Hey there, friends! SUPER long post incoming! The other day a friend starting their first project asked me "How do you start worldbuilding?". As they waited for a reply, I blinked stupidly a few times and found I didn't know what to tell them. I've got a world built, sure--like a lot of us do--but I couldn't come up with any useful advice to offer. So, I resolved to think about it and give them a reply later. After searching online for a tutorial on how exactly one begins 'Worldbuilding', I found there is precious little on the topic. Almost every piece of advice labeled "How to start Building your World" instead detailed how to specifically build some aspect of a world: how to draw a map, or create a culture, or a religion, or creatures, or geography, or weather. These things are important, of course, but it's not 'how to Worldbuild'. If my friend writer wanted to know how to create a fantasy map, then she'd have asked 'how do I draw a map'. If she'd wanted to know how Rain Shadow works to figure out which side of a mountain to put a forest on, she could easily have googled it. But when she asked specifically 'how do I start worldbuilding', I think in retrospect she was actually asking 'what is the process by which I add new things to my world, whatever they might be?' So I decided to try my hand at coming up with some solid, general advice on 'how to worldbuild': the process by which someone adds new things to their world. That said, I'm by no means a professional writer, so rather than going it alone, I thought it might be fun (and useful!) to come here, and see what the community has to say about it. I've got a general three step process here, and I've done my best to really boil it down into its most basic and simple form. I'm hoping to get some feedback, have some people poke holes in it. Maybe together we can create something really comprehensive and great. So, with that long intro out of the way, here's my personal take on 'How to Start Worldbuilding'. I hope it's useful, or at least becomes useful after some good conversation: --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Step 1: Have an Idea In order to create, you must have something worth the effort. Creating is hard work. If anyone is going to embark on that adventure, they'd better have an idea that, to them, is cool and interesting enough to merit the hard work it takes to do it. No matter the creative endeavor you're embarking on, you need, at minimum, an idea. 'Idea', in this instance, is defined as anything you think is interesting. A character is an idea. An event is an idea. A religion, map, war, battle, magic, concept of Good and Evil, or Chaos vs. Order, are all, for the purposes of this tutorial, ideas. This is a pretty obvious first step: if you don't have anything to write about, then you don't have anything to write about. But the moment you think to yourself "Huh, that's kind of cool", then you have an idea. A cool dream can be an idea, or even--one of my personal favorites--watching the execution of someone else's idea and thinking "Hey, I can do that better." Once you have one, you can develop it. Once you can develop it, you can begin the process of transforming a phantasmal 'idea' into a 'core.' Step 2: Transform your Idea into a Core Ideas are transient; they fluctuate and change, because they're creativity. They're ethereal, malleable. One minute you think your story's villain should be a dragon, the next you think it would be a better juxtaposition to your protagonist if he were an evil dictator instead. First you think you'll write a sci-fi, but three chapters in, you think the story would be better told as a fantasy. This is wonderful for coming up with more ideas, but terrible for getting down to business and constructing your world. If all the pieces to your puzzle are wildcards--changing and shifting on your whim--then changing one piece can change a hundred others, and changing those might mean half your world needs to adapt to the new change. Much better, then, to develop a core: to take an idea, and decide it will be. To change an idea into a core, you simply decide, as The Creator, this is the way this event will be in the world. You choose the best potential (best is decided based on why you're creating in the first place; perhaps, to tell a story) and make it one permanent thing, rather than a hundred possibilities. In return, you have a solid foundation. In a universe where you're the creator, able to change things on a whim, your core is your orienting device; the cornerstone that you compare and run your ideas past to keep your work consistent. It's history, unchanging, and because it is unchanging, it allows you to build up from it without worrying that your tower will fall. Its a foundation, and from it, you can start gently working outward. A core can be big, or small--it's more useful if it's vague, but it can be specific. Regardless, it's something you, the creator, have decided is. It isn't necessarily permanent, and if it needs to change, it can. But it's a thing the author decides is true enough for the moment that it's okay to begin building the world around it. 'Wizard School' is a core. 'I want England to have its own pre-Norman mythology' is a core. 'Sometimes the government forces children to kill eachother' is a core. 'At ten years old, you get to leave home and capture monsters' is a core. And I'm almost positive that each and every one of you can glean what worlds those are specifically from those single sentence descriptions alone. A core can be as large as the foundation of your world, or as little as the personality of a character, or the agriculture of a town. Step 3: Accretion Each and every new thing you create should have a core. It doesn't need to have one, but the risk you run by not having one is spending weeks changing 'x', then changing 'y' to compensate, then changing 'z', then changing 'x' and 'y' to compensate, which means you need to change 'z' again. When you're God, and you can change anything at any time, it's useful to give yourself a limitation. This, I like this way, and I'm going to build around 'x' assuming 'x' will always be true. Then, at least, you can change 'y' and 'z' in relation to 'x'. You can build on 'x' without worrying that it's going to change, and ruin all your effort. The way you do that is by accretion. Accretion is the slow and steady accumulation of layers of matter--or, in our case, layers of content and detail. You take a core, and you decide that it's going to remain true, no matter how many layers you put over it. You decide that the core is the most essential part, and refuse to compromise it. Then you analyze it, and determine what branches out from it. You ask questions, and you happily add to it. Maybe you add one layer and find out it doesn't work. That's fine, you can take it away. Maybe you add another layer and think it works well, so you keep it. That's one more layer on your core. You build, and you build, and you build on whatever Core you've created, until it's developed enough. When is it developed enough? Well, that depends entirely on what the reason is that you're creating the world. If you're trying to tell a story, then its developed when it supports the story as effectively as it can. If you're making a world for a Dungeons and Dragons campaign or something, then it's developed enough when your players can experience the emotion and thrills of the game in that area. The more you think and decide on things, the more layers you'll be able to add to your world. These three steps can develop any aspect of Worldbuilding. You can use them to create a map, or a religion, or a culture, or a story, or weather. And this method is most useful when you have already established why you're creating the world. Once you have a core for that, then you can build all your future cores with that core in mind. Lets have a final example. Idea: A little girl with a knife standing over her sleeping mother. Ideas are potential: there are any number of answers for this scenario. Is the little girl insane? Maybe a demon? Maybe her mother is abusive, and she wants revenge. Or maybe she's saying a final farewell before Mulan-ing off with that knife to do battle with bandits invading her town. Transform the idea into a core. It's up to you to decide the direction you want to take this idea. The correct direction is whatever direction best accomplishes your personal goal for the world: usually to tell the story as effectively as possible. Lets assume the story I want to tell is a tragic one. Core: A little girl with a knife stands over her sleeping mother. Her mother has a terminal illness that is causing her a slow, painful death. She asked her daughter to kill her in her sleep to spare her the pain, forcing the deed onto someone else--too cowardly to take her own life. The daughter stands over her mother, her insides knotted and her eyes dripping tears, deciding if she’s capable of fulfilling her loving mother’s last wish. That's a core. From the potential of 'idea' to a single, solid, specific decision. This will be, and the rest of the story will develop this single core. From there, Accretion. Who is the girl? What circumstances led her here? How will she react? Accretion can give the girl a name--there's a new layer that can be stripped or added at will. It can give her a temperament that makes the deed easier or harder. It can give her a history with her mother, all of the memories she experiences in the final moments before she decides, finally, to drive the knife into the woman’s throat. It can give her the horror of her father waking up, finding his daughter in a pool of blood, sobbing her eyes out, as he looks over at the slim metal blade coming out of his wife’s neck. You can decide on any of those things, and change them at any time, to suit the story you want to tell. Peel back layers, and add new ones. But the Core doesn't change, and thus, anything you add that is based on the core is unaffected by the changes you do make. That keeps you sane. It allows your world, slowly, to become more developed. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is the best way I can articulate my thoughts on how to go about adding new content to your world. No matter what it is, or what your world may be, it seems to me this process would help with it. That said, I'm by no means a professional, and would love any feedback you guys might have to make this even better. If you see any flaws, I'd love to talk about them! If you see any places where more detail might be nice, I'd love to discuss that, too. In the end, I'd really like to have something I can turn over to my friend in response to her question--even if it's so long she'll never read it! Thanks so much for always being awesome, guys. I look forward to talking with you!