If you’ve followed me for any length of time, then you probably recall that Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks is the book that not only started me reading, but also writing. I fell in love with his world and characters, the deep descriptions, the sword fighting and elves. Oh, hell, I loved it all, let’s be honest. So much so that I’ve plotted three fantasy series and am just looking for the time to write them. And why not? Fantasy literature is a realm of boundless imagination, where authors have the power to create entire worlds from the depths of their creativity. Central to this genre is the art of world building, a process that brings to life the landscapes, cultures, histories, and magic systems that form the backdrop for epic adventures. It’s actually almost as much fun as writing the actual story, and I thought I’d share my journey through the intricate process of world building for a fantasy story, revealing the secrets to crafting immersive and unforgettable realms.
The Seed of Inspiration: Where Worlds Are Born
Every world begins with an idea, a spark of inspiration. It could be a vivid dream, a historical event reimagined, or a unique twist on an existing concept. For me, it was all based on that very first story. I loved reading it, and there aren’t many stories just like it out there. Therefore, I wanted to create more, even if I’m the only one who enjoys it.
Geography and Environment: The Canvas of Fantasy
Did I mention that I loved the settings in Sword of Shannara? I love fantasy stories because it’s almost like going camping, only with magic and swords. I love writing about damp woods, majestic mountains, mystical waters, and small communities that lead to massive adventures. In fantasy writing, the settings almost always become a character in the story. It’s the same with weather. As I’m creating my characters, I also take the time to draw out a map of my world, creating small towns and then stuffing them with ancient types of businesses.
Building Cultures and Societies: Breathes Life into Your World
One of the most captivating aspects of fantasy worlds is the diversity of cultures and societies they contain. Part of the fun, and to me, one of the most difficult and tedious aspects of world building, is coming up with how I want these people in my world to act. Their laws and customs, their money systems and hierarchy. Yet, it’s all necessary to make it all believable, and believable is what writers are going for.
Magic Systems: The Rules of Wonder
Magic often plays a pivotal role in fantasy worlds. In one of the stories I’m working on, magic has been outlawed and the people who possess it, The Travelers, each have a different power. In another series, again magic has been outlawed, but this magic is split into the elements, with practitioners stronger in fire or air, water or earth. Part of my world building is to decide how I want the magic to work, who possesses it, and what happens when the wrong people have power. This is part of the fun for me.
History and Lore: The Tapestry of Time
Every world has a history, and fantasy worlds are no exception. I started writing one series, Iolanthe, and it led me to write a history of, not only how magic came about, but how evil entered the world as well, which also led me to outline nine novels. Each one was to tell the history of something else that I needed to explain in the first book I started dabbling with. Backstory gives depth to characters, but it also brings depth to a writer’s world.
Characters in Their Element: The Intersection of World and Character
This is one of the things I love the most about writing in general, but especially in fantasy writing: creating extraordinary characters, some stoic and others quirky. And part of developing them is to know their race, where they live, what they believe, etc. All this tells us who the character is and how they’ll behave. Elves act differently than dwarves who act differently than baker boys. In the middle of it all are the zany reactions to intense situations that keep readers reading and me writing.
Consistency and Internal Logic: Building Believable Worlds
Maintaining consistency and internal logic is essential for creating immersive fantasy worlds, and that’s probably the hardest part about the whole process. However, keeping it straight is what keeps the reader believing what’s on the page. I keep intensive notes and thick notebooks of every detail, checking and double checking everything I write as I write it. People will get thrown out of the story if I mix magics or describe a room in the wrong way. And fantasy readers love their details.
The Unseen Details: What Lies Beneath the Surface
Fantasy worlds often contain hidden depths, from secret societies to undiscovered realms. These hidden elements in the storytelling add layers of intrigue and wonder for readers. And they’re fun to create and write, so that’s a plus. And that’s the point, isn’t it? Fill the story with hidden gems and tantalizing twists, and the reader keeps turning the page. That’s what I look for when I pick up a book.
In the realm of fantasy storytelling, world building is an art form that allows authors to transcend the boundaries of reality and immerse readers in extraordinary realms. But, as much as readers get to embark on this exciting journey through my words, it also allows me to go on my own creative adventure, crafting worlds that captivate and enchant, one word at a time. As we venture forth into new realms of fantasy, remember that the only limit is the extent of our imagination.
Until next time, happy reading!
Robbie & the FGR Team