Writing is hard.
As a writer, I can say I’ve had amazing ideas and even written them down (when possible, these things never come to you at the right moment), and I have always struggled to continue on with the characters and worlds I created in those moments. This is where world-building becomes clear and exciting. World-building can be extremely detailed, in fact for some authors I can bet they spent more time building their worlds than writing their works. I have here made a short list of what I believe the basic requirements of any world in writing.
Note – Originally, I wrote this Jan 2017, however, I am mostly still struggling with these problems (because life), and have updated this post for you guys.
I am currently so deep in my world-building I am creating maps, a history for each of the races in my world, hierarchy, religions, and languages. It gets a bit overwhelming, especially when they cross over, not allowing you to continue on what you are working on before you complete another, a great example is the pickle I am in right now: I have done the history, chosen the races and written a historical timeline for each, my hierarchy is done, I have chosen the types of religions they might have based on my ideas for what I want their people to be like, but now, without having a language for these races I have no way of naming said religions and deities, which also means I cannot create time/days/months for this world also – meaning I need to crack down and create the languages.
What you need in basic world-building and why
1. At least 200 years history prior to your storyline
Sounds like a lot of effort why do I need this?
Because your characters are going to know this information, don’t make the mistake of thinking I mean you are going to tell your readers those 200 years worth of background story, it might never even reach the pages of your work. But your characters need to know, you as the writer need to know, just in case it comes up in conversation or you come to a historic site, or something, somewhere makes at least one of your characters think of a past event.
This step is also essential in setting up your story, past events can give you reasons and ideas for events that may happen to or around your characters.
2. Basic map of the land or city your story is based within
Let’s face it, readers (myself included) love books with maps! Also, if the map is only in your head, you can easily forget which way is what and where you are going. Even if you can’t draw at all, you can still put some lines and dots on a page to make a basic map.
Every world needs a hierarchy, you don’t need to build a very in-depth one for your world unless it’s important in your storyline, but you still need one there. Is it a fantasy world with a king and queen, an emperor or empress, or is your world modern with a government, political parties, corporations? Whatever it is you need to know, your world needs to have structure if it’s going to be realistic enough for your readers to believe and have immersion.
4. Religions, languages and calendar
If you don’t require such in-depth information for these, I’d suggest very basic ideas here at the least.
You can pick a name for religions, what kind of religion they are, maybe choose a god or goddess for each religion you need. Really unless religion plays a huge role you can get away with basic information here.
Languages are even easier to get around unless you need written examples during your story. Many authors get around this by stating what language the writing or if it’s spoken word it’s just like life – if your character or one of them can understand the language they translate and if not then there is usually a lot of facial and hand action displaying ‘I can’t understand you’ between to the two conversing.
A calendar is a little more needed than the above two. What holiday’s does your world celebrate? How long are the days/weeks/months/years? What is the moon cycle? Of course, you can always use our own, and change names of holidays etc if you don’t want to get into this aspect of the world-building but some kind of calendar is required if you want to set your timeline and events out properly.
There are a lot of websites and books out there that can help you build each of these aspects and tailor them to your world. Here are some I use or have gotten ideas from – remember that if the question doesn’t suit your world, you can always change it slightly to be what you need, (all links will open a new tab):
I also re-post many a pin for writing on This Pinterest Board, which you are welcome to follow as well!
I hope this information has been as useful now as it was when it was last posted, and that many of you re-read and are inspired by what you have read here.
PS. This image is not my own. I got the image off a google search of “world building”, I could not find the original owner, however, if you know who this brilliant image is made by, please inform me, so I can give proper credit.