I’m feeling very ambitious! I’ve decided to start a World Building series over the next couple of months. Not to say I won’t take a break to blog about something else now and then, but I think it’ll be fun. I love world building, and I feel confident that I have some decent advice to give. As I continue this series I’ll be coming back and posting links to all of the pages so eventually as it finishes you can start on this page and click ahead to any interested sections after. To begin!
Today I’m going to go over the most basic things you need to decide for your world. At this stage, it’s mostly about looking at your options and choosing more than actual building. What you’re doing is eliminating so that you can hone in on exact details later.
It’s All In The Details
A quick thing to go over, is that I personally find the most successful worlds are the ones drenched in detail. Writers who have files and companion guides for themselves with things that are never revealed to the reader in the novel. That being said, you have to introduce these things at a learning pace. If you overwhelm your reader with too much information too quickly, it’ll be lost on them or discourage them entirely from reading on.
Use The Real World For Inspiration
I refer to the real world quite often when looking for some inspiration for mythology and religion, as well as customs and attire. Our own reality is vast. I do not mean plagiarism or taking ideas from other artists. I mean looking to Tudor England for dresses, or Feudal Japan for laws. Take that inspiration and add your own twist. For example, the Song of Ice & Fire series is based on the War of Roses.
What Comes First?
Your story and your character. Your story is the ultimate guide for your world, at least in my opinion. You carve your world around your story and characters. It’s easier to fill in the blanks than you think. What I’ve found is I have my stories first and build the world around them, but as that world fills up around the stories, it springs more inspiration for offshoots of other characters as a result of that world building. The world becomes a continuous story itself from which to draw your muse. If you want to build your world first, no one is going to stop you! I however, find it easier to build my world around the story and characters first.
Next on the agenda is naming your world! This is harder than it seems. You want a name that’s unique but not difficult to say or pronounce. Look to successful stories in other worlds; Middle Earth, Tamriel, Pern, etc. I went through a slew of names before I settled on Alperin™. Next, do a google search to be sure it isn’t already being used in that manner. Copyright infringement aside, you don’t want your work to be mixed up with someone else’s. Have fun with it, and even poll your friends and reluctant family to see what’s most popular.
Basic World Theme
Take a look at your story, and find a common theme or element. Is it horror? Is it adventure? Is it romance? Is it Gothic or cheery? Your world can be any of the above, or all three! Our own world has every theme imaginable, but in the beginning you want to keep things simplified. Mine is a fantasy in a Gothic backdrop, but that’s not to say there aren’t sunny beaches and dry deserts. I started with a Gothic fantasy in mind and went from there. So initially the setting was rainy and dank, with grays and muted colors, which lead me to think of cultural reasons for why that is so. Why do the characters mostly wear black or grey? And so on.
The Ripple Technique
I totally made that term up (to my knowledge) and I’ll do my best to explain. Your story starts in one place, or maybe two or three. As I world build, I begin with the place my story begins and extend detail outward from there. If your story starts in a city, begin with that. Name your city, decide its size, determine precincts and districts. Is it ruled by a mayor? A council? The first things to establish are name, size, and law. You could even begin with just the neighborhood. Does your story start on a farm? What does the farm grow? What is the geography? How is the weather pattern? Is a lack of rain the cause of problems? Why is that particular crop common to the region? And expand outward. It’s okay to world build as your story goes and as you need it. Don’t start off planning an entire continent or world, start small and it’s less overwhelming. If your story starts in the back of a wagon, build out from the wagon. If it starts in a bedroom, build out from the room to the house, from the house to the neighborhood/yard.
Write Everything Down!
Keep track of all the places you have so far. Your world, towns, cities. Places even mentioned by other characters and why. Where are these places, in relation to your story? If you mention a river in chapter 1 and then say the same place is surrounded by dry plains in chapter 5, it’s an inconsistency. I don’t like inconsistencies. XD If you name a government, or a neighborhood, write it down! If you declare there are mountains to the east, write it down! Eventually you can draw out a basic map to refer to.
Next Time On…
These are very basic and vague tips to get you started, if they were more than vague I would be sitting here for hours. However, fear not! I’m going to continue this World Building series in all of its glory in weeks to come! I have at least nine more blogs planned going over these aspects in immense detail. I think this is actually going to be fun, for me at least. 😀
Added 2/22/2016 World Building Part 2: Religion
Added 3/01/2016 World Building Part 3: Nation Creation
Added 3/14/2016 World Building Part 4: Government
Added 3/22/2016 World Building Part 5: Calendar
Added 4/4/2016 World Building Part 6: Map Making
Added 4/18/2016 World Building Part 7: Culture
Added 6/13/2016 World Building Part 8: Floor Plans & Architecture
Added 10/24/2016 World Building Part 9: Creatures
Added 11/21/2016 World Building Part 10: Science!
Added 12/12/2016 World Building Part 11: Medicine
Added 01/09/2016 World Building Part 12: Names