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Size of fantasy world

Discussion in 'World Building' started by SamYellek, Mar 9, 2017.

  1. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    Well, there's a fantasy book set in a small rural county of Tennessee called The Hum and the Shiver. Might be close enough. ;)

    Personally, I like to know in general the size of my world so I have some sense of how much room I have to work with. But I don't like to place precise dimensions or do detailed maps because I find that limits my creativity more than it helps. I do a lot of "big picture" worldbuilding for the whole world but only do very detailed worldbuilding for the setting of my current WIP. I like having a sense of a very large world out there even if it's not all in my current story.

    But then I'm the sort of writer who develops one large, intricate world and writes all their stories in it rather than building whole new worlds for each work. Having a large world gives me a lot of leeway for different types of settings and different kinds of stories, but also having them all contribute to a greater whole.
  2. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    Yeah, I develop where I'm writing the most, but I find having details from around the world and a rough timeline for many events, much like having detailed maps, forces creativity. How and why do these people end up migrating way to the south and how in Gods name do they manage to survive? It was that question asked, and all the details to get it done, that my WIP trilogy answers, and parts of the history, the detailed map, the events around it, that make it such a fun challenge to be creative while making it make sense.

  3. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    Right, that's what I mean about "big picture" worldbuilding. I usually need to have an understanding of the outline of the history of the whole world, especially the events and movements that would have impact beyond their immediate location. And I need to have a good understanding of the fundamental nature of the universe, the meta-physical stuff and basic physical laws. But as far as, for instance, the economy of a certain city or a more detailed history of a specific region, that usually waits for when I'm telling a story there.
  4. TinyHippo

    TinyHippo Scribe

    Hi there. What a great question.
    Seems like most people try to avoid sq. miles and hard numbers like so. And I will suggest you to avoid it as well.
    Although it can be a good thing for an author to know how big the world it. To calculate traveltime and the like. Therefore I give you demographics:
    donjon; Medieval Demographics Calculator
    This website will calculate the size of a country/town based on numerous factors. Try it out. It has all the hard answers you are looking for. Keep in mind, what 9 out of 10 people say here, don't mention those numbers in your book ;)
  5. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    I'm with slip.knox in that the world only needs to be as big as the story. That doesn't mean the landmass isn't bigger, or that you can't have an idea of what country A trades with country B if it is relevant, sure, but it does mean you don't need everything mapped out and measured. Consistent travel times is something a lot of people have mentioned, and I'm absolutely on the same page on that, but again you don't need that down to the exact mile, especially if the cultures in your setting haven't themselves measured it with any sort of objective, fixed unit (after all, what takes half a day to travel on foot on a dry, warm day might take three quarters of a day on a rainy day and two and a half days in the depths of winter when the snow is up to your characters' shins.)

    As long as you don't have characters taking a month to travel a distance previously covered in three days without obvious reasons for the long delay (such as terrible weather, characters falling ill and being unable to travel for a week, bridges getting washed away by storms, etc), you should be good. And you don't need maps for that, a spreadsheet will do, or if you prefer something visual, a diagrammatic layout.
  6. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

    I'm in agreement with those who say you don't need specifics spelled out in your novel. But you do need to stay consistent with relative measurements and travel times. If travel plays a big part in your novel, and many types of travel are involved, you're better off researching how travel times for different travel modes compare to each other, such as travel by foot, by horse, by ship, by dragon, or whatever other means of travel you have in your novel. For certain modes of travel, you have to take terrain and obstacles into consideration. Once you have identified a particular path as taking a certain time to travel by a certain method, that has implications not only for how long the same trip will take the next time by that same mode of travel, but also for how long it will take someone using a different mode of travel.
  7. indonesiancat

    indonesiancat Dreamer

    To speak for myself specifically:

    I picture my world being roughly earthsized. But since most of the focus is on a specific section of a continent, about the size of Africa ( not in terms of structure whatsoever ), that leaves me with alot of leeway to experiment with the remainder of the planet. I'm a bit afraid that I have exhausted too much of my creative, cultural resources and what I'm supposed to do with other continents once they are introduced.

    In the storyline I've created, only the northern portion of another continent has been discovered, but I plan on elaborating on the rest of the world. Bottom line is that your world can be as huge as you wish, but since most stories don't focus on the entire planet at once and you can basically just focus on one country/continent, even a village occasionally. The trick I use for designing new kingdoms or countries is simply have a basic layout of the country sized.

    Do a comparison on each kingdom you design and how big you picture them individually. Most of the time I just imagine that the average sized "the kingdom" in a fantasy story is about the size of Germany, Spain or France. Because it's a pretty cut and dry size for european nations and therefore can create the sense that the kingdom is powerful and influential, but still dwarfed by the great powers that be. Whereas I will scatter a couple of tiny nations around them, much like Netherlands, Luxembourg or Denmark. While the great powers that conquer anything, I imagine being around the size of China or Canada ( aye ).

    The exact length a person has to travel is not really what's important to evoke a sense of scale. I'm certain there are plenty of fantasy readers who are very invested in specific technobabble about how everything works mathematically. But I think it can be pretty helpful to look up for example "how long does it take to walk from San Tropé to Paris?" and that can probably give you a framework for how long it would take to walk certain distances in your hero's great journeys.

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