If you’ve ever attempted to write a high fantasy story, you may have encountered the dreaded experience of world building. Actually, there are many genres that require world building besides high fantasy, but this sticks out as being one of the largest genres where writers have trouble getting that perfect feeling for their world.


I want you to picture yourself as an anthropologist. Imagine you are coming to the world you are writing about for the first time to study the people and environments. My background in anthropology has made me hyper aware of cultural differences even within my own society that many people don’t even notice. Without getting too deep into anthropological theory, you want to examine the culture of your world and have a pretty distinct notion of how it differs from our own.

For example; we are used to having cars around. They are loud, clunking, metal machines that spew horrible puffs of polluting gasses. We know what to expect with cars, as many of us drive one every day of our life. But what if you’ve never seen a car before? Every little sound you hear would put you on edge. The different smells and jerking motions would have you in such a state of anxiety you’d constantly be asking your otherworldly guide “Uhhh…why is it doing that? Is that normal? Are we going to die?”

Similarly, if you encounter an alien species in a sci fi world that casually clucks its tongue in the back of its throat and cries at nothing, you may really be concerned for the alien’s health. Is it choking? Did I do something to upset it? Why does it sound like a garbage disposal when it’s happy?

To build a convincing world, a writer must take into account all those small details that really bring a world to life.

Now, I’m sorry. I jumped into the little details first. Let’s take a step back to the anthropologist example. What does an anthropologist study when encountering a new culture? If you said art, language, religion, sex, architecture, funeral customs, marriage customs, healing techniques, or culture jokes, you’d only be scraping the surface of all the many different topics an anthropologist could study.

As a writer, you have the opportunity to flesh out all of the aforementioned areas, plus thousands of others! It’s this fact that really gives me a literary hard on.

Take a look at this list for ideas on how to start building your fantasy world:

  • What mythologies and legends do they tell stories about?
  • What is their God system like?
  • How do they engage in combat (if at all)?
  • What are the season like and how do they protect against the elements?
  • What sort of government does your world have?
  • What festivals are celebrated? Are there different festivals for different areas?
  • What is a joke that everyone would understand in that world?
  • What language do they speak? Are there different languages?
  • Do they have their own alphabet?
  • How advanced are your societies?
  • What do the houses look like?
  • Are they sedentary or nomadic?
  • Are they superstitious or practical?
  • How do they communicate with each other besides speaking?
  • What do they give high value to? Low value?
  • What is considered the most atrocious thing to say to someone else in that culture?
  • How do they dress?
  • How does their environment shape their social interactions? (i.e. Do the ladies meet at the water fountain to gossip about their partners?)
  • Is it a matriarch or patriarch?
  • How does currency or legal tender work in this world?
  • What does their money look like?
  • Is there a class system?
  • Does your culture experience death? What do they do with their dead?
  • What is a crude gesture in their culture?
  • Do they have coming of age rituals?
  • Does magic exist? How does it work? What is the magic system like?
  • What regions exist in your world and how do the cultures differ?
  • What laws are in place? What is the consequence for breaking those laws? Does it differ by region?

Thank you for reading. I hope you find these tips helpful in crafting your drafts! Do you have any other advice for world building? Leave your thoughts in a comment!


Talk to you later,

Kat

7 thoughts on “World Building For Beginners

  1. One of the first novels I started to write is high fantasy. I have separated documents on language, culture, religion, tribes, races and I’ve even drawn maps and territories of the land! It can be so fun but exhausting to create an entire world and people. x.x Yet I keep doing it cause my second novel is also high fantasy e.e

    If I happen to not work on that novel for a while, I have to refresh myself on all the culture and tribes and stuff because i’ll be lost trying to write my own damn book xDD
    Its so nice to be able to read and discuss high fantasy with someone though cause I don’t meet many people into it. Like its too much of a chore haha

    it can be honestly but its so rewarding to come up with a world so thoroughly thought out.

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    1. Huzzah! Let’s here it for high fantasy writers! I have sooo many folders and documents full of notes and characters for my fantasy story. I’m very disorganized and I should really work on cleaning up my Documents folder. xD

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hahah omg me tooooo!! I recently straightened things up though so its better haha I need to finish drawing maps and stuff though. its so fun!
        do you have any fantasy posted on your blog? Or a book out? I’d love to read some of yoru stories :3

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      2. I do have a short psychological horror story called Parasite available through amazon. I have linked it under my blog menu item “Published Works”. If you do read it, I would love a review on amazon if you have the time! I just recently started this blog, so I don’t have much of my own writing posted here, although I do intend on sharing soon.

        One really fun thing to do for making maps is to find a picture of rust via google images, change the colors to whatever you want your map to look like, and boom! You have a uniquely formed map with continents and bodies of water.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’ll check it out! 🙂 when I first started I blogged all wrong, so I came back and actually learned how and now I post everyday damn near. It’s fun connecting with people and other writers.

        Omg that’s a great idea, thank you! I’ll have to try that for my next map. Or edit where things are since I’m pretty good at photo editing. Rust! great tip 🙂 Actually, do you have a post on tips for stuff like that?

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      4. Not yet, but anything you want me to write about, I’d be more than happy to put together a post about! Want a “how to” post on how to make a fantasy map?

        Liked by 1 person

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