One of the reasons writing appeals to me is the act of creation. There is nothing quite as satisfying. Fantasy fiction amplifies this satisfaction because I’m not only creating a story, but I get to build an entire world around that story.
World-building is not unique to fantasy fiction. Any time a writer pens a fictional story, they alter the world to suit the needs of their story. Fantasy fiction takes this to the extreme because the author is often creating a world that is alien and exotic, and holds little in common with our own reality.
If you’ve ever been a Dungeon Master (DM), then you’re familiar with world-building techniques. I’ve used roleplaying game models myself while constructing early versions of the setting for the Chronicles of Jord. However, the needs and demands of a fantasy fiction story are different from those of a RPG, so a writer must consider things a DM would not.
A writer’s method of world-building generally falls somewhere along a continuum between two poles: build-as-you-write and build-before-you-write. I built the setting for Chronicles of Jord before I finalized the outline for the series. The world of Janner Kohl gets revealed a little bit more with each story. How you choose to build is dependent upon your style and what you plan to do with the story.
There are a lot of great resources out there that discuss principles of world-building. I’m going to use this series to explain the different approaches I used to construct the worlds I write in. I’ll separate my world-building processes into four different categories:
Geography will cover constructing the physical shape of your world. History will examine the importance of how your world got to where it is. Cultures will discuss how to make the people of your world unique. Magic will explore the impact of…well, magic upon your world.
I hope you’ll share your world-building experiences with me in the comments of each post. I make no claim that the methods I used to create my fantasy worlds are the only ones, and I’m always looking for ways to build better.