World Building

I’ve had a bunch of world building advice and ideas land in my lap recently and wanted to share the bounty.

First up, World Anvil – it’s a site MADE for creating worlds, and they’ve got a challenge running throughout July to build up lore and background that is a great place to start thinking about what’s in your world and how it affects your characters.

Under normal circumstances, I find World Anvil a bit overwhelming. The challenge prompts help to dial it back a bit. The first ten prompts are:

  1. Write a myth or legend relating to a famous, long-lost item
  2. Describe a valuable historical or ancient artefact in your world
  3. Describe an important religious leader in your world. How has their character changed the status quo?
  4. Write about an apex predator in your world. How does it hunt and survive?
  5. Describe a condition in your world caused by a drug or medicine.
  6. Describe an important celestial body or constellation in your world.
  7. Describe a counter-culture in your world, something outside the mainstream culture of the place.
  8. Write about a rank or title that represents order in your world.
  9. Write about a building that has been reused and repurposed from its original design.
  10. Describe a commonly found document in your world – what’s in it and what’s is it for?

Next, in a stroke of mad good luck, I won a competition a few weeks ago that handed me free eBook copies of all three of Marie Brennan’s New Worlds books. They’re a series of essays on world building, written by an anthropologist and fantasy author.

I’ve started digging into the first volume (Year One) and it is brilliant food for thought. It covers topics such as the difference between various types of mountain ranges and the implications for climate, which leads to the implications for agriculture and, of course, the implications for survival and culture. Or how the natural disasters a given area is prone to plays out in behaviour, architecture and how to spot a newcomer to the area.

One I particularly enjoyed was her view on seasons, possibly because of her link to a collection of seasonal calendars from Australian Aboriginal tribes, including the cycle I lived while growing up. I can tell you right now, the Nyoongar calendar is a darn sight more accurate for Perth than the temperate European one, even when that one’s flipped for the Southern Hemisphere.

Another resource was a YouTube video discussing the difference between hard and soft world building, using Lord of the Rings as the main example of the first, and pretty much anything Studio Ghibli for the second. I probably sit fairly strongly towards the soft world building side of the scale, but am looking at having some fun with those World Anvil prompts, I just need to work out which world(s) to explore.

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