This is a post I did as a guest on my friend Jacob Rundle’s blog. Check it out here if you haven’t seen it before!
As a fantasy author world building is often much more time consuming and complex than the stories themselves. What am I saying? It is always much more time consuming and complex than the stories themselves. Usually it’s more fun too! It simply has to be because this is the world that your labors of love will need to exist in for their entire lives, which in the literary world is for eternity. That doesn’t mean that your newly built world is a static thing. It can grow and evolve much like the world we live in does. In fact it is much better it that is the case. Your characters change over time and so the environment around them should as well. It is something that happens in the natural world.
Valleys form and mountains crumble. Oceans rise and storms will rage. However, the world accepts it all and change becomes the only constant factor. In fantasy writing the changing world fuels the stories that are set within the world. Often we get bogged down by the intricate details of character development that we sometimes miss the bigger picture behind the development. The world will change much like that. A stream flowing from a mountain will eventually turn into a flowing river but it may take hundreds or thousands of years. Was there a settlement living downstream that is now in danger? Did a plucky young adventurer get chosen by the village elder to find a new place to settle before it is too late? These are some simple yet potentially action packed stories centered on the evolving world. That world will mold that adventurer and his village.
How then do we as writers describe the world? Any way we can! I have a love for maps so I use those maps to add to the experience for the reader and myself. I can draw the world out and see where my characters are headed and how they will get there. Where are the mountains and rivers located and then maybe come up with some legend of how the gods shaped them. Maybe there is an old tale about a giant cutting a path that became a river or valley. Who knows? However, the great thing is that there is no wrong answer because it’s part of the world that you are building to match the setting and the atmosphere. For thousands of years out own cultures have been shaped by the tales passed down and for many cultures those tales sync up and share commonalities with other cultures. Telling a story of a world can be exciting and unpredictable. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming.
That’s a chore to combat, believe me. It used to work on my nerves to make sure I had every detail in place and though I still get a bit frustrated making sure that everything is correct, I’ve learned to let go. However, one way I’ve been able to keep myself a bit more focused and ground is in the voice I use to write. I like to utilize my historian training and write as if I’m recording a historical record. I learned that if you want people to read historical research you have to add some flare and a bit of charm. I like to do that in all my writing and when I speak. A 3rd person omniscient narrator is great but if he or she is monotone then it hurts the final product. When you are talking about wars, natural disasters, gods, goddesses and all sorts of magic you want to bring the reader on the each of their seat and dazzle them so much that they see the world and events happening right before their eyes! Having a focused voice in your writing also helps you as a writing understand your own world much better and easier than just jotting ideas on paper. I mean that is the start but your voice should evolve like your world does, maybe along with your world.
That’s the joy of building a world. You get to put the excitement that you feel as you craft it within your mind directly into the readers’ eyes. They can see your vision as you describe it or maybe you’ve left some parts open-minded for their own interpretation. That works too! Maybe it will inspire them to take own a world building idea of their own. In the end the world being built could be any shape or form. What will matter is if we, as writers and readers, can experience something magical and great within a brand new world.
Find more on world building.
See more of Jacob’s blog!