1. ChristopherBreen

    ChristopherBreen New Member

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    World Creation

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by ChristopherBreen, Jun 24, 2017.

    Does anyone have a specific way they go about designing worlds for their writing?

    I have attempted to create completely unique worlds for my fantasy pieces, but I find that something is always off. With our own world, we have the tectonic plates which determine the areas in which mountains form and such.

    Are there any step-by-step guides for complete world creation?

    Also, how in depth (detail wise) do you go when design worlds for your own writing?
     
  2. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    Certainly not enough to justify the existence of mountains, rivers and meadows. Writing is hard enough without worrying about explaining the mundane...
     
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  3. Sixthperson

    Sixthperson Member

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    I usually start with something small, but I find creating the world itself and the rules of, to be one of the most exciting part. I can sometimes go into even the most minute details. I also find that if I have a map, with mountains, rivers, lakes, and forests, it helps to create the path and logic of how the world works and moves. You can't have a tropical civilisation at the top of a mountain range. The more I think about my world, the more in depth I create it, the more in depth I create it, the more I think about it. It becomes a never-ending cycle.
     
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  4. IHaveNoName

    IHaveNoName Senior Member Community Volunteer

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    There are lots of resources if you look around. I've written a series of posts on my blog, on this site.

    As far as detail: It really depends on the story you want to tell. There's a minimum level of detail, but beyond that, it's just a matter of what you want to focus on: if it's about politics, you need to develop the government; if it's heavy on magic, you need a magic system; if it's a war story or a pirate story, you'll have to learn something of military tactics or sailing.
     
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  5. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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  6. halisme

    halisme Contributor Contributor

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    I tend to design a culture first, and then work out the types of land that would justify such a culture, and then work from there. If we're talking pure geography, then my only tip is that lakes will only let water out at one spot.
     
  7. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Contributor Contributor

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    I just did a presentation and served on a panel discussing world building in the past several weeks. It's a big topic, and really there isn't one right way to go about it.

    Nevertheless, I'll share a few brief thoughts that might help you move forward:

    All you need to do is to establish a framework for your world. You do not need to flesh out each culture and each royal lineage or every war that ever happened.

    Having a map is handy, but it can be basic. As you write the novel or series, you can fill it in. But by having it, you will keep everything straight, and not contradict yourself later.

    If you have magic, establish 'rules' or how it all works. You don't need to detail this to the readers, except within the context of the story.

    You're welcome to begin creating the world with tectonic plates, but I think that might be going too far. Remembering basic things like most cities had access to a river or lake or ocean for travel/commerce could be handy. Remember 90% of what you create in world building probably won't appear in the novel, but having that planned on some level will help with the feeling of depth and consistency for the reader. Allow them to learn and explore as the story(s) unfold.

    The POV you use will largely determine how the world you build is revealed, so that might have an impact on the world you build. If it's not going to be an epic or long running series, and confined largely to one region, obviously more planning will need to go into that area.

    Estimating populations and city sizes and how much farmland or fishing fleets and grazing area to support the population can just be reasonable estimates. If the reader sees peasants farming fields and river boats casting nets for fish within the context of the story, unless a threat to such means is part of the plot, I don't think you need to, for example, map out how much acreage of orchards and farmland (broken down to various types of crops), etc. are dedicated to such within a kingdom. I knew an writer in a crit group that did that...but I didn't think it was necessary.

    I've known writers who labored years in world building, and never actually got to writing. One individual at the recent presentation admitted he'd been world building for twelve years.

    I understand the concern of being prepared, and not creating inconsistency or weird quirks due to poor planning, but sometimes you have to do what you can, say enough is enough, and move forward with writing, realizing you can modify and add to the world and its intricacies as you go along. Consider it sort of like putting a Christmas tree in the stand and stringing some of the lights. Then after all that is done, you can select the bulbs and start placing them over the next few days.

    Good luck as you move forward.
     
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  8. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    I'm going through the same experience. My fantasy series originally was going to be based in D&D's 'the Forgotten Realms' during the 'Time of Troubles'. I've since decided to make it completely original.
    The plot of the series pivots around a plot of one of the Gods that goes back to the creation of the world. So, my world building is pretty intensive. The approach that I'm taking is giving everything a real world reference to keep everything grounded.
    Check out my progress journal to see what I've done so far.
     
  9. Dracon

    Dracon Contributor Contributor

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    This is a good resource to get you thinking about all the relevant things to know.

    http://www.web-writer.net/fantasy/days/

    Also, I think it is important not to get too carried away with the world, and lose focus on the plot. What do you want to happen in your world? Base the world on the conflicts the characters have, rather than the other way around.

    For example, I only had a very rough idea of what I was going to do when i first started writing. I sat down and thought about what stories/characters I wanted to tell, and how close/how far Empire A might be to Kingdom B, and C has to be right there and has to be of vast strategical importance because that will be the fulcrum of conflict. Character A needs to be able to easily access points D and E. Then Empire A and Kingdom B are trying to secure alliances from Empire C, so C must be adjacent to both, and... you get the idea. From simple geometry, I worked out that my continent needed to be roughly horseshoe-shaped, I inked in some lines... then took the rest from there.

    When I get my hands on a fantasy book, the map is the first thing I turn to. I love the maps in books, and always love referring to them. But I wouldn't put down a book over it. Trying to create completely unique worlds... just don't worry too much about it. I'm sure Tolkien wasn't thinking about plate tectonics when he designed Mordor! Likewise, I am yet to be convinced on the plausibility of Westeros and Essos. But both are highly successful - not because of the maps, but because of the stories!
     
  10. Commandante Lemming

    Commandante Lemming Contributor Contributor

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    So, this is my standard speech on worldbuilding, and on top of that I ripped it off from "Writing Excuses" - but it's good advice. First, building a totally complete world with as much detail as our own is technically impossible. Second, the question is how to build a world the FEELS immersive to a reader (which is not the same as building a world that's actually all there - it's fine if some of the scenery is two-dimensional if it's in the background to begin with). Third, it's entirely possible to put in too much time building a world with lots of detail that never impacts the story - and in some cases if you spend too much time building all that detail, you can negatively impact the finished product because you think it's important to explain all of it, when significant portions of it don't actually matter to the story. Yes, some people do construct overly-detailed worlds and then write inside them successfully - Tolkein and George RR Martin are in this camp - however it's worth noting that those writers aren't in the majority, and they tend to take a very long time to finish books.

    One way to decide what's important is to center your worldbuilding around your main character, what's important to THEM, and what they see in their day to day life. If your main character is a prince at the imperial court, then in that case, royal history and governmental protocol are going to be quite important - as are the details of sword play, jousting, whatever it is that knights and princes do. It's probably less important to know the mineral content of the cliffs or the durability of dragon skin. If, however, your main character is a poor cobbler in the city market - you might want a great deal of information about dragon skin, it's properties, how to tan it, howe expensive it is, and what sort of special nails are required to make boot out of it (I mean seriously, who doesn't want dragon-skin boots). You might also need to know a tiny bit (but less) about metallurgy or the mineral content in those cliffs, because the blacksmith next door is making nails out of if, and you might need those to hold together those dragon-skin boots. However, court history and the details of social graces among the upper class are not going to be very important AT ALL in that story, so they might not be where you spend your time on knowing details. Use your character as a lens, see what they see, an apply more detail the closer something is to them.
     
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  11. Michael Pless

    Michael Pless Senior Member

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    Like others, I think you're perhaps going deeper than necessary. For me, the world I create is a backdrop, like something on a stage - I explained my perspective here: https://www.writingforums.org/threads/planetary-quirks.152295/#post-1566127 In my novel, the planet is where the characters live and it has to be a little different to Earth, and because they're new to the planet, there are things they must learn and that is what I use to give a sense of place. I don't know how old the planet is nor how it came to exist.

    As I said in the link, the issue is whether the information is relevant to the story. If it isn't then why is it there? I read an interview of Isaac Asimov where he was asked how do positronic brains work. He simply said, "I don't know." How the brains worked was never important to the story, so he didn't take that any further.

    This quite apart from "fleshing-out" the setting or characters - Robert Crais springs to mind when he sets his stories in Los Angeles, and he provides a few historical facts or description. That brings the reader into the story. I think Commandante Lemming is spot on with his advice.
     
  12. Jonslongs Johnson

    Jonslongs Johnson New Member

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    I have also thought about this in the past. There was a pretty fancy fantasy world creator program that goes really in dept, don't remember the name tho. I thought you could simulate tectonic plates and such.

    But like many say, maybe going too full blown autistic is not that necessary in the beginning. Like when I think of maps I think of general areas and cultures, but don't even agree on the scale my map is at. Things like scale, tectonic plates, climate can be iterated on if your interest grows more and more in that world.
     
  13. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    Again, it comes down to how involved is the world in the story. I can't imagine The Hobbit without Middle Earth and Conan without Hyboria (even though its really the Hyborian Age of earth). But, I have read more than a few good fantasy books and I cannot remember the world they take place in. That's the difference between the world being a back drop in a story and the world being a character. In my own series, the world is central to my story so I have to develop it as I would a character.
     
  14. Commandante Lemming

    Commandante Lemming Contributor Contributor

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    Oh, yes - this is definitely important. And it depends how you're choosing to build the story - if you start with world and setting, have at it and then fit a character into the parts of that setting that you geek out on most. I personally can't do that - I start with concept and then immediately move to character - because my main character is going to end up driving how I do my worldbuilding (I have one where that immediately required me to do a pretty detailed cosmology to explain the absurdity of the premise, another drove me into needing to figure out a workaround to quantum physics, so that can totally still get detailed).

    I think the question, especially for people who start with worldbuilding and really enjoy worldbuilding, isn't how much to do - more like when to stop. And wherever the thing is that you really like doing, that's usually where it's most important to set boundaries. My boundary isn't worldbuilding - it's cast expansion - I love creating characters and bouncing them off of each other, and I really have to force myself not to do that when the cast starts getting too big (lots of people have been retconned to "planned sequels" for further development, and I have to focus more on description and worldbuilding). If your "thing" is worldbuilding, then the question probably is how far you have to build out world before it's too much - and if you're building the world for fun that point might not exist - but if you're trying to write a story and want to get to the writing part, then it still might be a good idea to ask yourself either "who is my main character" or "what's my plot" and then use that as a guide for where the detail needs to be and where you can get away with fudging it.
     
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  15. JindleBrey

    JindleBrey New Member

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    Go as in depth as you want to! But you don't need to put all of it into your story
     
  16. Awz

    Awz Member

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    I found that a map helped me a lot. I was stuck at about 5,000 words unsure of where to go. I drew a simple map to help organize my thoughts and put some major story areas in an actual location. As I doodled with the map some of the geological features that came from it created some interesting history and side stories I was able to weave in. I just passed 60,000 words and most of it is thanks to the map. It won't work for everyone. But the help the map did with organizing my thoughts was impressive.
     
  17. birdspoon

    birdspoon Member

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    I would check out r/worldbuilding and r/mapmaking on reddit. They may be able to help you out on the specifics of world creation. I know I found them to be very helpful when I was in a pinch about economics and how the land shapes their movement in the world.

    Good luck!
     
  18. Stormsong07

    Stormsong07 Contributor Contributor

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    This is how I designed my fantasy world. I started with a list of names for locations. Just sat down and came up with two columns.
    On one side, a list of everything I could think of to call a place: haven, port, fort, city, town, mount, home, rest, hall, hold, hearth, fell, bane, landing, cliff, heath, bog, perch, keep, field, bridge, ford. (to get you started). The other column was names: Star, Tree, Traveller, Wander, Dawn, King, Queen, Dragon, Morning, Night, Storm, Briar, Rose, Thorn, Gryphon. Then I combined them. So I have towns like Amberfield, and Gryphon's Rest, and Thorncliff, and Wanderport, and such.
    Then I sat down with a blank sheet of paper and drew a coastline. Or two. Or three. Some islands. Couple continents. Sat back and looked at what I had and made it into 3 countries. MC country, an ally of MC country, and an enemy country. Then I drew some lakes and rivers, making sure all rivers led to the sea. Added some mountains and forest. A swamp, placing it on a river in what I decided would be a low spot where the river was prone to flooding. (Incidentally, its Nauyucit swamp...bc now you see it...now you don't...depending on the river and the rain). Added farmland in the center of my MC country bc I knew I wanted her to come from the country. Then I plopped my cities and towns down. Added roads connecting them in my MC country. Picked capitol cities vs towns and villages.
    And, quite frankly, left a good portion of the neighboring country and the enemy country blank. All I have in my enemy country is the fort on the coast (because it was the site of a major battle in recent history) and their capitol city. No geography or anything else- my story hasn't taken me there, so I haven't messed with it. The neighboring country is fleshed out to just beyond the border, then a few coastal cities (in case any of my characters discuss major ports of trade). Will I flesh it out later? Sure. When my story gets that far. But no point in messing with it now.
    My map has come in very handy as I'm writing- I used it to plot what the nearest town with a magical healer would be when my MC was badly injured. I used it when she went on a cross-country journey so I knew what path and roads she should be on. And I use it any time I need to reference any of my towns in conversation or explanation.
    Is it super accurate with regards to geography and how the land evolved and all that? No. I just used what I knew about the world and created mountains in the north and rivers running to the sea and farmland in the heart of the countryside by the rivers. And a little random swamp with a funny name that maybe I'll incorporate later....or maybe not.
    I guess the point I'm trying to make it don't overthink it! Just doodle yourself some coastlines and then fill it in as you go.
     
  19. Davidheart2017

    Davidheart2017 Member

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    I would recommend to get very basics down and write your story first. The world will expand on it's own as you go.
    Ideas will just keep flowing in as you progress.
     
  20. Xboxlover

    Xboxlover Senior Member

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    Can you develop on someone else's idea? Isn't that a copyright issue? Or do you work for FR? Are you planning on bringing this to their publication? OMG if you are let me know I love FR!
     
  21. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    My world creation: "Let's put the Welsh in Capri!"

    OK, it's expanded since then, but that's approximately where I started.
     
  22. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    I was introduced to the FR through the Baldur's Gate and the Icewind Dale series of games for the pc. I started reading novels, from R.A. Salvator Icewind Dale and Cleric Quintet books to Scott Ciencin's Avatar Series. It was the Time of Troubles that really drew me in. I realized there was a neat story taking place during the whole Bhaalspawn Crisis that tied into the Time of Troubles. I believed that, with the continued popularity of the BG games, the WotC might be interested in such a series.
    But, as much as I enjoyed writing the story, developing the material and writing the first draft of the first two books, I realized that the Time of Troubles didn't fully utilized the fascinating premise of gods being made mortal. As I began to deviate more and more from the source material, I decided I couldn't be faithful to the FR and my own re-imagining of the basic premise. So, I scrapped that project and started on my own series. So, Triskele was born and now I have a new story about gods and a girl named Asylyn.
     
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  23. rktho

    rktho Contributor Contributor

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    I do the reverse, usually. More realistic.
     
  24. halisme

    halisme Contributor Contributor

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    The reader gets the same view either way. Not to mean that there's no way to perfectly model a culture's development, nor is it worth doing a globes geography in that scale for a single novel.
     
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  25. Xboxlover

    Xboxlover Senior Member

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    I loved those games. I still have them XD
     

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