Worldbuilding Part 4

Back in December, I finished up a world-building series at The Story Reading Ape. Then the holidays invaded and things got a little crazy! I’m delighted to finally share Part 4 here. I hope you enjoy. Happy Writing!

***

Many thanks to Chris for letting me chat about world-building. It’s been a pleasure to hang out, and in this final post of the series, I want to share thought-starters for each of the major systems that make up a world.

Fantasy author Brandon Sanderson, in a discussion about world-building, stated that writers don’t need to completely change every major system in a world. Pick a few big elements that are linked to the plot and then dabble with the details on the rest. Let your imagination run wild.

The Environment

Whether designing a natural or human-made world, give it personality – strengths, weaknesses and quirks, and a complex diversity of elements that both support and sabotage the characters’ efforts. Don’t forget to account for food, water, air, and shelter, and to employ all the senses in descriptions. Think outside the box. You may have longer or shorter days, worlds without seasons, animals or plants capable of communicating, a parallel spirit realm. Your world may exist only in dreams.

Create a map, for your reference, at least. Maps physically “ground” the world by establishing terrains, distances, and regional resources, locating population centers and geopolitical borders. Not building a planet? Map your city or space station.

History

If you look at our current “real” world, ancient history still has a huge impact on identity and choices. Robert Jordan went back about 3000 years in his world-building – a long time, I know. But going back 300 to 1000 years isn’t uncommon, particularly if there’s been ongoing tension between groups or a common past that has splintered.

Create a time line. In the distant past, simply outline major events. As the timeline moves closer to the present story, increase the level of detail and shorten the gaps. Consequential events may occur daily in the last months or weeks before your book actually begins.

Government

Even a gang has a government. Someone is calling the shots….

Continue Reading:  World-building: Thought Starters – Guest Post by Diana Peach…

89 thoughts on “Worldbuilding Part 4

  1. Aquileana says:

    This is an impressive post, dear Diana… I liked what you say about defining things in clear way… A map of your imaginary world and a time line are essential, even more considering that you could easily get lost in a “world” which happens right here, right now.
    The post resonated with me as a whole of course. But I particularly liked what you stressed as regard to Magic… and the need to define its rules and the exceptions for those rules, when the magic system doesn´t manage to control a situation or act upon it.
    Thak you for sharing… Sending love & best wishes! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Antonia says:

    How fascinating Diana! I really enjoyed reading this, and it gives such insight.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jennie says:

    I’m glad you included magic and language. Those are often overlooked, yet can make a story come alive to the reader.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A great post, Diana. I am learning a lot from you but the best lesson was to sometimes break the rules. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. […] via Worldbuilding Part 4 — Myths of the Mirror […]

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a great series, Diana! A lot of this is applicable to more than just SFF. Great reminders of all the things we can use to enrich our stories. Have a great weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree that it extends beyond speculative fiction. We’re always painting word-pictures for our readers, creating settings, and often outlining some element of history. It’s a part of the fun of writing. Thanks so much for stopping by to read, Julie. I hope you’re writing up a storm!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. dgkaye says:

    Brilliant series Diana. I know I’m not a world builder in my genre, but it’s amazing to learn how this process works. 🙂 xx

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Tina Frisco says:

    This was a terrific series, Diana. I’ve bookmarked all 4 parts and know I’ll refer to them often ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Tina. This isn’t comprehensive at all, but it can work to get the creative juices going. I use it as a checklist, sort of. I’m so glad you found it helpful. I appreciate that you took the time to read. Happy Writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Greedyeats -Neha says:

    What an amazing read about world-building that is. I loved the way you have written it. So informative. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Very timely. I got a comment from an agent I sent my newest book to. She said my world-building wasn’t good enough. Never had that one before! I’m going to read and re-read all four of these posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The story about Lucy? (I’m guessing). You are creating a world that most of us haven’t experienced, so the need to do some world-building beyond the usual makes sense. Enjoy it, Jacqui. Engage the senses!

      Like

  11. Every point you made, Diana, is great advice — particularly for fantasy worlds. Sanderson is right too, do “a few big elements that are linked to the plot.”
    I’ve always been amazed by the scope and level of detail in Robert Jordan’s world building for the Wheel of Time series.
    Thanks for sharing your expertise here. Huge hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think Sanderson’s world-building is what initially drew readers to his work. His magic systems are phenomenal! Jordan too, but he seemed less structured to me – constantly introducing new elements. I guess you have to do that with a 13 book series! Thanks for the visit, my friend. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Very nice, D. Wishing you yet another fruitful year in the arts, to be expected, as you’re going strong.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. reocochran says:

    Whoa, you are so generous to share your intelligence and thought processing for world building, Diana! 🌐
    The time period going back farther than 200 years would be so challenging for me. So interesting.
    I feel you had not only “tiers” but country, city and waterside locations in “Catling’s Bane.” You always amazed me with your writing! xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Robin. The books I’m working on now go back about 2000 years, but only in my planning, not in the writing. In Catling’s Bane it was 300 years (references to the colonization of the planet). So, the long history is really about setting the foundation of the world more than the actual writing. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! Have a wonderful Wednesday!

      Like

  14. Great advice, Diana. My wife, a huge Brandon Sanderson fan, turned me on to him. I write urban fantasy, set in the “real” world, but that doesn’t stop me from drawing maps and having a “chessboard,” so to speak, that stays consistent as I move my characters around on it. That was certainly the case with Escape from Rikers Island.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you enjoy Sanderson. He’s pretty remarkable. There’s a ton of overlap between speculative fiction and real-world fiction. Urban fantasy has many of the same rules as other-world fantasy, particularly around “magic” rules. I’m looking forward to your book. Are you getting close?? 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Definitely close! One of my first orders of business in this new year is cranking out one more draft — which shouldn’t take more than a few weeks — and then finally putting this baby on the road to publication. Stay tuned…

        Liked by 1 person

  15. I’m a huge Sanderson fan (and Peach fan as well). Recently finished Oathbringer. It’s not surprising that he spent nearly a decade “world building” for this series.
    Now we just need to rebuild the world we currently live in;)

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can’t wait to read that series, Gabe. If I can handle the wait, I’ll start it when the series is done. I truly enjoy Sanderson, especially his magic systems (world-building). Thanks so much for the visit and it’s good to hear that the series is awesome! Hope your new year is off to a wonderful start. 🙂

      Like

  16. Really informative and interesting, Diana! I love these type of posts and look forward to more of them from you 🙂 Learning is a big priority of mine, and even if I don’t know whether I’ll be writing anything of my own one day, I can always use this information for reviews and the like. Thanks for yet more awesome content!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. This was so great to read and your writing is always a world of its own! The characters, places, sounds, everything! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Teri Polen says:

    I thought a lot about world-building while in Harry Potter World last week in Orlando. I’m in awe over Rowling’s imagination – she even created types of sweets that sold in Hogsmeade. I’d love to live inside her head for even an hour!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Her world-building is amazing, detailed and yet with a bit of whimsy thrown in there for fun. Harry Potter World must have been a blast, Teri. BTW – I’m about 1/4 of the way into Sarah. Are you a teenage boy? Ha ha. I love the pov and the way your captured the teen perspective. Well done!

      Like

  19. Annika Perry says:

    Diana, this is a superb and highly informative article – it’s like several lessons of a writing course rolled into one! Having read this I’m fired up to create worlds…this ‘template’ is a fantastic resource. I have a feeling organisation about all the various elements in one’s world building is imperative! The risk for confusion and forgetfulness is rife!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad you’re feeling inspired. It’s a ton of fun if you like planning and puzzles, Annika. And you are absolutely right, the organization and integration of the elements is essential in creating a cohesive and plausible world. And writing it all down so you don’t forget! Happy Writing, my friend. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Now that I’m further into Catling’s Bane re-reading this post is even more relevant. I am so enjoying this world you have created and I can see how limiting Catling’s magical powers has made the story so much more intriguing. I’m hooked!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. olganm says:

    Thanks for the advice, Diana. I must come back to check on the whole series. And happy 2018!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. “Give your environment a personality” is refreshing advice! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Wonderful and insightful … thanks for the sharing and your wise thoughts, Diana. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  24. arlene says:

    The wisdom of thoughts, the beauty of words. Love this Diana!

    Liked by 2 people

  25. tric says:

    Perhaps this is why I cannot write fantasy? There is a huge amount of imagination and imagery involved. I am in awe.

    Liked by 2 people

    • We all have our little niches, Tric. World-building is like making a big old jigsaw puzzle and trying to get all the pieces to fit into a coherent picture. I think that’s what I like about it. Thanks for reading! And Happy New Year!

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Steven Baird says:

    Excellent posts, Diana. It’s always a pleasure, and it’s certainly fascinating to learn about the imaginative architecture of world building.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Silent Hour says:

    Thank you, Diana, for sharing your knowledge and experience. There are so many things to consider when creating a world. It can be entertaining, but also demands hard work.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for reading, Basilike, especially since it’s kind of a long post! I love this stuff and can yak about until everyone else is yawning, but that’s part of the fun of all the different genres… we find our niches where we enjoy ourselves. Hope you’re having a great start to your week. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Silent Hour says:

        Long yes, tedious no. You write about things that every writer who wants to be good at what they’re doing should keep in mind. Even when you’re not creating a whole new world, but only writing a short story, you need to have some idea about your character’s history and surroundings, I think. It makes it all more believable, and helps you know where you’re going. So keep such posts coming!

        Liked by 1 person

  28. back when i tried my hand at writing, i wanted to create a world of my own, something unique no one has ever thought about. but a world isn’t something easy to create – as i wanted it to sound plausible, so i skipped the ‘other’ world and made it more simple. seeing that that first project is more like an outline of a first draft than anything else, i might still give it a try. i’m going to save a link to this post for further reference in case i ever do go back to that outline.
    thanks for the tips.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Most of my worlds have a lot in common with Earth, Jina. It’s hard to find that balance between too familiar and having to explain everything! I hope you pull that outline out again one day and at least take a peek at it. Who knows when it will be the right time to jump in? Thanks for stopping by and Happy Writing!

      Liked by 1 person

      • that’s the problem! explaining the world without going into too much detail. how can i explain a world that doesn’t exist without detailing and explaining?
        i know it’s possible, ive read these books. but i just found it too exausting, the constant wondering if I’m being understood or not.

        Liked by 1 person

  29. Mae Clair says:

    An excellent post, Diana. I left you a comment on Chris’s blog, but know I know why the worlds you create are so vividly drawn.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Thanks for all the ideas and wisdom you share about building complex stories and worlds. If I ever tackle longer stories, I know these tips will be very helpful. Thank you Diana.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. delphini510 says:

    I love your imaginative and informative posts on word building.
    So much to take in, common sense many times but do we always think of that. One example is ” You may have longer or shorter days, worlds without seasons, animals or plants capable of communicating, a parallel spirit realm. “.
    Thank you Disna

    Liked by 2 people

  32. Almost Iowa says:

    I would add… when building a map think about geography.

    When the prevailing wind moves from west to east, it is rainy on the west side of mountains and dry on the east. This is called a rain shadow.

    Where rivers flow into the sea, they deposit silt which creates a delta.
    Think large swamps and the people and critters who favor them.

    It gets colder as you go north and summer days get longer as winter days get shorter. When rivers flow north, the ice breaks at the source, long before it breaks at the deltas… this can be rather dramatic as floods smash dams of ice.

    Plains exist because fire and grazing animals destroy trees. Think about prairie fires with flames shooting thirty feet into the air, rushing at 40 mph and vast herds of grazers fleeing in terror.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. balroop2013 says:

    Diana, your understanding of building a castle of words, with all the elements and essentials is amazing! I have followed all your posts on word building and would like to express my gratitude for such enlightening ideas. Now I am hopping over… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  34. I enjoyed this tremendously as I do all you writing Diane, you are a mystery, so prolific an every piece a work of art.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are warmly welcomed. Don't be shy .

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s