1. Anonymoose
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    Anonymoose New Member

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    Developing a 'Fantasy' World: How far do I go?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Anonymoose, Jul 7, 2013.

    Developing a Fantasy World: How far do I go?

    I have recently started to re-write a fantasy novel that I began working on a few years back, but in terms of the world itself, I am a little hazy on some of the details, so I decided to take what I do remember, and rebuild it around that (obviously fitting the characters, major plot points etc).

    My question is, how much of the world, background, laws, history, rules etc. do I write down and set in stone? And when do I do it? I get worried that if I am too strict on my world then I may run into issues down the line and have a bit of conflict between the plot and the world. So do I iron out the general basics of the world first, write the majority of the book, go back and iron out the rest of the details of world, then go back again and re-write parts of the novel? That doesn't sound like a great idea either.

    Then there is the issue of geography! Again, I have a good basic idea of the layout of the world (in terms of where the different places are at least) and some basic ideas of mountain ranges and rivers, but do I go into real detail with this? Do I actually sit down and map out the different regions?

    I'm really struggling to work out how to go about this right now haha!
     
  2. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am writing fantasy - I would advise you to just write and it will sort itself out. I often have to go back and change bits and pieces. My character could have steel toe boots on then 10 chapters or 50,000 words later he finds himself on magnetic island - Shit! Brainfart! Go back and change boots to rubber toe, oh crap what chapter was that - MS Word search and replace - no biggy!
     
  3. Anonymoose
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    Anonymoose New Member

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    This was my original plan, I am just worried that I will hit a slightly bigger problem that could require me to rewrite entire chapters... I think there will be certain things that I NEED to flesh out in detail, such as the rules by which magic work in this world (As all fantasy novels tend to have different rules and ideas behind the way the magic works, whether it is drawn from within, from the atmosphere/nature, from some otherworldly place, as well as what can/can't be done, all sorts of complicated stuff), but I'm really wondering just where to draw the line!
     
  4. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's fantasy - who says you have to draw a line? Just don't have the ice-man shooting fireballs from his butt!
     
  5. Love to Write
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    Love to Write I'm a lover of writing. What else is to be said? Contributor

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    Exzalia created this amazing fantasy world that the Role Play writers have been writing in. But the fantasy world comes from a book he's working on. He might be able to give you some helpful hints.
     
  6. Anonymoose
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    Anonymoose New Member

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    Thanks Love to Write! I will check that out!

    And erebh, I meant I don't know where to draw my line with my planning, because knowing my brain I could theoretically spend years just planning out the world :')
     
  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It's entirely up to you. You can find plenty of fantasy works that have detailed world-building, and plenty of authors that provide only the information directly impacting the story and characters. All depends on how much information you want to give.
     
  8. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's why I wouldn't bother planning. When I start I have in my head the very basic plot line, Joe has to go from A to B but various monsters are waiting for him at every turn. What happens when he get's there? Well it could be any of at least three things which are: A, The beautiful princess is waiting for him and they live happily ever after, B, He doesn't quite make it and the King wants to kill him but the Princess falls at the feet of her father and saves him, or C, He hides from the last monster and absconds with the drunken whore he met in the last village. Hmmmm, I'll decide in 90,000 words time.

    Stop worrying about worrying and write your story - see where it takes you. Good luck :)
     
  9. Anonymoose
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    Anonymoose New Member

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    Hmmm this is true, I DO want a detailed world though, I already know that there are various disagreements between the different races/settlements, I guess it may just be an issue of planning as I go, and keeping notes of different possible ideas as I go, and drawing on them when I need. I think a map at least may help me to picture the world in my head.

    And to Steerpike, even I'm not 100% sure how much of the information will be given to the reader, a lot if it probably will, but some of it is most likely just for myself haha :)
     
  10. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm guessing you haven't actually put pen to paper yet. While a lot of published authors have drawn maps and included them in their work I'm not sure how many readers actually take note. A map for your own personal use can be handy but very soon you won't bother looking at it because your knowledge of your world be so instilled in your dreams, night and day, you'll know every back alley and street lamp like the back of your hand.

    I have actually used a place I spend 10 years living in as the main setting for my story, neighbours houses are important landmarks so there is no need for me to draw a map.

    Do whatever is easiest for you but leave space o breathe in your story, room for swift changes because what seems great now might be deemed ridiculous or just crap later on and you'll have to change something that doesn't suit something that happened 20,000 words ago and you will have to change it.

    Just stop worrying and write!
     
  11. Anonymoose
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    Anonymoose New Member

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    Yeah that's true, I have JUST started re-writing a story I started years back. There are a couple of details, like a specific mountain range that protects a settlement from certain directions, but not from others, there are details like that which I feel I need to have written down to avoid continuity problems, but yeah I think just writing and making notes as I go is the best way to do it. As I said, I do want a detailed world, I want my characters and my world to be as important (if not more important) as the plot itself, so I feel like I will need some planning, but yes just writing is probably the best way to start!
     
  12. maskedhero
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    maskedhero Active Member

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    Some fantasy writers create CENTURIES of back story for their realms, detailed maps, and detailed political systems. It all depends on what you want to do with it.
     
  13. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    LOTR above all. Between all of Tolkien's works, I believe there's thousands of years of backstory and mythology.
     
  14. archerfenris
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    archerfenris Active Member

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    Although I'm a very new writer myself, I'm in the middle of a similar project as you. I took about 1 month to build the world, characters, and plot. I'd say that undoubtedly you need to build the world to a fair degree before you make the characters. What I basically did is build things in steps. At first I built a map and then began filling in cities, countries, governments, and a loose idea of what the culture and religions were. After that I built the characters, since they're influenced by the culture of where they come from. Lastly, I built the plot. Then I went into further details with the world, characters, and plot, and built it up further.

    At some point though, once you have a loose idea of what's going on, you need to write. Characters who I thought would be one way ended up being significantly different (A black haired rebellious female mage soon became a blonde snarky character which, I feel, ended up much better). For example I made a race of jungle elves that I thought I had down to great detail. Then I discovered, only through writing, that I was going to put their hammocks/ housing in the trees. This was not part of the original plan.

    Get a loose idea and just write. You'll notice as you start writing that you can't plan for everything, and that many of your ideas end up on the page before you've thought them up.
     
  15. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some writers spend all their time on world building and never actually finish a novel. Others struggle with virtually no world building and end up with inconsistency that craters what they're attempting to accomplish. Not saying that you're likely to venture down either of these extreme roads, Anonymoose.

    I am not sure there is a simple answer. It depends on the scope of your stroy and really the story you're telling.

    You should have a basic idea of lands, their peoples, but you don't have to have the name of every royal family or merchant, river or town. If you have the framework, you can fill in those details as needed. The framework is what will keep things consistent.
     
  16. Shmendrick
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    Shmendrick Member

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    It depends how much travelling your characters do as to how much geography you'll need to know. If they're staying in a small village to the north then having a detailed list of interesting flora and fauna in the south won't help you much but if you're sending them on an epic LOTR-style trek across a continent then knowing that they won't fall down the Epic Canyon of Doom taking X route round a mountain is going to be useful. Knowing major landmarks can be very useful like the position of major cities, even it's only a vague idea, along the lines of it's near a big forest and a lake in the east. At the end of the day the geography has to serve the plot (within reason). If you're that way inclined it could be useful to sketch a map for reference but I always find them difficult so I prefer to build a bird's eye view of the continent in my head and do it that way.
     
  17. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    One bit of advice I can give is to make sure the plot comes first. As erebh said, not all users are going to pay attention to the map, but all of them are going to pay attention to the plot. Make sure your plot is strong, first and foremost.

    Secondly, make sure to build your world around the plot, and not the other way round. It's very tempting to just draw up a detailed map and then start to build a story around it, but you'll find that it becomes very restrictive. So, for example, decide your characters must go to the Frozen Wastes to speak to the Polar Bear of Destiny and then incorporate the Frozen Wastes into your map.
     
  18. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've found that worldbuilding, just like character development, is an iterative process. Your world will constantly be added to or refined as the story develops. Notes are good to have, but you probably won't find yourself looking at them much and it's usually clearer in your head than in the notes. For me, the act of writing it all down is good for memorization and creativity. Create a world that makes sense to you and questions or issues will usually answer themselves. It's all interwoven, so if you forget one detail, your other knowledge can fill in the blank.

    Also, I disagree with the notion that worldbuilding should stop at what appears in the story. Build beyond what's seen on the page. Every character comes from somewhere. Every piece of technology is made somewhere. Every nation has a neighbor. Every culture was born someplace and for some reason. It's all interwoven. You have to use some discretion to avoid getting carried away with it, but I believe it will pay off. Readers can tell the difference between a fully-realized world and a Hollywood set. You don't have to show them the entire world, but some of its 'flavor' should spill onto every page, so your world doesn't seem like a flimsy cardboard cutout.
     
  19. Sriliko
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    Sriliko Member

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    I'm also have a rough time with something very similar to this. Has Drawing a map Helped any?
     
  20. Nataly
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    Nataly New Member

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    I'm also trying to write fantasy right now, I'm very new to this thing, but here's my two cents:

    I think a good way to avoid being stuck in world building phase is to put a time limit for yourself. Something like saying, I will work on world building for 10 hours (not in a row!), and then I will stop and get to the book. Then write a few chapters, and maybe later return to the open ends you left about the world and dig more deeply into them.

    When I think about the world I find it useful to write down lots of questions (what religions are there? what is the history? etc) and then answer some of them, in the level of detail that is relevant to the story, and a little beyond that.
    I might not develop religions at all at first, but if I add a character along the way and think it would be cool if he was religious, I take a step back and think about religions in my world. This is nice because then parts of the world are created in a way that compliments the characters very well.
    I think it's fine to change things along the way. When you're building your world, you can ask yourself "what problems could this aspect create for the characters and plot?", so that you are aware of them ahead of time.


    Also, I just want to recommend some great lectures by Brandon Sanderson about writing fantasy.
    They're on a Youtube channel called WriteAboutDragons if you're interested. (I am not affiliated with this project in any way)
    Check out Lecture 9 from 2012, it has some great points about world building.
     
  21. Anonymoose
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    Anonymoose New Member

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    So many things to comment on right now! First of all, thank you all for your responses! Having a lot of different ideas and opinions was what I really needed, and is the main reason I love forums on the whole!

    First of all, TLK, what you said sort of backs up the idea I plan on going with, where I will make outlines and bounce between writing and planning. That way, as I write, it can inspire the background and world development, and then as I develop the world it can inspire new story ideas and so on!

    Also Sriliko, drawing a map (which I certainly haven't completed) has helped a decent amount I think. It ties in to what I just said, I will develop it as I develop the rest of my plot I think. I have filled in the most important locations on the map (the 'capital' home of the dwarves (and surrounding mountains), the 'capital' home of the humans (one of the largest settlements), the 'capital' home of the elves (far from any of the others, quite isolated) and finally the settlements surrounding my main character. I have a lot of politics planned out for the different races which explain different prejudices and relationships within the story, and I think drawing a map, not only helped me flesh out those exact reasons, but in some ways helped me to develop various sub-plots for different characters and events within the novel! I hope that helped (And wasn't TOO vague and confusing haha!)

    AnonyMouse (great name by the way, I swear I didn't steal it!), I agree a lot with what you said too! In my opinions, the best fantasy novels are those which build EVERYTHING from scratch and immerse you in the world, the plot, the sub plots, the background, the characters, the politics and just every little detail. This is kinda why I'm having the issues with planning I think, it's one of the reasons I never got TOO far with it in the first place I think!

    Thank you to all the replies though, they have all definitely got me thinking and I have a much better idea now on how to plan it all out!
     
  22. Kita
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    Kita Senior Member

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    I am also working on a fantasy novel in which the character will march his armies pretty much over the entire world. I believe it is best to build the world around the character. Maps are useful but at the same time can be constrictive and cause problems further on. Also I lack the skill to draw one so I prefer to keep it in my head and I use a separate word document to write down notes of cities names, locations and cultures.

    I'd also recommend drawing from real cultures if you're struggling that would fit the time period of your book. One of the ones in mine will be quite similar to feudal Japan. If you want to go into further detail without having your character ever set foot in that region, you could always have it come into conversation like through a companion who comes from that region or maybe there's trouble in that direction that the character learns from a traveller or passing soldier which then makes him avoid it.

    Whatever route you choose to take, I wish you luck.
     

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