World Building Must Have's/Must Do's

TowieS1

Acolyte
Hey everyone,

I am new to using forums and such. I tried to have a quick look around the older threads to see if I could find anything, but I couldn't see anything that was what I was looking for.

My question(s) for you is, do you have any Must Have's in your worlds? (There must be a blank for the world to be more realistic) or are there any Must Do's during your process of creating your own worlds?

I realise that this would depend drastically on the person and book to book... I'm just looking to be pointed in the right direction.

Simply, any advice would be much appreciated.
 

Queshire

Auror
Look for what you need first and branch out from that as necessary. You don't need to be Tolkein. You don't need to know absolutely everything about the world. It's better to try to make it just feel lived in.
 

Mad Swede

Inkling
I don't have any Must Have's or Must Do's when I create my story settings. There isn't any real need for it in my experience. But, I did find that asking a few simple questions when creating my characters and my story began to define some aspects of the setting. For example, what do your characters normally do for a living and why? If your characters get paid for something, what are they paid with? If it's some form of money, which state or province issued the coins? What do things like horses and weapons and food cost? Where can these things be bought? If they have to travel long distances, do they take a lot of cash with them or is there some form of promissory notes which can be used instead? Who issues those notes and where can they be cashed? And if your characters get into a dispute with someone, is there some form of legal system to sort it out? How is this place ruled and by whom? And once you've answered those sorts of questions you've started to detail your setting as well as creating more opportunities for character and plot development.
 

pmmg

Istar
I am not sure there is anything I count as a must have, only that whatever laws of nature are set up, I expect them to continue.

However, my process on my Current WIP started with short stories first, and a loose concept of the what the world was like before I started. Later I drew a map, then I started to add to it. In time I added all sorts of things, like Deities, Religions, Heavenly Bodies, land masses, nations, kingdoms, languages, currencies, technologies, politics, regional naming schemes, military ranks, nobility titles...and probably a dozen other things I forgot. I keep it all in notes in scrivener at the moment (and by notes, I mean something more along the lines of a list of place and people names).

Some of this was made with less knowledge of where it would lead, and I regret that some of it is more along the lines of permanent. One instance is a river that must flow south to north, which really cannot be according to the physics of the story. I am wrestling with how much I am going to let this bother me. My guess is, I will do some rewriting to fix it.
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
The answer to that is 'sort of.' The primary region of the primary world was deliberately patterned after a 'Roman Empire that didn't fall' - hence. to accommodate that, the geography for that part of the world was deliberately kept vaguely similar. Some places are flipped around, but the Mare Imperium is roughly the same size and shape as the Mediterranean.

The secondary world demanded specific geographic elements: a world-spanning ocean bisected by a very narrow ribbon of land that 'loops the planet' on a NE/SW arc - most of twenty-five thousand miles long, but seldom more than twenty-five miles wide, broken in a bare handful of places by tidal sloughs.
 

Righmath

Scribe
The first thing I did was draw a map, and went from there! It will craft your world more than you can imagine. Plot the cities, rivers, mountains; before you know it, you have a story line.
 

pmmg

Istar
The first thing I did was draw a map, and went from there! It will craft your world more than you can imagine. Plot the cities, rivers, mountains; before you know it, you have a story line.

If you are going to start with drawing a map, which may become permanent for the sake of the story, I recommend looking up some YouTube videos first on how worlds are made. Can avoid problems later if you dont have to adjust them with new information.
 

Devor

Fiery Keeper of the Hat
Moderator
Every story is different, and you can write a novel about people who never leave their home or little village, all the way up to globe trotters who experience everything in twenty exotic locales. But we can draw a few guidelines. I break my worldbuilding into five topics.

For ecology, there's two simple rules. 1) Rivers run from near the mountains and join (never split) as they head for the coast. 2) The big monster needs something to eat when it can't get adventurers.

Societies usually have a main industry that brings all those people there, and big cities often have several. The simple list is usually the essentials: Grain, Livestock, Iron, Stone and Timber, plus the luxuries: Liquor, Housewares, Textiles (or furs), Spices and Jewelry. Of course there's always others, like books, slaves, gold, and so on, but that's a good start. A community could also be a tourist destination, or a trading hub for the above items. But a place without any industry, especially a city, isn't going to feel very deep.

For a magic system, there's usually a source, a place where the magic comes from, which in turn influences how it's used. Systems without one - like Harry Potter - get subject to a lot of criticism. Readers don't need to understand it, but it helps if you do.

For a combat system, it's important to remember that some weapons and armor and fighting formations are just better than others. It's very easy to fall into the "balance" pit that comes from the D&D or video game systems that's inspired a lot of fantasy writers, myself included. But in a realistic novel nothing breaks immersion faster than a guy taking on an army with leather armor and a dagger.

For culture, characters should usually reflect their upbringing and environment in at least some ways. For myself, I use the following framework: The society has a standard for "honor" (i.e., chivarly, bushido, "the american dream," or some unspoken system to be named a hundred years later), which is changing slightly (new farm techniques change how people work), and every character has an opinion or "worldview" about it. Generally, the middle class tries to live up to the standard, the rich pretend to (and are scandalized when they're caught), while the impoverished have too much else going on in their lives to care.

With all that said, there's still a spectrum of how light or deep you can go. The monster can have a complex feeding system with seven layers of ecology underneath it, or it can just have a deer skull in its den. The city can be a trading port for grain and iron, or it can have dinnerware made purely for export like much of China did. The magic can "invoke the spirits," or go all out in shaping a list of spells from the great weave. There's an endless amount of depth you can cover, and you don't have to do much if it's not right for your story.
 
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TowieS1

Acolyte
Thank you all for your replies. There is a wealth of advice here that I will take and try to implement into my stories!
 

TowieS1

Acolyte
Every story is different, and you can write a novel about people who never leave their home or little village, all the way up to globe trotters who experience everything in twenty exotic locales. But we can draw a few guidelines. I break my worldbuilding into five topics.

For ecology, there's two simple rules. 1) Rivers run from near the mountains and join (never split) as they head for the coast. 2) The big monster needs something to eat when it can't get adventurers.

Societies usually have a main industry that brings all those people there, and big cities often have several. The simple list is usually the essentials: Grain, Livestock, Iron, Stone and Timber, plus the luxuries: Liquor, Housewares, Textiles (or furs), Spices and Jewelry. Of course there's always others, like books, slaves, gold, and so on, but that's a good start. A community could also be a tourist destination, or a trading hub for the above items. But a place without any industry, especially a city, isn't going to feel very deep.

For a magic system, there's usually a source, a place where the magic comes from, which in turn influences how it's used. Systems without one - like Harry Potter - get subject to a lot of criticism. Readers don't need to understand it, but it helps if you do.

For a combat system, it's important to remember that some weapons and armor and fighting formations are just better than others. It's very easy to fall into the "balance" pit that comes from the D&D or video game systems that's inspired a lot of fantasy writers, myself included. But in a realistic novel nothing breaks immersion faster than a guy taking on an army with leather armor and a dagger.

For culture, characters should usually reflect their upbringing and environment in at least some ways. For myself, I use the following framework: The society has a standard for "honor" (i.e., chivarly, bushido, "the american dream," or some unspoken system to be named a hundred years later), which is changing slightly (new farm techniques change how people work), and every character has an opinion or "worldview" about it. Generally, the middle class tries to live up to the standard, the rich pretend to (and are scandalized when they're caught), while the impoverished have too much else going on in their lives to care.

With all that said, there's still a spectrum of how light or deep you can go. The monster can have a complex feeding system with seven layers of ecology underneath it, or it can just have a deer skull in its den. The city can be a trading port for grain and iron, or it can have dinnerware made purely for export like much of China did. The magic can "invoke the spirits," or go all out in shaping a list of spells from the great weave. There's an endless amount of depth you can cover, and you don't have to do much if it's not right for your story.

Thank you for this.

I am very systematic in my methods. So to have something like this is a massive benefit for me. I appreciate the effort that you put into this response and can promise that I will come back to many times.
 
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