A Guide to World Building

photo by deborahtereramischristian.com

photo by deborahtereramischristian.com

You can’t open a fantasy novel without a map, language guide, and historical record. I think Tolkien has a lot to do with this. He set the standard for world building very high. For those who are not familiar, world building is essentially planning the setting for your novel (the when and where). While I enjoyed creating the fantasy world for my series, to be honest, I have two or more races and have not invented any languages, all the important historical events that shaped the world will be mentioned in the book instead of outlined in an appendex, and I have a map I use as a guide when I write that I will probably not include in my book. Does this make me lazy? I don’t think so. I just think readers want a story, not a history lesson. So I’ve chosen to keep it simple.

Creating a world can be exciting and at the same time daunting. I was on Youtube the other day, when I should have been working, and found this wonderful video by Kate Messner where she brillantly summarizes the process. It’s fun to watch and very educational. I think she does a great job breaking it down into simple steps. Please enjoy and if you have some advice on world building or anything you want to share about creating your own worlds, please leave them in comments.

8 thoughts on “A Guide to World Building

  1. Building a world is probably my favourite part of writing a story, but I think people can get too involved in it. Tolkien, for all his genius, definitely got too involved, but then the languages were the whole point of everything.
    I love maps, and I think they show something that fantasy writers haven’t got right yet. I covered it on my latest blog post, oddly, because I can read over 2000 years of history in a map of my valley, plus the geological history beneath the surface, but I’ve never seen a fictional map that can tell the same story.

    • I agree. I think that’s why I have chosen to return to the fantasy genre from historical fiction. I don’t like being limited. With your own world you can take it as far as you want to go and bend the rules

    • liamsmomma

      I am currently writing my first fantasy book and Tolkien was a big inspiration for that, as I am very fond of his work and find it fascinating. I struggled with the language part of it, wanting to include that into my characters, but it was more difficult than I thought. I just love being able to create the world from scratch and everything in it.

      • I know what you mean. Creating a language is so difficult. In my series, I’m implying that they speak different languages without actually creating a language. inventing worlds is one of my strengths, not inventing languages. good luck with your novel!

      • liamsmomma

        Thank you and good luck with yours as well too. I agree with creating the worlds, I find that as one of my strengths as well. I look forward to reading more posts from you.

  2. There has to be the right balance. For me personally, I think fantasy writers sometimes go too far with world building, whereas I’m more interested in the story. I guess I’d rather have a great story with characters I care about, and less of the detailed maps and fancy new languages.

    • Yes, I think the world writers create should be understood without the aid of maps and appendixes and so forth. I hope people don’t think that I’m lazy for not creating a language or including a detailed map. I hope the detail in the story will be enough to convince readers that my world is believable.

      • Kylie Betzner

        I don’t mind the maps per say nor do I miss them if they are absent. To be honest, I’ve never been that interested in history . . . more than a mild interest anyway. I enjoy learning about different historical periods, and sometimes wish I lived in a different era . . . in a different universe even, but I don’t really care to learn about ancient wars and such. Just make compelling characters and a good story and I’m happy.

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