1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Starting Wordbuilding

Discussion in 'World Building' started by michealmurrayart, Mar 2, 2013.

  1. michealmurrayart

    michealmurrayart Dreamer

    What do you guys to when worldbuilding? How do you go aabout it? Tips and comments are appreciated, and please share if you use any programs on the internet that make organising things easier in your world! Thanks guys :D
  2. Addison

    Addison Auror

    I don't know any programs for world building. But I do know some great generators that can help find names, create races and such. It's called Seventh Sanctum, use it if you get stuck.

    How I go about world building is, at first, a simple process. I look at what type of world it is, not just fantasy. Is it medieval? In a different time period, contemporary or a completely different world? When I answer that question then it gets serious.
    I look at the story, what's going to happen when, and look carefully around the setting at the people. Not at who I see but what? Do I see elves? Ogres? Dwarves? After all it's the characters that make the story.

    Then, as with all fantasy, I look at the magic. Is it rare or common? Is it appreciated or prosecuted? What are it's extents and limits?

    I look at the interactions between races, kingdoms or territories (depending on if it's a different world or the local gym). If you give chemistry like dwarves hunt fairies, elves help fairies, elves hate dwarves, you'll give the world a sense of reality. Same if you establish what each race contributes to the world and how. Elves supply guidance through the woods, healing, and good game. Dwarves supply ores, gems and weapons and good drinks. Get the idea?

    Lastly I look at the world itself. More closely at where exactly the story takes place. If it doesn't leave the boundaries of a city i don't map out beyond that. If it goes across an entire three kingdoms I map out their journey, not beyond that. This helps because as I start to draw it out on paper i can see more details clearly in my mind.

    Hope this helped. :)
    ALB2012 and Regrix like this.
  3. michealmurrayart

    michealmurrayart Dreamer

    Thanks very much, very interesting stuff! :D
  4. kayd_mon

    kayd_mon Sage

    I set up categories like topography, ecosystems, flora/fauna, people, politics, etc. and brainstorm all my ideas. I add to the file as I write. I like to plan, but I also like seeing where the story leads me. As far as that goes, I loosely outline plot highlights, but I figure out how to get to those points while I'm writing.
    Regrix likes this.
  5. Filk

    Filk Troubadour

    I don't use any programs personally, but I begin by drawing maps and delineating nations. The map evolves as the world does, but once the story gets going is when I really solidify things. If you're looking for some provocative questions check out this site: Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions

    I feel that doing too much worldbuilding makes you fall in love with the world, which may make roadblocks when writing. Good luck and have fun!
    Regrix likes this.
  6. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

    I'd suggest that before you do any world-building, attempt to plot the MC's story arc first. That way, you know what's important and why, and going into detail in world-building elements isn't an exercise in daydreaming, but that of legitimate need. What I mean by this is, you shouldn't burden yourself with 1,000 years of history unless it's extremely relevant to your immediate plot. I know a lot of people like to world-build a ton, but it seems to me that the majority of these details, which are thought over and contemplated in terms of realism both in that world and in this one, don't even make it into the book. You're not trying to create a whole new world, you're trying to tell a story in the setting of a whole new world, if that makes any sense.
    Regrix and Jabrosky like this.
  7. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    I used to do a lot of worldbuilding. Far too much, actually, and a lot of it not focused on the right things.

    What all that long ago world building did was to give me a sort of base on which to set my current stories - but its a shifting base, one I mutilate at will.

    Going from that...

    First, think about your story. What elements are required to make the plot work in terms of degree of civilization (steam punk? lots of magic? very little magic? unified empire? city states? How many cities do your MC's spend time in? Do they spend much time in the country, and if so, whats the country like? forests? mountains? islands?) All that stuff. Also...multivolume epic series or a couple of short stories? Stand alone novel, perhaps? Novels set in different parts of the world with different characters?

    Then plot your worldbuilding around that stuff. If your story is largely set in a single city, or a couple of cities, you might try the 'tourist option' - maybe featuring your MC, maybe featuring another character. Essentially, this character goes on a 'walking tour of the city'. Your not telling a story here, this is to help you visualize the place. Things like: 'whats available in the market on a given day?' Any major civic/religious buildings? Parks? Whats the crime situation like - and law enforcement, for that matter? Are the streets crowded or nearly empty? What do the people wear? Ethnic clashes?

    If the tourist is one of your characters, this might let you get in a bit of character development via his/her interactions.
  8. Jessquoi

    Jessquoi Troubadour

    I was recently talking to my partner about this and he gave me some very helpful advice, which was don't be too serious.
    Don't force yourself to try to think about cool things for your story or world because the more serious you get about it the harder it will become. Even worse, don't try to think of things that other people will like.
    It is far more pleasurable to simply think about the kind of things you would like to read in a book. Do giant forests fascinate you? Well, that's an idea. Or maybe ancient cities enchant you more?

    It may be far more effective to just happily dream your worlds into existence rather stress about fitting them into a plot and forcing the creative process.

    That's not say that previously mentioned methods won't help you. You'll have to find out for yourself what is best. Good luck! :)
  9. Nihal

    Nihal Vala

    I drink from the same fountain I do to create concept art.

    I like to worldbuild and even without telling an story it's still an useful hobby. The first thing you must know is that you don't create new ideas, you combine existing ideas into a new one. The more knowledge about our world you have, more fuel you're going to have when creating something "new". The main challenge is, if not acquiring enough knowledge, is how to creatively combine these information.

    So, now I have cable TV what I mostly watch is the National Geographic. I love how I get to see the challenge involved in building the tallest tower, then how a sand tempest looks like, then predators from the deep sea, then how vultures are deeply linked with certain cultures... The wide range of themes is highly beneficial, I find myself "feeding" my mind with all this info.

    Sometimes I just let the TV on, hearing it instead of music while I work. Reading is good too, but I think it's more useful when you already know what you're going to research.
    Regrix likes this.
  10. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    Here's a new technique I am trying out now: list all the things you want to include in your story. Character types and actions, events, beasts, backdrops, anything you would love to witness in your ideal story. Base both the plot and world-building on as many things from your list as possible. You now have the potentially most awesome story you could write!
    Regrix likes this.
  11. mbartelsm

    mbartelsm Troubadour

    I don't usually worldbuild for worldbuilding, whenever I imagine an interesting concept, whether fantasy or sci-fi I start to build around it and expand it, sometimes incorporating it to old ideas or the other way around. Once I've expanded enough the starting concept I begin to think how it would affect the world and cultures around it and begin to develop those too.

    That's how I started my current world (and all before it), I developed a magic system that I liked and began experimenting with it's "science" and what mythology could be behind it, then I began imagining how that magic system would affect cultures, nations, warfare, travelling, etc.
  12. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

  13. writeshiek33

    writeshiek33 Sage

  14. JBryden88

    JBryden88 Troubadour

    Worldbuilding is near and dear to me. It helps me maintain consistancy.

    First I'd say identify the culture you're writing. Are you in one settlement, one kingdom? Are you going across the world? Say you're hanging out in one kingdom.

    What's the kingdoms name?
    Do you have an idea as to the social structure, so that you don't get your say, dukes and barons mixed up? What about religion? Established factions? What about the history?

    Some of that you can probably exclude at first, but IMO, you need it all over time.
  15. Chime85

    Chime85 Sage

    For me, world building begins when I get my first idea for a plot. Say for example, I sketched a plot about a young farmhand rescuing a princess from an evil dragon, I know my world will have to include those things (even if they are the only examples of this in the world).

    Imagine you have multiple characters; a wizard, a dozen or so dwarfs and something you decided to call a hobbit (I don’t recommend you do!). By a logical stance, these beings will have to have some kind of established history and culture. What are these histories and cultures, how do they impact your world? Do these cultures have a particular point of technology where they have arrived at?

    When you begin to draft a few answers to these questions, you will see your world begin to take shape. When it comes to world building, it is entirely up to you how much you put into it. Some writers prefer to design as far as the story goes, while others design the world beyond the story. Neither is a proper or improper way of world building, it is simply down to a writers preference.
  16. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

    I have used some items in
    Worldbuilding projects (i think this is the one.) (viewed it at work before, now it won't let me.)
    world-building dot net this one looks to offer some thoughts on the subject.

    This one offers some, the "time line creator" sounds interesting.
    World Building

    I build my world micro to macro. Start with the room and build up to the inverse as needed.
    You can build macro and work down to the smallest detail. ie build the solar systems then the galaxy, then the planet group, etc.
    Micro worked for me, I created items I needed for the book, and peripheral items that might be included. I had an international organized crime guild, so I made a border town built on crime, Vegas on mega-roids. I created beasts for the individual story, then added some I could reference.
    I used world building when I was stuck writing. You can get as specific as you want or need.
    "Unicorns can heal anyone, if they heal the unpure they will be nauseated, if they heal evil they will be sick for a period, if they heal a demon or devil they can die...The unicorn horn can be used to test the purity of a person, any but the pure will be nauseated at the touch of a unicorn horn."
    Will I need the above information? I don't know, I just started figuring out why unicorns are the way legends tell us, and continued on building their information.
    If you need it build it, have fun building it, include trivial items, make it real enough that when you throw something in, the reader will believe it.
    I know I have lots of information I will never use, but in writing it, I might have built something from the useless that will be useful.
    World building is an outlet for creativity. Don't drown in world building, but don't dehydrate your story by not being creative in it either.
    IMHO magic is the most important world building you can do. If you include magic in your fantasy, make sure you know the basics of how it works in general. What limits the mage from conquering the world, destroying the world. Make sure the magic is consistant, and workable. Know why the mage would learn more then one attck spell, defense spell, or why the mage hasn't used magic to make billions in gold coins, forgery or just teleporting into kings treasure rooms. Point and counter point, if someone makes something that gives them the advantage someone will make something to shift the power away, by corrupting it, altering it, defending against it, or using it to attack the original.
    The more you know, the more the reader will feel confident in your world.
  17. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    I build as I go along. I start with what the story needs and what I want. For my WIP, I wanted a Greek flavour (because I like ancient Greece) and I needed a situation whereby there was a tyrant but not any more. I created a palatial oligarchic society drawing from both the Mycenaean and Archaic periods in Greek history.

    I also wanted some sort of supernatural, without having people throwing fireballs at one another. I don't like fireballs. I prefer background or nature magic. Again, going from the Greek flavour start, I created wind spirits, inspired by Aeoleus who gives Odysseus a bag of winds, and worked up from there, adding nature spirits based losely on Greek nymphs and so on.

    For a short story I'm working on, I wanted someone who could manipulate magic, without having magic users common or overpowered, so I decided that a few individuals, born outside the cities (which the spirits avoid) can manipulate the spirit magic - but to have significant power have to basically suck the magic out of the spirits and the life out of the land, leaving it barren and lifeless; and if they go too far, the spirits take it back forcibly.

    Once I've got these core elements that serve the story, I build up and see where things will logically go, either moving on from the story and how the events of it might be interpreted by those who were not part of it, or from worldbuilding elements, explaining why things are the way they are, or what the state things are in will ultimately lead to. So the events of the short story I'm working on will, by the time of the events of my novel WIP 60 years later, have been interpreted in a way which is not at all what happened, but there's nobody to set them straight. And conclusions are drawn from that interpretation, and now I have a reason for something I'd already decided for the novel - the separation of religion and government, secularism within my main city, developed as a result of a legend of events a few generations earlier.
  18. Regrix

    Regrix Dreamer

    Hi all,

    Thanks for the info, there's a lot of brilliant advice here. I've been working on creating my own world for use in both stories and in a RPG setting. I'm making it a fantasy world following the concepts of Dungeons and Dragons (which I've been playing and running for thirty years now.) and the fairly recent Pathfinder RPG from Pazio.

    There'll be all the usual suspects Orcs, Goblins, Ogres, Dragons (which in my world are seriously no joke.) and such. I've long been a fan of Ed Greenwood's "Forgotten Realms" and have also taken a strong liking to George R.R. Martin's Westros. Both are alive and breathing worlds and are fun to lose endless amounts of time in.

    I'm trying to get that kind of life in my world. What I intend to do with it is have all the PCs (or MC) starting off in this moderate sized village with no practical knowledge of the world beyond the immediate area. Then build the world outward from there as the character(s) go about their journey.

    My main issue right now is dealing with the pantheon. Trying to figure out how many gods/goddesses I want to include right away or if I want to build on the Pantheon as I go. I am also going to have beings in there who are of divine blood allowing them certain abilities that tie into the portfolios of their divine relatives. So this is kind of a sticking point.

    Anyone have any ideas on the Pantheon issue?
  19. ALB2012

    ALB2012 Maester

    Regrix likes this.
  20. AWrighton

    AWrighton Acolyte

    Thanks so much for the link to my blog and leading me to this awesome, awesome, woohoo community of fantasy writers. Can't wait to meet more of you!


    What exactly is your issue with the Panthenon?

    What is great about fantasy writing is that we - within reason - make the rules. If you want 10, 4, 14, or 7 gods, go for it. Just be sure that each has a purpose and meaning. I will say that if you look back over world mythology, most pantheons are over 10 (but don't be limited by this average).

    For example, the most well known pantheon in western civilization - and a great Pantheon to anchor your fantasy world with - would be the Greco-Roman Pantheon. It has 12 core gods (and a lot of demigods and incestuous issues following).

    The Leader/God of Sky: Zeus/Jupiter
    The Female Leader/Goddess of Marriage & Family: Hera/Juno
    God of Sea: Poseidon/Neptune
    Godess of Fertility/Agriculture/Harvest/Seasons : Demeter/Ceres
    God of Wine/Celebrations/Ecstasy: Dionysus/Bacchus
    God of light/knowledge/arts/healing/music/sun: Apollo/Phoebus
    Goddess of the hunt/virginity/moon/animals: Artemis/Diana
    The Messenger & God of Commerce/Thieves/Games: Hermes/Mercury
    Goddess of Wisdom/Strategy/Defense: Athena/Minerva
    God of War/Violence: Ares/Mars
    Goddess of Love/Beauty/Lust: Aphrodite/Venus
    Craftsman of the Gods & God of Fire: Hephaestus/Vulcan

    Then, some would argue, beyond the 12 that Hades/Pluto (Death), Eros/Cupid (sex), and even Persephone/Proserpina (Queen of Underworld & Goddess of Spring) have earned rank up in that Pantheon bringing the number of definitive gods to 15.

    If you're a bit overwhelmed, think of WHY people have had gods/goddesses in the past.

    To explain what they cannot explain without the unseen.

    The greeks had to explain life, death, the seasons, the tides, the volcanoes, the wars, the lust, the greed, agriculture, hunting, husbandry, birth, etc. because there was no outright answer.

    Your world should also answer and explain the unexplainable with gods & goddesses so make a list of these "unexplainables" that your world might need to justify and go from there.
    ALB2012 and Regrix like this.
Similar Threads
  1. Omnidragon22
  2. r.stubbs

Share This Page