A WORLD OF YOUR OWN: SIX Tips for Fantasy World Building

 By Gloria Adams


Creating your own world for your story is one of the most enjoyable activities for a writer. At least, that’s what I’ve found. 


While I usually limit this to my adult short story writing, I am currently having a wonderful time building a fantasy world for my middle grade novel. But even when you’re “making stuff up” you need to make sure your world makes sense.

Here are Six Tips for successful world-building that will make that happen:

1.   Write out everything you can about the world you want to build before you begin. This will provide a great base to which you can refer as you write your book. And even though some things may change as you write, and, let’s face it, that’s when the magic happens, your original plan will still provide a resource to help it change logically and accurately.


2.   Be consistent. This is vitally important. Since your world is fantasy, there is no collective reality from which your readers can draw like there is in realistic fiction. If one of your characters can only discern where they are by their sense of smell, make sure you never have him or her (or it) looking at something. Or, if you create a world where certain flowers only grow in the snow, make sure no one is picking them in the summertime.


3.   Make your setting work for you. Your setting can add to the mood of your book, create obstacles that must be overcome, or be the reason for the premise. Does it take place in a dark, damp cave? A scary forest? Somewhere over the rainbow? Is there an insurmountable mountain? Forbidden rooms? Do your characters live in an undersea world that is being threatened by pollution or a world that is about to explode?


4.   Pay attention to the details. What kind of government does your world have? How do people communicate? What about transportation? Do they use money or barter or neither? What do they eat? Where does their food come from? Are people separated economically, socially, physically or not at all? What’s the weather like? What about ethics or morals? Their mythologies or world view? Make sure all these issues get addressed, or at least the ones that you want to include in your story.


5.   Don’t info-dump. While you need to let your readers understand your world, make sure you don’t explain everything in chapter one. or worse yet, a prologue. Determine what is absolutely necessary to get your story going and what can be woven in throughout the next few chapters.


6.   Make it a destination where your reader wants to go. Who doesn’t want to go to school at Hogwarts, ride a dragon in Pern, or open a door in the back of a closet and step into Narnia? Use your setting to keep the reader in your story. What about it will make the reader want to stay there or come back and visit it in your next book?


What kinds of worlds will YOU imagine?

For a great resource, check out Randy Ellefson’s series, The Art of World Building.

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