Category Archives: World Building

Using Role-Playing to Rein in Your WIP

D&D DiceSo, you’ve been busy writing, I see. That work in progress (WIP) is coming along pretty well. But you just don’t know how your audience will feel about it. Or perhaps you’re ready to throw a new element into your story, but you’re not certain that your world is ready for it. So, you pace to and fro, sipping on a cup of coffee while you think it over. Suddenly an idea pops into your head:

“Hey, maybe I can get someone to be a beta reader!”

Suddenly, a knock sounds at your front door. But isn’t it, like, midnight? You open it, startled, and a bit confused to see a group of people clad in mail crafted from pop-can tabs and dresses woven from bedsheets. And there’s a guy in the back wearing sweats. But it’s okay, he has Cheetos.Continue Reading

Names in Fantasy – 3 Ways to Invent Names for Characters and Creatures

Sirius Black
Sirius Black

This article is by Grace Robinson.

People sometimes ask me how I come up with names for my fantasy stories – names of characters, as well as names of creatures, places, and things.

I don’t have a standard formula for inventing names, but after doing some thinking, I realized that there are three main methods I use.

I believe that many authors use these methods in one way or another:Continue Reading

Focused Ambiguity: Using Metaphor in Fantasy Writing

This article is by Walter Rhein.

Star TrekThere is an inherent paradox in the phrase “focused ambiguity”. Yet the disconnect achieved by putting those two words together approximates the mental state necessary for writing good fantasy.

One of the big mistakes a lot of new writers make in their world building is too much of a focus on practical construction. However, unless the overall theme of your fantasy book is economics, you really don’t need to explain how your “diamond city in the desert” gets enough drinking water to support its population.

An effective novel always has a strong connective thread, and, in fantasy, every character, setting, and action can be molded to function as an integral part of the extended metaphor that supports the novel’s overall theme.Continue Reading

J.R.R. Tolkien: Myths That Never Were and the Worlds That They Become

Ian McKellen as Gandalf
Ian McKellen as Gandalf

This article is by Dan Berger.

It’s strange to imagine today, but there was a time when the publication of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings was a matter very much in doubt.

There were two primary reasons for this near tragedy. One was the scarcity of paper that plagued the United Kingdom in the aftermath of World War II. The other was Tolkien’s initial insistence on releasing The Lord of the Rings to his publisher, Allen & Unwin, only on the condition that The Silmarilion be published in concert with it.

The price of printing the full text of a book the size of The Lord of the Rings posed significant challenges in and of itself; adding The Silmarilion to the mix, particularly given its sometimes tenuous connection to The Lord of the Rings’ narrative, was seen as potentially disastrous.Continue Reading

The Fact and the Fantastical – 5 Tips for Creating an Urban Fantasy World

fantasy cityThis article is by Michael Cairns.

Fantasy is an expansive genre in which the reader can be transported to far-off lands. Urban fantasy does something quite different, laying the fantastical world over the one in which we live.

This can be a tricky thing to get right. Too much fantasy and the realism can be lost. Not enough fantasy, and the wonderful sense that anything can happen disappears, and the story becomes humdrum.

Following the writing and copious editing of my Urban Fantasy Trilogy, the Assembly, I’ve identified a few pointers as to what works and what doesn’t. Here are my top five tips to help you blend the real with the fantastical, and create a world your reader will become lost in.Continue Reading

Using Multiple Texts to Develop Your Story World

BestiaryRecently at Mythic Scribes, we’ve enjoyed some exceptional articles on world building. I have incorporated tips from several already, with noticeable improvements in my organization and productivity in this challenging craft.

This process has also led me deeper into my worlds. In fact, lately I have been almost overwhelmed by all I have yet to discover about them—let alone communicate to my audience.

Faced with the gargantuan task of immersing readers in a whole world, one novel seems kind of, well, puny.

So I asked myself: “How can I redistribute that burden?”Continue Reading

4 Tips for Worldbuilding Success

fantasy worldThis article is by Katie Cross.

It was so hot that summer, I would have preferred vomiting barbed wire to walking outside.

The air was muggy and thick with humidity so high that a permanent haze settled in like a fog. I didn’t see my thermostat go below 80 degrees for far too long, even with air conditioning.

Living in a two-story red brick house in southern Georgia, I had a lot of great story ideas stuck in my head. I was brimming to the point it was paralyzing. There were so many ideas! I started on one tangent, just to start to explore another.

The scene was bitter cold, with snow and frosty windowpanes. Or …. was it supposed to be hot and arid? Wasn’t my character chasing a dragon? Yes, but they got lost on a trail and found a flow. Wait, that pink flower is poisonous. Or was it the one that turned into an umbrella when touched?Continue Reading

Adding Depth to a Fantasy World

fantasy worldWhen worldbuilding, writers tend to focus on topics such as magic systems, fantasy races, kingdoms, politics, and religions. These elements form the settings, the backdrops against which our stories take place.

But consider your world. Not the world you’ve created, but the one you live in.

What is important to you?  What aspects of your life do you take for granted?

Your world consists of things like your job, your family, your education, and your friends. It also includes the places you buy food from, or visit for entertainment.

It should be the same for your characters. They’ve got to eat and have fun too, so they’ll have places where they do those things or ways to do them.Continue Reading

Transforming a World Into a Setting

Every time I ask other fantasy writers a question about the worlds I create, one of them will inevitably respond, “What does this matter to your story?”

That’s because many new writers, influenced by roleplaying games and the illustrations featured in our favorite fantasy novels, are prone to view worldbuilding as filling in the gaps on a map, cataloging the monsters, or finding new ways to justify fireballs. But these details alone do not create immersion.

Hobbyists build worlds. Authors build settings.Continue Reading

Extensive vs. Minimal: What is Your World Building Coming To?

World-building is a topic that comes up often in fantasy writing circles. If you’re writing epic fantasy, most often it’s going to be in a world of your own creation. Even if you’re writing in our own world, if you have fantasy elements in your story (e.g., magic, mythical creatures, necromantic hamsters), then you have to do at least a tad bit of word-building.

However, how much world-building is too much? How much is too little?

Some people may be extensive world-builders, laying out ten thousand years worth of history, historical texts, dead languages, extinct races, etc. Others may be minimal world-builders, relying only on a handful of elements to power their story forward. So which method of world-building is better, both for your readers and for your writing? Continue Reading