Nikki's Notebook

My journey as a fiction writer and a place for my projects, writing and otherwise.

Fantasy Writing and Worldbuilding

with 2 comments

Origami paper!Now that I’m revising my novel, I have found myself exploring my worldbuilding a little more. Or, really, my lack of worldbuilding. I don’t usually start NaNoWriMo with much prior planning, and I get a lot of my word count by spewing out brainstorming about the characters, the world, its system of magic, and any other background info. This time around, I’m ONLY counting words that are part of the actual narrative text, because that is what I want to make the most progress on. I’m making worldbuilding decisions as I go, but I’ve thought of a lot of things I want to do after I make my 50,000 word goal this month to enrich the world the novel occurs in. Here are some of them:

Draw Maps

My novel has two main settings. The first is the city/kingdom of Areth, set in the mountains with all the buildings built into and onto the rocks and with all kinds of winding bridges, trails, and tunnels. There is also a river running down the middle valley that the city is situated in. The other main setting is on the plains surrounding the mountain, in the camp of a semi-nomadic tribe of people who are related to a marginalized group of people who live in the city. I still haven’t figured out if the city is just a city that’s part of a larger kingdom that the plains are also part of, or if it should be a kingdom by itself and the plains are part of another kingdom, or what. On top of all that, I need to figure out where this country stands in relation to all the other countries in this world, so I should probably make some of those up.

Describe the Kingdom’s Current Political System and Climate

A large part of my story is based on political unrest and oppression of a group of people, so I should probably figure out what the heck is causing it. I’ve got characters who reside in the royal palace complex, but I have no freaking idea who the king and other royal people are, or what their motivations are. They will not be part of the story, but in countries ruled by a King or Queen, those people should probably be pretty important figures in the minds of all the other people living there.

Really figure out how the heck these people use magic

It’s not a fantasy story if they don’t use magic, but for some reason I have lots of trouble coming up with specific little details that show how they use it. I’m such a big picture person, that I’ll develop the vague notion of how things are in my brain, like “they study magic in school, and the king’s army has a special division of guards who are trained in combat magic,” but if I had to actually describe what a battle looked like? Yeah. I get stuck. Do they get physically hurt by, like, fire that the mage conjures, or do they get magically affected somehow and just die after writhing in pain? If they make a shield, is it visible as energy or invisible? Heck if I know. I have been trying to just write what I think of as I go, because brainstorming lists is getting me nowhere. In the process, I’ve switched my general idea of how they do magic like ten times, further complicating what I’ve written before.

Magical creatures–do they exist?

I’ve always loved stories with magical creatures, especially dragons. But my story has none. I have a feeling that, after spending tons of time working on this world, I will want to stay in it for awhile longer by writing other stories that take place in other areas of it. And I like magical creatures, so if I’m going to be living here for awhile, I should probably find out where the magical creatures are.

Take advantage of these great resources:

I’ll be honest, these great articles and websites were all on the first page of my google search, so it seems silly reposting them here, but I will anyway.

Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions by writer Patricia C. Wrede, for authors to ask themselves to help them develop a world.

30 Days of Worldbuilding, a collection of exercises by Stephanie Cottrell Bryant.

The Encyclopedia Mythica, especially the Bestiary. It’s an encyclopedia of world mythologies, and the bestiary describes different mythical creatures.

Like anything, I need to be sure to assess whether I’m doing something needed or just procrastinating on the real goal of writing a story. I definitely think that research and worldbuilding are essential to fantasy writing. Almost none of that work will make it into the novel, but it will be there to support it and make it more real. I’ve already benefited on my character development by writing short stories as back story, so it can’t be much different for worldbuilding.

I’m including a picture of my origami paper, which has nothing to do with worldbuilding. Isn’t it pretty though? And that is an origami butterfly, in the middle there.


Written by nikkinbird

June 13, 2012 at 5:39 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Really enjoyed reading this post. I’m slowly beginning to fall in love with world building. Now that I’m revising too I’m making sure I know how all the magic actually works. It’s great when ideas click into place and answers you didn’t know before are suddenly right there in front of you. Have fun discovering your magic creatures 🙂


    June 13, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    • Thanks! I’m glad you liked it. I still don’t feel as if ideas are clicking into place, but that may partly be because I’m procrastinating on it 🙂 I clicked over to your blog, and I totally agree with you about the stationery. It’s my favorite section to stop in whenever I go to the store 🙂


      June 14, 2012 at 8:08 am

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