling with floating ports and space pirates. It can get a bit overwhelming. I mean, create a whole world in your head? Besides being a bit odd, it’s a feat that may seem near impossible. So today, I’m going to run down a few tips that I use when crafting an imaginary world. Make a chart, fill out a list, meditate on these categories – whatever you want to do when you find yourself writing your next book set in another world.
Though I should mention two things. First, these tips are mostly for high fantasy works, though I suppose you could use some or all for sci-fi. It all depends on the particular story you’re telling. Second, this isn’t necessarily the first thing you should do if you want to write a high fantasy. I’ve found that there are three major types of people in this area:
- Those who world-build, and then create a cast of characters to drop into it.
- Those who make characters, and then build a world around them.
- Those who hybrid build characters and the world together.
I’m more the third, though usually I initially come up with an MC first, and then expand both the MC and world together as I see fit. And if you’re the second, don’t worry, because I will make a post about creating an MC.
But enough lolly-gagging, let’s get to it. Here’s four broad elements for world-building:
1. Character placement.
Where does your MC live? Where will they go in their story? Will they stay in one place for most of the book, or are you looking to write an adventure story spanning the continent? This will determine exactly how big and how intricate you need to world-build. If your MC spends their entire story in one country, you might not need to get into every detail of the next kingdom over. But if your MC travels from their home to the neighboring nation, it will become important to know that other nation in detail.
2. Land mass/ Environment.
Does your MC live by a river? In the middle of a forest? Is it cold where they live, or warm? What are the seasons like? These types of questions can get you in the mindset of what this world might look like, or at least what it will look like for your character. And it also will dictate things like living conditions and cultural customs.
3. Governments/social systems.
Are there kingdoms in your world? Is there a king and queen, or a counsel, or a group of leading upper-class members? Making unique government systems can really add life to your story. We’ve all read a book set in a kingdom with one king and one queen. A book about a country with a set of triplet queens that have to fight to the death for the throne? That’s intriguing. (And has already been done: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake, which is still at the top of my TBR).
Who’s on top of the social ladder? What kinds of social norms are in place? And how does your MC fit into them?
4. Other important places.
It’s not enough to know how your MC’s nation works. You need to know about the other nations in the world too. Are they similar to your MC’s home country, or are they radically different? How do the nations view each other? Are they at peace, or is a war on the horizon, and for what reasons? This is where conflict is easy to place if your looking for a possible plot.
So there you have it. Just a few things to keep in the back of your mind when writing a high fantasy.
Do any of you have some tips and tricks for world building? I’d love to know!
As always, have a lovely day and I’ll see you again soon. 🙂