One of the most frequent questions I’m asked at writers conferences or science fiction/fantasy conventions has to do with how to build a story world, especially in a fantasy setting. It’s a vital task for any fantasy writer because in this genre the world itself is one of the characters. So whether your protagonist is walking the dark back alleys of Chicago, like the wizard Harry Dresden in Jim Butcher’s urban fantasies, or riding a horse through a forest in Tolkien’s world, you have to thoroughly know the environment. You have to envision it in your head, see it, breathe its smells, hear its noise.
World building is fun, challenging, overwhelming, and sometimes a tar pit of no escape. There are so many areas to think about, so many details to cover. Where do you start? What do you do? How do you cope with it all?
I think it’s best to break down the task from monumental to manageable. So I like to separate it into four fundamental building blocks: social/political structure, climate & terrain, everyday life, and values.
In the next few posts, I’ll be dealing with these individually.