Since I write fantasy stories and stories with unusual settings, I spend a good deal of time worldbuilding. Whether you’re creating an exotic city for your action/adventure or you’re making up a new fantasy realm complete with magic, worldbuilding is an important part of the story. I’m certainly no expert, but there are some tips I’ve picked up and to keep in mind when building your new world.
Set up the rules and stick to them. Ask yourself these questions: What are the exceptions? Is there magic? What are the rules of magic? Once you set up the rules, don’t break them unless you have a really compelling reason. Make sure it’s not a plot device and you’re breaking the rules because you can’t figure out how to get your characters out of a jam.
Study other cultures, past and present. By studying how other cultures live, their religion, their traditions, their exchange of goods and money, you can learn a lot about who they. How do they talk? Dress? Do they have any sacrificial rites? When do they worship? What do they worship—one god or multiple gods? If you know this, you can start building the foundation. Other things to consider: politics, military, art, marital customs, education, monetary system, sporting events.
Draw a map of your world. I think this is my favorite thing about writing fantasy. When I can envision my world, I start to draw maps. Coastlines, mountains, forests, towns, the center of the ruling king or queen. It’s great fun. I just get out my map pencils and grid lined paper and draw what I think it should look like.
Decide the history and mythology of your world. Because your world wouldn’t exist without this. We all have history and learn from it, so what history do your characters share? What is your world’s timeline in relation to the characters? Maybe you want to call them “years” or “eras” or “ages”. The most important thing is to decide what it is, and write a brief history. It sounds like a lot of work upfront, but it’ll help when you’re ready to write the story.
This is only scratching the surface of what you can do when you create a world. These are things I take into consideration when I begin a new project that involves worldbuilding.
If you’d like a list of questions to ask yourself when beginning a new universe, you can find them at SFWA’s website by clicking here: http://www.sfwa.org/2009/08/fantasy-worldbuilding-questions/. This is a lengthy, informative list that will aid in beginning your new frontier.
Another great resource is Holly Lisle’s website: http://hollylisle.com/index.php/Writers/forward-motion-for-writers.html.
A wealth of information for writers!
Michelle Miles writes contemporary, paranormal and fantasy romance. Her latest book, ONE KNIGHT ONLY, is now available from Ellora's Cave. For more infromation about her or her books, visit her website at http://www.michellemiles.net/.