Worldbuilding a fantasy series

This week is all about worldbuilding and it’s going to be epic! I’ve been looking forward to starting this process for ages and the day has finally arrived.

What is worldbuilding?

Well, worldbuilding is, in short, the process of designing a fictional world that feels realistic and multidimensional. Every facet of a world, from its geography and landscape to the customs of its people and the structure of their society, need outlining by the author – and often ahead of any actual writing.

In the same way you would outline and plot a story, with worldbuilding you are creating the foundation your story will stand on and the world your characters will interact within.

Any fictional story – historical, romance, even a modern day crime thriller – they all require some degree of worldbuilding. Most often though, it’s the fantasy and sci-fi genres that bring out a writer’s inner nerd and compel them to build a fantastical universe, the likes of which you’ve never seen before.

I was lucky enough to hear Dave Farland lecture on the use of wonder in fiction a few months ago. He described how, when worldbuilding, you create an “iceberg” of facts and information. Your readers will only ever see the very tip of this iceberg, but, if you don’t have the rest of your facts in order, there’ll be nothing below the surface. Which means, you get to decide how detailed you want to make it, but, in theory, the richer you make your imagined world, the better it will pull your readers into the story and keep them there.

How do I build my world?

There are tons of “How to’s” online that give you an idea of where to start and the key areas you should cover when worldbuilding. After a week of scouring the internet earlier this month, I noticed that many of the articles that describe this process barely scratch the surface. They give you the basic bare bones and a few sample questions to answer, just to get you started, but that’s about it. I couldn’t find a truly “All-inclusive how to”… until I came across this comprehensive list of worldbuilding topics and questions by Patricia C. Wrede and the SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America). The level of detail here is insane – in a good way, a great way even – but, fair warning, you’ll have to be incredibly dedicated to get even halfway through the list and still find the process rewarding!

I’ve always been an “I like it my way” kind of girl, so I’ve settled for compiling my own worldbuilding question list. I’ve used a sizeable amount of the questions from Patricia C. Wrede’s list, along with a fair few of my own, and I’ve organised the whole thing into sections that make the most sense to me. I feel confident that answering these questions will provide all the information I need for my novels – a whole iceberg’s worth!

Am I excited?

You bet I am! This will be the first step I take into the world I plan on setting my novels in – and I get to decide it all! There’s so much to consider and decide and I’m entirely too nerdy about the details not to.

Beyond this, I’m also really excited to use the online world-building platform World Anvil. I was lucky enough to watch a presentation by the owners earlier this year and I’ve seen what it’s capable of. The level of detail and presentation options are off the charts and I’m really looking forward to playing with it! My inner fantasy nerd will be thrilled!

I told you this week was going to be epic!

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