What are effective ways to build an imaginary world? What are the elements to consider?
Sources of Information: Thankfully, we live in a time where google exists. And thanks to COVID-19, there is even less incentive to visit a library to carry out such research. One other possible source is cross-referencing the worlds of published books. While this will definitely take much more time, I also believe it is where the most significant lessons can be learnt. But for now, I will stick to what I can get from Google to jump-start my personal world-building.
And you know what? Just from reading a couple of blogs, I’ve already gotten ideas of how I can twist my very cliché medieval world into something far more original! Or at least, I hope it is.
First up is a blog by Kristen Kieffer. She was an unknown to me before this, but in this blog, she essentially laid out every critical component of a believable world:
I think it will be useful to examine the links between each world component. For example, if your character lives in a desert-like environment, then the food culture should probably reflect that. When I think of deserts, I also think of cactuses. Perhaps that can be weaved into the storyline to show how deep this imaginary world runs.
After a cursory exploration of other blogs, I realized that the content was rather similar. Basically, it is all about analyzing what makes up OUR world (the earth) and then break it down to various components so that they can be re-imagined.
The only component that I saw in other blogs but was not mentioned in the one above is languages. (Granted, she has another post only that talks about fictional languages.) As a linguist, this one will be of particular interest to me. In another blog, I also learnt that J. R. R. Tolkien started his world-building with a fictional language!
From my studies in linguistics, I know that the structure of a language often reflects the history and culture of a community. It is most definitely a rich source of inspiration and one I fully intend to take advantage of.
All of the above led me to consider developing a template to world-building for me and for others. And then I figured someone else probably already did this. I was right!
I got the template and then discovered reedsy is a hub of sorts for aspiring and published authors. On it, I can engage editors, designers and everything! There are even free courses on self-publication that I can take. All in all, it is rather exciting that I can add one more resource to my authorship toolbox.
And now, here’s a video on world-building that was shared to me! In this video, the author takes a more carefree approach to world-building. However, it is clear that the same aspects are revisited again and again. The part that is new is the notion of consistency. For a world to be believable, there must be some kind of system or series of laws. This definitely gave me something to think about!
And now, I am off to get lunch and work on my revised world. When I have more thoughts on world-building, which will probably come in when I read some fantasy books, I’ll come back here with updates.
Update: Added in How to build a Fictional World by Kate Messner