Spending time looking at maps this month, makes me delve into world building and development. How do you build a world from scratch? Thinking of prolific writers like JRR Tolkien (Lord of the Rings), George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones), Terry Pratchett (Discworld), and Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time), to name a few.
Here’s 17 topics to brainstorm as you build your world. Remember, readers never forget. They will go with you on your ride if you build it well. Misstep, and they will know.
- Origin Tales – How did the world come to be?
- Folklore – What is your favorite childhood folktale or fairytale?
- Family Tree – What do you know about your family tree?
- Jobs / Professions – What kind do people have? Do men and women divide work, share it? What kind of training do your characters receive, if any? How are they trained and by whom?
- Gender Roles – What are people’s attitudes about gender roles?
- Clothing / Costumes – How do people dress? What do your characters wear and why? Where does fabric come from? Who makes it?
- Geography – What are the main geographical regions of your land?
- Weather – Does your place have four seasons? If not, what are they?
- Flora & Fauna – What are some of the important or relevant animals and plants where you are?
- Food – How is it planted/harvested/hunted/gathered? What do people eat and when? How is it cooked? Who cooks? What’s poisonous?
- Animals – Are there any special or magical animals in your world?
- Language – Does your world have different languages? How did they evolve?
- Politics / Power – Who is in power and why? How is power transferred to the next generation? What people do or don’t do to get close to powerful people?
- Religion / Spirituality – What are their beliefs and how will they create conflict and why?
- Annual Rituals – What is important to your world and why? How do you celebrate weddings, funerals, birthdays, puberty, other?
- Magic – What are the rules and boundaries around magic?
- Technology – What kind of technology exists? How is it powered? Who creates it? What training do they need?
Catharine Bramkamp says: Build the world completely, then people it.
Draw the maps, block out all the descriptions, create full backgrounds and history of every tribe. Give your elves, fairies and robots full backstories. Now you are ready to plot.
Build the world as you go.
Start with the adventure and make notes about your world as you go. Record enough detail so you remember in chapter one fairies can’t fly when they are covered in dew, so in chapter twelve, that fairy lifted off first thing in the morning. Make notes so you don’t break your own rules.
Featured image via Pixabay.