Fantasy World-Building: Basic Building Blocks

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Rich and vibrant fantasy worlds are one of my favorite things in fiction. World-building is something you could spend your whole life developing or just one day. It really depends on how much your characters interact with the world around them. Is your story set in a single room? Or a quest over many countries? You really can go as small or big as you want.

Over the next few months, I will be writing a series on fantasy worldbuilding. This is a combination on my notes on how I am building my fantasy world and the great tips and tricks that I have found from Facebook groups, forums, and blog posts that I have gathered over the years. I’d love to hear your fantasy world building tips, so feel free to leave a comment with any suggestions you might have!

I think the best way to start building your world is filling in the broad strokes before adding the little details. So this first article will be talking about the basic building blocks of fantasy worldbuilding.

The first broad stroke is the climate. Most fantasy seems to be based on England with their temperate oceanic climate, but this is only found along the west coast of countries near the middle equator. If your story isn’t set near a coast, you should pick a different climate and there are more options like a rainforest, monsoon, savanna, desert, steppe, tundra and more! You can find more information on Wikipedia.

Next broad stroke is your geography and terrain. By picking your climate, you will be able to research the type of terrain and geography common to your chosen climate. Based on that you can research the best clothing to wear, the most common architecture, the type of vegetables, fruit, and animals that grow or live in that climate. You can either copy the real world or use the real world to inspire your own clothing styles, fantasy creatures, and plants to populate your world. This adds a layer of believability to your world so that when the reader is introduced to the dragon riders, it doesn’t feel out of place.

TIP: I like to research the mythology from the countries which share a climate with my fantasy world. Weaving in a few mythological creatures and mythic themes from other cultures unique to your chosen climate can add a lovely richness to your world.

This can be enough for a quest through the wilderness if the characters are all from the same country and aren’t going to encounter anyone from another country. But if your hero is going to have to stop by a market or face ruler of another country to finish his quest, you’ll want to keep building your world.

At this point, I usually draw up a map of the neighboring countries or the world. This can and will change as the story grows. Some writers like to do this before they start thinking about climates and geography. If there are any cartographers out there that would like to share some tips and tricks on mapmaking, I’d love to hear them!

TIP: Figure out where your equator is so you can stay consistent with the temperatures and climates you will find in the different regions.

The next broad stroke is to fill in the countries. Each of these may have a bit different climate, terrain and geography which can help you to differentiate the clothing, cuisine, and architecture.

But do you know what the most important thing is? Their imports and exports. This is especially helpful for a political fantasy. Resources can be the cause of everything from a smuggling ring to a full-scale war. Knowing what your countries want or have plenty of will help you to fill out the markets in each country or city without a problem.

For example, in the Rise Of The Shadow Lord the kingdom of Minerale is mostly heavily forested mountains, while the neighboring United Republics Of Elementi is mostly grasslands used for agriculture. The Republics of Elementi has a rich cloth trade and supplies much of the fresh produce while the Mineralites supply most of the lumber and metal ore.

I hope you found my article informative; I know I will be referring to it for my next series. ;) What are your worldbuilding tips?

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