I remember reading Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide and marveling at the worlds, and how things, characters, and ideas moved and interplayed within one another. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter transported me to a whole world of Hogwarts. Tolkien always has that effect on me when I dive back into LOTR.
I had that same feeling when Star Wars came out in 1977, or when we watch the ALIEN franchise (1979-1992), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), or Planet of the Apes (1968).
What if?’ This is the base-level query on which your story’s entire premise should be founded, and upon which you will build the individual elements of your world.
- What if a particular, important historical event had never happened?
- What if our planet and its inhabitants had evolved differently?
- What if a fundamental aspect of life as we know it was to change suddenly?
- What if we invented new technology that could accomplish wonderful/terrible things?
- What if we could visit or communicate with other life forms (or vice versa)?
GALAXIES, SOLAR SYSTEMS and MAPS
StarGen: allows you to create totally fictional solar systems, by supplying the star’s mass, or to create systems for a number of known stars.
One of my favorites has to be ORBIS – The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World . This reconstructs the time cost and financial expense associated with a wide range of different types of travel in antiquity. The model is based on a simplified version of the giant network of cities, roads, rivers and sea lanes that framed movement across the Roman Empire. It broadly reflects conditions around 200 CE but also covers a few sites and roads created in late antiquity.
For inspiration on ideas and how worlds are built check out the Cartographers’ Guild forum, a place where every aspect of cartography can be admired, examined, learned, and discussed.
FILL YOUR WORLD
I assume you’re not going to spend all this time designing something for it to be a whole lot of nothingness.
For a worksheet that spans 52 weeks on topics (one a week for a year), check out Kitty’s Worldbuilding Leviathan.
For 15-minute podcasts on worldbuilding check out Season 14 of Writing Excuses.
WORLD BUILDING WRITER’S BLOCK?
Check out Mind Node for visual brainstorming
Still Stuck? Check out the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) list of Fantasy Worldbuilding questions.
OTHER COOL WORLD BUILDING LINKS TO LOOK AT
Featured image courtesy of Wallpapers