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How do you record your worldbuilding?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Shasjas, Jun 3, 2013.

  1. Shasjas

    Shasjas Scribe

    I'd quite like to start worldbuilding, but I was just wondering how others like to layout and record their worldbuilding. Do you write notes, and if so what format do you write them in. Do you draw pictures, and if so what sort of pictures, etc. Then how do you lay it all out?
  2. I generally use notes that have a heading and a concise description of that particular element and how it relates to either plot or character.
  3. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

    I have a rough map that alters as the story progresses and the characters teach me more of their world. I also keep notes as the story progresses.

    I find that travelling times, distances, and relative locations of cities are some of the most important things to keep notes on.
  4. Xabrina

    Xabrina New Member

    I have notes on scraps of paper, from those moments I got a great idea during, say, the middle of a boring class. When I started using a computer to record school notes, I also started making documents that held my story work. I'm very scattered in my work, but I have also seen some "worldbuilding charts" that list different aspects of the world in EXTREME detail. So it all depends on how you operate best.

    I also draw, though I'll point out: my characters seem to HATE being drawn. -__- I see them like photographs in my head, but when pencil goes to paper, I feel them laughing at me as I fail to replicate what's in my mind. Drawing can also be useful for clothing depictions, bestiary entries, maps, your world's flora (if it is of importance to the story), or anything. It all depends on how you feel about drawing, and if you want to keep a visual record of your world. Doesn't have to be good art, either. ^_^ like note-taking, it's all about what'll help YOU. No one else need ever see your story notes unless you want 'em to.
  5. Alexandra

    Alexandra Troubadour

    I've a binder full of notes, drawings and maps, sigils and seals, arms and banners, family trees, et al which is known around our house as the Grimoire. The Grimoire is backed up by a hard cover journal which can be throw into a messenger bag and taken out. As well, I have a notebook computer which fills the same role as the journal, and it stores related digital reference material.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2013
  6. Addison

    Addison Auror

    My world-building process is a secret which I will now reveal. (I know it takes the secrecy out but hey, we're friends here)

    First of all, I learned everything there is to know about world building from the book, "Writing the Paranormal Novel" by Stephen Harper. He lists all the neccessities to create a wonderful, solid, believable world to pull the readers out of their reality and into yours.

    I go over each race, each layer, the lawful and the criminal, trade and commerce, lower-middle-upper class, (even more detail if it's a contemporary/urban or epic-medieval)

    I write in as much detail as comes to mind. I type it up, maybe add pictures where I see needed.
    Then, the most important step-

    I tear it up.

    Yep, in tiny pieces. Then, depending on the season or family activities, the pieces either go into the recycling or are used to start the fire or roast marshmallows.

    The reason is that, after putting in so much work and detail into it, writing it twice, feeling and mulling over the world until it's solid in your head, you don't need the paper. It's a distraction otherwise. Writing is just a way so you can see the order and stuff spelled out. For you to say "Mmm-maybe some hostility between dwarves and fairies" or "Elves shouldn't be park guides, they respect it too much to show lumbering oafs where to go". Once all the details are down, and you see them clear as day or your handwriting, the world just clicks from the core, mantle, crust and whatever Otherworld you've created.

    So that's my advice; write, fine-tune, fine-shredding.
  7. ecdavis

    ecdavis Troubadour

    I draw it out and then use a program called "Campaign Cartographer' (an old RPG map making program) to chart it out.
  8. TheokinsJ

    TheokinsJ Troubadour

    I use a collection of methods- one of the first things I do is draw a map and research names, once I've acquired those I generally spend a lot of time mapping out different people, places and the history. The map to me is everything, for example; there are two kingdoms separated by a river, on one side is desert and the other grassy plains- this sets up the cultures of the people in the world- and their customs and religions. The map leads to ideas- which lead to more ideas, then to more ideas. Once you have the map, the rest just flows out of my pen- although when worldbuilding I don't ever record things in stone- merely making a mental note of them because they are likely to change. No matter how much time you spend worldbuilding you will never be able to write it all down- I'd say the vast majority of the lore in my world is in my head, more than 99% without a doubt- thoughts are easier to keep track of than words on paper. Do whatever feels right for you, it may be just thinking things like me, or it may be note taking and using spreadsheets or programs to keep track of it all.
  9. Shasjas

    Shasjas Scribe

    Hahah ouch. Does actually sound like a good idea though.

    Thanks for all the other input as well, some good ideas.
  10. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Auror

    While I use notebooks, my tumblr, etc. to all sort of work out ideas - using web graphs and incoherent rambling as my way of working through a worldbuilding problem - I, generally speaking, just sort of write my conclusions down as bullet points in a Word document. If I'm procrastinating, I might take the time to organize those bullet notes under some subheaders, but mostly it's just like:

    - everyone lives in tree houses
    - make the plumbing run up the side and wrap around the roots it'll look cool
    - - - super impractical but cool
    - make the capitol building just like a giant hollowed out tree (yeah A+ totally badass)
    - leaves?? remember to think about leaves later
    - change idioms about rats into squirrels

    And then I just sort of skim over all of this before I start writing so I remember what I've established. It works well enough for me, but I recognize that this borders on incoherent for the rest of the world. I doodle things sometimes, but as I am by no means an artist, I don't tend to actually draw things in detail. And while I like making maps, I so rarely write a story where people travel around excessively that I never actually make a map for my stories, as I don't tend to worldbuild beyond what I'd actually need to write the story. I just sort of draw maps for fun... and to procrastinate. ^^;;
  11. Avara

    Avara Dreamer

    Up till now i've just been using a mass of rtf files created in open office but i recently downloaded ywriter and want to start utelizing it to bring some order to my chaos:D. When it comes to maps i've tried various programs from campaign cartography to the mount and blade map editor but have never been fully satisfied. I'm thinking of trying the pen and paper approach for a bit by tracing different coastlines from a world atlas and stitching them together. Hopefully it works out:p
  12. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Tearing it all up is a commendable practice; I completely agree that a good deal of it simply stays in your head, which is the best place for it. Outstanding filing system.

    But there are some things that I keep in files. One is lists of names. I have different peoples, different cultures, and they each have their linguistic peculiarities. I invest the time to gather a list of names for each and keep it (electronically) handy. Nothing will bring me to a full stop quicker than a walk-on character in need of a name.

    Another is a timeline. I have a fully-developed geography and I need to know if Character X and get from Point A to Point B in five hours. Or five days. Whatever. I don't want to have to stop to do the math.

    I tend not to worry about religion, magic systems, etc. because I regard those as malleable. They will evolve as the story evolves.

    I haven't encountered this yet, but I know that other writers who deal with multi-volume worlds have to keep track of what was done in a previous book, and that they have various techniques for doing this. One of them is called an editor. :)

    I've been using Scrivener because it gives me the ability to create folders and do searches across them, so it's pretty easy to come up with a reference I need. The general idea is to keep only what I absolutely need to keep me from being distracted by practicalities. That's another reason why I like Scrivener over yWriter. The latter gives me what amounts to character sheets and I wind up spending way too much time coloring in the blanks. Doesn't make the software bad, just a bad fit for me.
  13. Elfangle

    Elfangle Dreamer

    For me, it's a process. But I am very meticulous and maybe a bit to organized. I tend to work in 3 stages. First I have my pen and paper notes. I have a special notebook that I should carry with me but it often happens that I write a concept or a word down on a random piece of paper. The length of these notes varies. Sometimes they are just names that pop into my head, but it is also possible that i have a number of pages about plausible military tactics. I store all my separate notes in a binder.

    Then i start working out the concepts of my notes in more detailled and fixed components which i do on the computer. They arer still works in progress and changes are certainly happening all the time.

    When i feel the concept stands out and becomes a vital part of the story i put it in my final map. Concepts that end up there are the ones that will not change again. I feel these concepts are strong enough and newer concepts will have to adjust to these.
  14. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    I'm writing little articles about different aspects of the world and then I put them up on my wiki.

    I do like the idea of tearing it all up once you're done with it, but I also like the idea of sharing my world with others.
  15. Elfangle

    Elfangle Dreamer

    I couldn't imagine tearing up my notes. They are the most authentic collection i have of my ideas. And i just love browsing through them and seeing those concepts that didn't make the cut or have been altered so many times they are hardly recognisable.

    Then again, tearing up is kinda symbolic. These are not just notes anymore, they are part of me and therefore there is no need to have them written down.
  16. topazfire

    topazfire Minstrel

    I have dozens of files of notes on my computer, breaking down each region of the world with climate, geography, society, institutions, etc. All of the written notes help, but I am also a visual person and have found Pinterest of all things to be very useful.

    I have a variety of boards to collect images that I find of clothing, landscape, castles, and other medieval and fantasy insipired photos. When I need to pinpoint a location I can go to my boards and find a particular picture and transfer it into my other notes (I use Scrivener which has a spot to attache a photo to a document).

    Unfortunately Pinterest is very addicting... so I often find myself procrastinating on the site, trying to find one...more...pin... before I actually get back to writing :help:
  17. Addison

    Addison Auror

    I find that if I spend too much time on the world building, or thinking too much on it or anything like that, then I'm procrastinating. So I only mull things over if the story hits a speed bump because of lack of world structure.
  18. Somniphil

    Somniphil Acolyte


    For me, world building is less of an exercise that serves the story and more of an escape; procrastination, maybe, but I could never say I imagine too much. The worlds I build are real, and I'm constantly visiting and discovering things about it. The characters are already there and they reveal to me their stories. Likewise, my story already exists too, I just haven't written it yet. Anyhow, that's how it feels anyway. Writing fiction for me is less fabricating something that never happened, and more remembering something that never happened. My other world is another life.

    Anyhow, ideas are imagined up while showering, driving, sitting in class, working, etc. Scenes with characters at places doing things with stuff are reenacted in my mind over and over. In fine, imagining/daydreaming. At any rate, I use notepad and note EVERYTHING, sectioning off and grouping information together, but all on the same document. I get a lot of use out of bolding main thoughts, and giving details in a way that makes my notes look like a glossary. I search all sorts of subjects, anything remotely relevant and note anything necessary to my story. I collect images from simple google searches of anything that resembles what I imagine a race, land, weapon, character, clothes, etc looks like, creating a collage-like file. Maps I sketch out myself the best I can just to see a physical place. And the notepad file sits side by side my word file as a reference while I write actual story.

    I can see the value in shredding it all. I need to try that.

    Thanks for the post! I apologize for the late night rambling.

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