The characteristics of World Building you need to know to create a fully immersive world that your readers will be immersed in.
I first became enthralled with fantasy novels when I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I may have read other fantasy novels before that one, but the incredibly unique and outrageous world within The Hitchhiker’s Guide had me obsessed.
I’m still obsessed to this day!
Now my favorite novels to read are fantasy novels, I get so involved learning about, not only the characters of the story, but the whole world those characters lived in. When you read a story that takes place on normal earth, without even bending the rules of physics, the only thing you have to be absorbed within is the characters, and the plot. There is nothing wrong with that…but I want the 3D experience.
What does it take to give your reader a 3D experience?
With a story that takes place somewhere in our world, you do research to properly describe the location, the culture, the weather, etc. In a novel with a brand new world you need to be creative, and invent characteristics of a world that normally you could research, and be given the details.
The devil is in the details
Whatever world you create will fall apart if you don’t sit down and hash out all the details of your world. If you leave holes, and do not properly connect things together your reader will be left feeling lost, like they’ve missed reading a few pages. I’ve been learning all the details of this over the last few months, and I’ve compiled a list to guide you in building your very own world.
The Physical World Itself 🌎
The Continents / Space Colonies / Living Quarters is what I’m talking about here.
Does your world have different continents? Do they live underwater? Perhaps you have colonies up in space somewhere – other planets. Consider where your characters will be living, whether it will be a lucious land or a desolate one.
Your characters could exist within different dimensions of the world, or in the fiery, hot core of your world if you wanted. There really is no limit to what your world could look like, but you need to consider this first of all. It’s impossible to develop your characters properly if you don’t know what type of ‘planet’ they exit on.
A lot of people find drawing a physical map of their world to help them in this process. Even if it isn’t artistic – or even good – it helps you see it with your own two eyes, and lay it out on paper.
The History 🏰
Nothing would be what it is, without a past. That’s a very broad statement, but it’s true. Developing a history for your world allows your reader to understand why your world functions as it does, and why the conflict within your story is occurring.
History makes an imaginary world feel full-bodied.
- Consider wars that were fought – who won those wars, and why were they started?
- Are there any elemental tragedies that destroyed all, or part of your world?
- Was there ever an invasion of a foreign species?
- Did your once luscious planet deteriorate, and leave your characters with the remains?
The Laws and Rules ⚖️
There are more than legal laws and rules that must be followed for your world to take shape. It’s important to take into account the physical laws as well, but both are important.
The legalities do not need to be like our own, the rules you create could be strict and tyrannic, or on the flip side – complete anarchy. It’s up to you how would like to develop a legal system, but whatever you choose needs to be included so your characters understand whether they are breaking any rules or not.
Physical laws that you should consider are things such as:
- Does gravity exist as it does for us?
- Do the people of your world age normal, fast, or are they immortal?
- Is a full day 24 hours, is a year 24 months?
- Will your world cycle through 4 seasons, or maybe it only has two – or permanent summer (I wish!)
The People 🤴🏾👸🏻
This is probably the easiest part of world building for most people, the character development is so much fun! I built this guide so that you wouldn’t get too caught up in your character development. Nothing sucks more than flat, boring characters – especially in a fantasy novel – you expect them to be fascinating when they are from another world.
Character development is vital, don’t get me wrong, but even a strong character will not hold a story together if the rest of your world is confusing or falling apart.
You still need to have emotional, interesting, relatable characters, so here are some things to ask yourself when birthing your people.
- Do they physically look like humans such as you, and me?
- Do your citizens have races, nationalities, ethnicities?
- Are the people drawn towards relationships, or do they prefer solitude?
- Is food something that is enjoyed, and eaten frequently or is it viewed as only sustenance? Maybe the people only need to eat once a week.
- Are children created, and born like on Earth? Maybe a developing fetus grows within the large leaves of a special tree, and is born as an adult?
The Plants & Creatures 🐉 🌳
Some of the most interesting parts of a fantasy world involve the newly invented nature, and creatures. Examples include the white walkers in Game of Thrones, the numerous plants and creatures that J.K. Rowling brought to life within the Harry Potter series.
What does Mother Nature look like in your novel?:
- What kind of plants do you imagine growing in your characters garden – if gardens even exist!
- Will the plants you include in your story be typical Earth plants, or will these plants be sentient beings?
- Do the animals fall higher on the food chain than your characters?
- Are the animals regularly feared by your characters, or are they companions?
- Can the animals communicate with your characters?
- Do the plants and creatures play a prominent part in your story, or are they just in the details?
The Food 🍗
I know it seems ridiculous to plan out the food your characters will eat, but like I said before – details are key! The type of food that sits upon their dinner table will also tie in with the plants and animals of your story – which one do they eat?
I LOVE food, it’s a running joke in my family that I need a second breakfast, lunch, and dinner – so it’s a relevant piece of information about my personality.
When building your characters palate consider these items:
- Does your character hunt for their food, or do they buy it at markets?
- Will your characters be cooking their own meals, or do they eat at inns along their journey?
- Is food an abundant source, or something the people struggle to find?
- Does alcohol exist, or is water the only way to quench their thirst?
The Magic 🦄
This part of the whole ordeal is what I enjoy the most, I’ve always been fascinated with magical things. Magical anything. I spent my preteen years wishing I was a witch.
The possibilities are endless in the world of magic
Looking at Game of Thrones, and Harry Potter again you can see the varying types and degrees of magic. In the GoT series, magic is displayed in small ways – it is not a persistent part of each scene, whereas in Harry Potter magic is the very center point, the lifeblood of the story.
Remember the magic must follow a set of rules just as your world follows the physical laws you have outlined – you want the magic to feel like a possibility.
- What percentage of the world will be magic? An odd sprinkling, or behind every corner?
- Will the magic correlate to the 4 elements?
- Is the magic controllable by your characters, or are the animals the wielder of fantastic powers?
- Is magic apparent from the beginning of the story, or does it develop and become a part of the story conflict?
Building a world can be a ton of fun, but it can also be quite the laborious process when you get into the nitty-gritty of it all. To make this a much easier process I have made you a super handy little cheat sheet for Fantasy World Building!
Download my FREE CHEAT SHEET so streamline your Fantasy Outline and avoid holes and confusion in your story.
I’d love to hear how you develop your fantasy worlds, do you use websites? Paper outlines? Mind maps? I wanna know!