Building a world is one of the hardest things a Fantasy author has to do. It is often a daunting task to craft an entire world from nothing, to create the geography, the rules that govern it, the beasts and other creatures that will dwell there. Often an author will have to find the balance between under developing and over developing. World-Builder’s Syndrome, which comes from too much development, can drown a book in overwhelming detail. And the opposite is true; a world that doesn’t have much substance can leave the reader feeling bored and unimpressed.
To avoid these pitfalls in world-building, an author should create their world to fit the story, not the other way around. When I approach a new idea for a story, my initial thoughts are often about the plot itself. However, it is oft at this time that I begin to formulate the most basic ideas for the world.
I begin with a picture of where the story takes place, and I use this point as the skeleton around which the rest of the world grows. As my story grows, so does the world, each benefiting the other to create the perfect setting. Now, I always know what my world looks like when I begin major plotting, at least to a basic extent. This way, the world doesn’t grow just because the plot demands it.
Rather, the world evolves with my story. I like to think of my world as a bare garden; the land is set and the earth is tilled, and the borders are well established. But it is not until I sow the seeds of plot, characters and creatures that it blossoms into a beautiful garden.
Once my story has been plotted out — the terrain has been crafted and things such as oceans, the boundaries of kingdoms and other important sections of landscape are in place — then I begin to outline the story, getting into the specifics. It is here that I descend upon my fledgling world and construct the fine details. It is here that I map cities, chart unexplored waters and approve my world for my characters.
In my opinion, if a world is not as good as my story, then it is not a world worth telling a story in.
Research is essential to building a world, depending on the rules that govern it. A mistake I often made when I was younger was sacrificing realism for a factor of coolness. Lava and ice typically cannot brush up against each other harmlessly. Who knew?
Understanding specific climates, along with what forms them and helps them flourish. Nature is a pivotal part of a healthy world, and a sense of realism helps solidify the world in the reader’s mind.
After the geography and terrain of my world have been established, I truly begin to weave my story into the fabric of my creation. I often begin by crafting the creatures and cultures, along with the beasts of the sea and the land.
Then comes the peoples of my world, and the nations that belong to them, and they fall in line with the history of their homeland. Once all of these components have cemented themselves and blended together, my world is complete.
World-building is always a difficult task. I’ve experimented with many different methods over the years, and some have been failures, others have been successes. I’ve over-built, I’ve let things fall into place as I go along, and I’ve tried a dozen more. There are only two things that I know for sure about world-building. One, there is no right or wrong way to craft your world, no perfect method, so long as you put your heart into it. And two, it’s always a ton of fun.
Andrew Wood is an 18 year old recent high school graduate with a love of writing and a dream of becoming a published author. He first began writing during elementary school, with short stories. He wrote three novels during high school, one of which was for National Novel Writing Month. Now, with his fourth novel complete, he is ready to publish. You can find out more about this novel at http://www.inkshares.com/projects/storm-of-fury