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  • Lev Lyonne

Creating a World.

World building is one of my favorite things to do but I'll admit, I don't write with original worlds all that often. I like poking around in real-life history, but creating a world from scratch certainly scratches a creative itch. I have maps from when I was younger and created sprawling worlds, full of different cultures and countries. Perhaps someday I'll do something with it.

Even though it may be a while until a dig into another uniquely crafted world, I would really like to talk about them. There are some things I've noticed or thought about when it comes to world building. Here are my thoughts:

History Will Serve You Well

I mean this in two ways.

Firstly, I write what is called historical fantasy. This means that I take our own world and real history and weave it together with magic. My characters go to real places, such as the Venetian Arsenale, the Palace of Versailles, and St. Patrick's Cathedral. The story takes place mainly in 1903, but does flit through some centuries before as well.

I try to do two things in balance. I want to be historically accurate, but I also have woven magic into the world, so not everything will be accurate. There were not flying ships in the real 1903, but in my version there are. The Hall of Mirrors in Versailles does not contain portal magic in real life, but hey...magic is fun to play with and put into new places.

I try to keep fashions, language, social customs, and cultures as accurate as possible, with perhaps a little embellishing. It is called fantasy for a reason.

So if you are writing historical fantasy, make sure you do accurate research on your history and weave in your fantasy with a grain of salt.

The second thought I had about history is in regards to "from-scratch" worlds. If you have created a brand new world, then it is important to understand what the past of this world looks like. You don't need to go back to the first days of life, but have a basic understanding of how your world came to be. Perhaps who the leaders of old were, how the world has changed, and how this will affect the characters in your stories.

History plays a large part in every world, whether you are writing the highest of fantasy or the grittiest sci-fi or the most creative steampunk.

Make a Map

Even if you are not an artist, drawing up a rudimentary map is both fun and helpful. Usually, when I used to do this, I would sketch out a piece of land. From there, I would create the world. Where were the port cities? Were there mountains slicing the land in half? Was there a giant lake in the middle of the continent?

It helps you give an understanding of the world. Even if you are just writing about a city, having a little map can really stir the imagination.

Like I said before, my story takes place in 1903 in the world we know, but I still needed to understand the lay out of the world and the journey they would go on. So I unfolded a map of Europe and drew my path, making sure to connect with the geography, the seas, and what could possibly become obstacles or plot points.

Think About Language

Language is an important factor when creating a world. If your world is extremely vast, not everyone is going to speak the same dialect or language. Now, you don't have to be like Tolkein and start inventing languages, but understand what your people speak. If you've created an empire with flecks of Mexican culture, then think about the Spanish they speak in Mexico and all of the other languages spoken there.

Authors like Leigh Bardugo do an interesting thing by sprinkling words of other languages onto the page. You can tell the words are based off Dutch or Russian or so on. They are not used excessively, but just enough to give readers a reminder about the world they are drawn into.

However, if you are going to do this, I suggest finding a speaker of that language and asking them to help. They can assist in properly adjusting or understanding how a language should work. Don't trust Google Translate.

Of course, also think about things like occupations, fashion, forms of entertainment, gender roles, etc...the beauty of creating a world is you can make it as unique as you want. Go crazy, but if you are basing it off a culture or history, make sure you do research and remain respectful.

Until next time,