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World Building: How do you start?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by FatCat, Sep 5, 2012.

  1. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

    Hey all!

    My question is how do you start doing world building, I've been running into some trouble with my story and I'm thinking it has to do with a lack detail in my world. So, I decided I would start from the ground up with a new story idea. Hopefully this time I'll put a little more effort into the details. Anyway, do you just start with a cool concept and grow from there? What kind of things do you do first, and why? Basically, what's your style of world building?
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    I just start writing, with a relatively skeletal framework of the world in my mind, and let the world develop as I am creating the story. Sounds like that might be an approach you've already tried, though.
  3. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

    Yeah, I decided I would just start writing with a basic idea and let it grow from there. I think that maybe I'm more of a plotter than I realized, but never trying it that route I don't know. So I'm still going to work on my original story, but I want to try a more developed method and see if the foot fits the shoe.
  4. RHawkins

    RHawkins Dreamer

    It might be easier to build the world first, and then the plot. Now most people will already have there plot (or the frame of it anyway) in there minds already, and there characters so it might be easier to build the world around the plot and characters. DO not forget the all important rule of re-writing though. No story is ever set in stone completely, but you will often change little details. Don't be afraid of changing the little details as long as they make sense.

    I first came up with my world when I was ten (I had a very imaginative childhood) I am now 22 and it has grown into a behemoth of multiple cultures, religions and peoples, but one thing I will say is that they are all inspired by cultures, religions and peoples in the real world. You just take the basic concept and tweak it until you get something you're happy with.

    Hope this helps... Kinda new here
  5. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    This isn't mine... I actually can't remember where I got it but it's on one of my questions to ask before starting note card stack. But you need to think about the following.

    Start 3 basic things

    1 a religion
    2 group divisions
    3 a moral compass what is right and what is wrong

    Expanded PERSIA charts for more depth.
    P: politics; leaders, wars, treaties, laws, governments
    E: economy; money, taxes, trade, inflation
    R: religion; main religions, sects, how religion influences the culture
    S: society; gender roles, class systems, how things like marriage and family are perceived
    I: intellect; new technology, ideas, etc. An example would be the Scientific Revolution, with Galileo and Newton
    A: art; how does the art reflect the culture? ex: France's rococo style, which was all about the nobility having fun, reflected the power the nobles had
  6. Astner

    Astner Guest

    This is the guide I used. It's a lot to take in, but read few of them and think about you'd answer them before jumping onto the next. At the very least it won't hurt to just glance trough the questions.
  7. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    Right now I'm writing a list of all the things I want to put into my world. How to make all these different elements fit together in a cohesive mixture is another matter entirely.
  8. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

    I've been world building for a year. Three or so months ago I decided it was time to write the damn story. I only have 20% of my world outlined. You won't believe what I have in mind for the other 80%. Every time I think about it I get giddy and do the Quagmire Gigity Gigity.
  9. ascanius

    ascanius Inkling

    I started with the most basic idea of the story I wanted to tell. From there I started to detail the major items, I say items because not everything is relevant at this point in time to the plot. The knowledge is their but I have yet to include it into the plot, if I ever will I do not know, however it is there if needed.

    As an Idea of the steps I took they are as follows: map, peoples/races, cultures. Fore peoples/races I I listed all important items, physical appearance, customs, location, lore, history, building styles and materials, etc. For the cultures point I think the best place to start is to think of yourself as a tourist to that place. The first things that you notice are going to be the major things that are unique, structures and places, food, customs, costumes, greetings, LANGUAGE, then after that it becomes subtle variations of these things combined that make the place unique, as one spends more time there. Basically create a travel guide for someone who is going there for the first time. After that you would want to create a travel guide for the person who is already intimately familiar with the culture and intends to move there. For this person things change such as including commerce, schooling, warfare, security, permanent housing, friendship, employment, etc. Think of each culture along these lines of basic knowledge of a one time visitor to a person who is transferring their entire life there and you will be more then well on your way to a very detailed world. Remember however that before you can decide the details you must first be well aware of the physical aspects of location, meaning a map whether on paper or in your mind is up to you. The location of each culture needs to make sense relative to one another. You cannot have a Mediterranean culture right next to a polar culture. The building styles alone would prohibit such mixing, stone and cement in tandem with blocks of ice just don't make any rational sense, unless...... Don't get me wrong, such things can happen but they need to exist within the frame work of your world as a whole, meaning you need to have an explanation for such possibilities.

    Also don"t forget the importance of art and popularity. Both aspects of have greatly shaped all modern cultures as we know it. Some cultures place high value on popularity while other scorn the idea of popularity, ancient cultures at least did. Art shapes a great many aspects of a culture among them the concept of beauty. Ironically marriage had more to do with economics than beauty for many, and most, world cultures. I it a good point to keep in mind, as it can place high, or low values on sex in many cultures. Another point about art is the availability of time and resources. For instance Lapis Lazuli could be as expensive as gold in some locations while in others very cheap, this is also a great way to show how many world building aspects can overlap. FYI, I don't remember who it was but there is someone on this forum who who has some great info about art and is not a resource to be squandered.

    Best of luck! And I hope this helps.
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2012
  10. I start with characters, actually. I visualize them in my mind, and figure out what kind of people they are. Then I give them personalities and names and all the other stuff. Then I look at where they are, or in what kind of context they fit in, and what they are doing or what they'll need to do. The world around them is created as I figure out how they fit into it.

    These kids are at some sort of military academy, but they are also orphans. Thus, they live in a country that trains orphans into soldiers. This one girl is an exiled princess. So, she just arrived from a kingdom that had a revolution where she lost her parents. And so on.
  11. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    I've done a lot of worldbuilding down through the years.

    With me, it comes down to...

    'there be worlds...and then there be parts of worlds.'

    Usually real basic geography would be the first consideration: my secondary world came about because I needed the vast majority of the world to be covered with an ocean, leaving only some islands and the 'Strand' - a narrow ribbon of land which goes clear around the planet. I then go and develop things from there.

    Sometimes, though I envision stories or concepts that don't require a full world, so I'll block off a section of an existing world and plop the mess in that area, which is how the secondary world ended up with a very large very isolated continent.

    I've also combined worlds - in the past I've had as many as half a dozen worlds at the same time, but when I really started looking at the concepts involved and the space needed for the stories involved, they merged. These days, I have two, plus some...'hints of worlds', I guess you'd call them. Both still have plenty of blank spaces despite all the merging and new ideas.
  12. MystiqueRain

    MystiqueRain Troubadour

    Depends on what kind of world-builder you are. For me, I usually start with the characters and the main conflict, which shapes the world as I go. I didn't draw a map until I found it absolutely necessary to judge distances and directions because my characters were traveling so much. Some people like building their world down to almost every last detail before they write or do whatever, but others like to build as they go.

    Whichever way you choose, you should set down a few basics before doing anything. A lot of them have already been listed above, but I'll list my preferences

    Language (doesn't matter if you keep it all in English)
    Technology (futuristic, medieval, etc.)
    Religion (if any that's important to your plot)
    Races (humans, dwarfs, flying rainbow bunnies...)
    Currency (doesn't have to be too complicated unless you want it to be)
    Some sort of governmental framework if there is one)

    To me, things like the social structure and cultural customs can be developed as the story progresses. The above things are parts of a world that can be summarized in a word or two, or a list. You can flesh them out as you go, or if you want to go in depth before you write, that works too. Whatever floats your boat. :)
  13. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

    Wow, lots of great information here! You guys rock.
  14. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    I doodle maps. at some point a map links in with another idea and then a third, fourth... and then i have a story of sorts to start on... such as - I have a map of an archipelago just off shore from a Mediterranean sized gulf/sea - how would one nation become dominant? - how would a trading nation deal with new languages? - how would government based on divination really affect a society? etc...
  15. Astner

    Astner Guest

    If you want I can Photoshop a decent map for you, just send me a messy sketch from MS Paint or something and I'll redraw it in this style.


    In whatever size and resolution you want.

    Once you've gotten that down world building becomes a bit more interesting.
  16. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

    Omg you do maps?
  17. Astner

    Astner Guest

    For people I know, I had an extended conversation with FatCat last week about his work in the chat, which I think warrants for minor favors.

    Maps aren't hard to do, 20 - 30 minutes for smaller ones, and up to two hours for larger and more detailed maps.
  18. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

    Hmmm... what if I pay you?
  19. Astner

    Astner Guest

    No. I'm not going through all that hassle for price of a take-away meal.
  20. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

    Meh. It was worth a try.

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