Shout-out to any fellow world-builders

stygianelectro

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Hey guys! I've been working on the mythology for my world (Aenoth) lately, and I wanted to hear some of what other people have written/typed. I'd also appreciate any advice you more experienced world-builders might have for me.
 

Karn Maeshalanadae

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I'm not published, but I have two old worlds thought through in my head that I have done short stories on. My advice would be to simply use your brain. Use every resource at your disposal that could aid you. Research is an absolute must, because no reader is ever going to want to go through anything that doesn't make sense. Even Wonderland wasn't entirely out there. It had structure, its own consistency.


Also, it helps if you could travel, actually. This helps more than you might think. Exposure to new cultures gives you an insight to how people behave and how they think and for what reasons. Studying history is also invaluable.


If you have some talent in the visual arts, employ that as well. Making physical maps can help you lay out geography, help you get an idea for what countries go where, what resources are available, and even why each area has the race(s) it does. Also a good idea, or so I have been told, is to try to mirror Earth in some semblance. People look to what they can relate to to enjoy something, and reading is no different. Even in genres particularly different from the real world, such as high fantasy or alien sci fi, there are semblances to the real world. For instance, with David Eddings' books concerning Garion's universe, which are the Belgariad and Mallorean series, as well as Belgarath the Sorceror and Polgara the Sorceress, the races resemble those of Scandinavia, Egypt, Asian cultures, and Roman.


Finally, some backdrop doesn't hurt. You need history to your world. You can't just drop characters in and say la dee da, it's time for adventure. Try writing some myths concerning your world first, whether or not you have any kind of divine powers at all. Leave remnants of extinct civilizations, memories of old conflicts. Don't overdo it on description, but as Rome wasn't built in a day, neither will be a convincing story world.
 

Kylara

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Write it all out. Stick it in a separate area for you to look at and dip into for stuff to stick in what you are writing. Make sure it is in a different place or you will end up splurge writing about your world in the middle of a dramatic argument (yes I did that and I didn't even notice until I read it back that 3 A4 pages suddenly interfered with my argument. The trees were nice though ;) )

A big mistake I know I make (part of my purpleness I suppose) is that I get all poetic and waffle on for ages about scenery or political backdrops or just random world building (I have two pages about a particular wall for example!) in the middle of my novel and shorts. So I try to chop it out and move into my worldbuilding files and write about it there - then I pick and choose relevancies to put into my work. I think having it all written out helps you as a writer because it keeps things consistent, you don't forget things, and the stuff you write set in the area feels more fleshed out because you have this wealth of extra information to draw on, rather than cutting yourself short in the work. (My world files are huge. I can't believe I have written that much, but it helps when I return to a world I haven't been to before to immerse myself just in world and not story)
 

Brian G Turner

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I try and figure out everything I can. Even geology and meteorology.

BUT world building I think as like an ice berg - though the writer may know it, and notes can provide internal consistency, the reader will only see what's immediately relevant to the plot.

Of course, I didn't start that way, and used to think nothing of including a 20k word scene just to describe social conditions, or similar length scenes to describe political histories. All of which are now written out. :)
 

JonH

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I'm curious as to when people world build. If the story is driven by conflict in the world, you'll need to go to enough depth to understand that up front, and to give you options in plot direction.

If the main conflict isn't world driven, might it not be better to leave much of the world building until after the first draft? You can then use it to resolve issues and provide extra colour in the writing, without worrying about world-builder's paralysis. In some cases I think you'll naturally get a better reveal of the world as you will be discovering it along with the characters.
 

stygianelectro

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Thanks all of you.

I have a pair of "journals" that I write down my ideas for the plants, animals, minerals, and other things in. Each description is about a page long, with a colored drawing of the thing at the bottom. I expect I'll soon be starting a third.

I've been on this project for about two years now. I often write single-page descriptions of religious cults, races, events, and other lore when I come up with something. I have a massive hand-drawn map of the world, as well as maps of neighboring planets. It's pretty firmly established.

I'll post several excerpts from the Book of Fire, which is the main Ielian religious text on Aenoth, every so often. (The mainstream religion/spirituality on Aenoth revolves around a "mother goddess" called Ielia.
 

Brian G Turner

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I'm curious as to when people world build.

For me, it's a case of lots of concepts boiling away in the creative cauldron, before even writing. Some will be discarded, and some will change, as the story takes shape.

Then again, it's been nearly 20* years since I first came up with my current WIP, so it's had a long time to simmer. :)

*I haven't been writing in a chunk of that time, perhaps 10 years, but it was always something I planned to come back to. I think I only learned how to actually write properly about 2 months ago!
 

Karn Maeshalanadae

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For me, my imagination always seems to be bigger than my abilities. It's hard to articulate just what kind of places Morcalia, Tooninoot, and Czastaria are...but the main gist is that they are still relatively wild, given to hold of both magic and science-with the exception of Czastaria, which is so tightly controlled by its creator deity that science just won't work well there.


But also, the first two, despite being within the Andromeda galaxy, have very close alliances with Earth. I would dare say that with world building, its history is far more important than its landscape. After all, there are only so many geographical types a planet could ever possibly be-but a history can be as deep and diverse and as interesting as its creator wishes it to be.
 

stygianelectro

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I've created an entirely new cosmology for my books, which is based on the teachings of the Book of Fire. I've also done my best to ensure that the level of technological advancement for each race is relevant to their racial age, intelligence, and immediate environment.

Does anyone have any ideas for a prophetic dream one of my characters is having?
 

JaeDarcy

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The advice in this thread is all good, but my addition is this:

Story comes first.

We love our worlds so much, and spend so much loving time crafting them that sometimes we feel the need to cram all that into the novel and the world takes over as a placebo for plot. So my advice is to spend all the time you need crafting a world, society, history and then leave 99% of it out.

After all, when was the last time you heard a thriller writer go into the phyla of the animal kingdom or the political structures of planet Earth?

=)
 

Nick B

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And you are right, build the world, make it as real as possible, anything that might matter. Then don't use it. It isn't there for the reader, it's there for you. Readers don't need to know that 150 years ago, the spiny thralanx became exticnct. But there may be a line where Sir Pompadiddle the Deathless reminisces about hunting them, then 100 pages later Miss Gentlebottom admires the thralanx rug, and you don't want to go searching through the manuscript to make sure the picky reader doesn't pick you up on an error.

The world is there for you. The story is for the reader.
 

DZara

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Oops. Just realized I resurrected a zombie thread. Damn you, "Similar Threads" box. >.<

Just found this one myself. Zombie thread or not, it was a good one, so thanks for your comments.
 

jessaweeks

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I'm curious as to when people world build. If the story is driven by conflict in the world, you'll need to go to enough depth to understand that up front, and to give you options in plot direction.

If the main conflict isn't world driven, might it not be better to leave much of the world building until after the first draft? You can then use it to resolve issues and provide extra colour in the writing, without worrying about world-builder's paralysis. In some cases I think you'll naturally get a better reveal of the world as you will be discovering it along with the characters.
This is an interesting point. I am new to writing and have been researching world building in anticipation of my first big project. This is the first I've heard this point of view. Certainly worth some thought.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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But as a reader, I often do enjoy some of the history and background that doesn't necessarily impact the story but that contributes to the uniqueness of the world. Considering the popularity of The Lord of the Rings and some other books and series I could name I am not the only reader who feels that way. It depends on the reader and the particular kind of story (epic fantasy typically lends itself to more background detail than urban fantasy for instance) and of course how well the worldbuilding is handled, but one can't say that the worldbuilding doesn't matter to readers because quite often it does.

However, it's true that just because the writer takes the time to work out something in detail—for the sake of continuity, etc.—that doesn't mean that all the details need be included in the storytelling, no matter how tempting it might be for the writer to share them.

As a writer, I do some of the worldbuilding in advance, and some of as needed as I go along. Some questions I deliberately leave unanswered even for myself until such time as I need to know the answers, on the grounds that when I do need to know the answers it will be clear to me what those answers should be, whereas if I answered them prematurely the answers might be more arbitrary and less organic to the world, characters and plot than if I had waited. But making up everything as I go along could lead to inconsistencies and painting myself into corners. The truth is that every writer has to find their own process, and that can be largely a matter of trial and error and giving oneself the time to make mistakes, correct them, and learn from them. With experience, one gains a sort of intuitive feel for how much needs to be worked out in advance and what can easily be left for later.
 

Thiswriterinme

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Ever since I started using Sciverner, I created dozens of word document templates for anything I could need in world building. I have templates for the overall world (different templates for whether it is designated as a planet or a realm), templates for different sized land areas and settlements, for flora, fauna, landmarks, magic, weapons, regions, deities, organizations, character types, races, the list goes on and on (and I find myself adding new ones as needed).

Each template has all the information I need for a particular part of world building. With Sciverner, I can load the templates I need for a particular project, and then create documents off of them to fill out the details. With another feature of Sciverner, I can link details to other templates they relate too for easier access. It has honestly made the world building process monumentally easier. I still find myself tailoring the templates now and then for the specifics of a project, but having the outline is a huge help to start with. It is sort of like keeping journals for each item or topic, just digitally and organized alongside the project.

It might sound intimidating, but I only had to make the templates once, and now they are there every time I need them for a new project, or for similar items in the same project.

As for world building itself, I start with the basics, then let the rest evolve with the story. I update as I go to maintain continuity, but my world building process also varies slightly from project to project.

As a fantasy reader, I can say I also enjoy some descriptive world building in the story, although it doesn't have to be a substitute for plot. It is all about how the information is woven in. In Anne McCaffery's first Dragonriders of Pern book, I believe the first chapter starts with an in depth description of the planet Pern, the socioeconomics of the planet, the dragon riders, and some of the astrology of the solar system. It all happens before any characters are introduced. This method isn't used so much anymore, at least not that I see, but it works for her style and her world. Depending on the kind of fantasy/scifi you write may also dictate when and how you world building. Stories that overlap or take place in our world might require less building (unless it is an alternate history/timeline), because the world is already premade.
 

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