The Wailing Writer | a step-by-step guide to fantasy worldbuilding

On a white background is black typewriter font, with light pink shadow, states the wailing writer.

As the title suggests, I am still wailing AND developing the setting of my fantasy novel. Therefore, I am doing the immense task of worldbuilding.

πŸ„ THE WAILING WRITER | sticky starts (how do you begin writing a novel… seriously, HOW?!?)

if you have been following my blog for a while… yes, this is a new and much-improved version of the worldbuilding post I did before. shh.

A pink smudge on white background with black typewriter font stating subject:

how to understand and develop your fantasy world

I tend to use a question and answer method for worldbuilding. I find it less intimidating and like how it allows you to think about multiple specific aspects.

Obviously, it is crucial to remember you do not need to answer all the questions. This activity is NOT for fun, but it is essential to cover the basics and more if relevant to the plot.

For instance… soil quality might not be anything for some plots, but it could be necessary for other stories. If your book is about a gardener trying to grow the best garden in their kingdom, the soil will be relevant. Or it can be for a contextual reason, for example, a conflict that has stirred because of inequalities through food availability and areas which suffer the most may be down to poor soil etc.

The questions are just to get you thinking, and you need only answer the suitable ones.

This is a very long post, so I do apologise, but it is just the nature of the content. I hope it can be helpful to some people.

Pink typewriter font saying worry entry... On black background with a broken heart to the left of title.

There are a lot of resources on “worldbuilding 101″… a lot. When researching what to do, it feels like you have a thousand jobs to do, and then you read something else which adds on another couple of jobs. It is overwhelming (one of my favourite words to describe writing), and you never feel like you are doing enough. 

Plus, the thing about worldbuilding is you could go on for years and still not know every detail. You could develop millions of species, write hundreds of laws and establish thousands of villages. Let us not forget how history is basically endless if you let it be. You need to know when to start and when to stop. Pick what you need to know wisely.

THE CHECKLIST FOR MY METHOD…

i set out each point as a different document/folder to help structure my planning

  1. the visual aspects (use photos in this document)
    • land
    • structures
    • people
  2. understanding your societies & cultures
  3. history
  4. magic

THE VISUAL ASPECTS

step one: DECIDE THE INSPIRATION

White rectangle with dotted outline. In centre it states [start world]

Start off easy. What place and/or period are you using for inspiration? Most writers go off a historic landscape, e.g. Ancient Rome or Ancient Arab.

There we go. Step one is done. *experience a feeling of satisfaction from minimal work*

step two: ESTABLISH THE LAND

Ocean background with plants and rocks on the bottom.

Understanding the physical terrain/features is the foundation for your world, so it is the perfect starter block. This is predominantly a research step since you’re probably shaping your land based on a specific location.

landscape
where is your world based (country, island etc.)? what is the terrain like? what are common sites to see? what are the natural formations (remember to think about how they naturally occur as to why they would be in specific locations rather than just popping up)? (e.g. waterfalls will occur when there is a vertical drop, with bands of less resistant and resistant rock, typically in the upper course of a river) does it suffer from natural disasters? how do natural disasters affect the land and its inhabitants (the development as well)?

what are the most populated areas (cities etc.)? how big are the cities, villages etc.? how do the inhabitants interact with the land (do they nourish or deplete it?)? What are the aesthetics (e.g. New York=taxis)? what common colours are in the environment? 

what scale of land is going to be featured in your story? (e.g. global scale, a country, one city) how many different areas are going to be included? how do the areas differ from each other? (temperature, terrain, resources, social norms)? 

finally, what are the names of places, lands, cities etc.?

worldbuilding book rec NΒ°1: The city of brass by s. a. chakraborty

for a book with rich landscape and culture. This was seriously an atmospheric read.

πŸ’‘ TIP πŸ’‘

When naming places, often it comes from ancient languages. Think about symbolism. How do the names fit the purpose or mood of the book?

logistics
for these questions, it seems easier in my mind to consider how they compare to earth... what size is the land? (mass, density, gravity) what is the atmosphere like? what percentage of land vs water is there? are different countries close together? what is the makeup of the land (think about a map)? is everywhere habitable/lived on? How many suns or moons? what are the star constellations look like? any significant visible ones? when are they visible? 

the weather.... describe the climate? How does it change between day and night? How do the sun(s)/moon(s) affect winds and tides? does your world experience seasons? (think of the axis and orbit of the sun) what are the seasons like, and how long do they last?
flora
what is the natural flora like? what type of trees are there? what is the soil quality like (does it vary in different locations)? what flowers are common? (any legend surrounding them) is there any unnatural or modified flora around? are there any types of plants with magical qualities (whether appearance or side effects on people)? any poisonous plants? what do inhabitants do in barren lands?

step three: FURNISH THE LAND

Ocean background with plants and rocks on the bottom, and building on the right.

Time to add the man-made visual items onto the land. Once again, a research-heavy step but you can begin to add more and more distinct features to your world.

buildings
construction: what materials are they made of? how are the materials transported? who builds them? 

appearance: what does the common house (living space) look like? what are they like inside (what items do they contain?)? how many rooms are inside? how do the poor and rich houses differ? what facilities are found inside? do they incorporate space in their house in relation to religion? how do old and new buildings differ in appearance? 

what buildings would be found in cities/main villages etc.? what do shops/markets look like? are there any eatery places? what do they look like, and how accessible are they? think about temples, palaces, streets, and entertainment places too. what decorations would be found around cities/village centres? any statues, carvings, reliefs, rugs, tiles, gold, plants etc.
transportation
what is the common transportation system (foot, horse, carriage, car, ship)? what do they look like? how are they kept running (i.e. petrol and mechanics for cars)? who is most likely to use transport? how common are transportation devices? does it cost money or anything else? how much? is there public transport? is there emergency transportation?

 what are the roads like? is the landscape accommodating to transportation? how do cities adapt to transport methods (main roads, built canals?)? are they any navigational signs to show the way? are there stops for long journeys? what is the common travel length? what are the common reasons why transport is necessary (transfer goods, personal business, pleasure (travel))? what are the common locations (what cities are the most accessible?)?
systems
how is water received/removed? how is water sanitised? is there electricity? if so, what is the system like? if not, what do they use instead? is there a sewage system? if not, what do they use? how is trash sorted/removed/handled? are the utilities common or only for the rich etc.? do utilities cost anything? does magic influence any of these systems? how do they keep places and systems clean? What items do they use for cleaning? what is the typical hygiene understanding or level? 

how does the agricultural system work? it is mostly individual farms or a large corporation? how many natural resources are there? how are they obtained? how does this affect the wealth of the country?
technology
how are items made (e.g. furniture, vehicles)? is technology readily available? what type of technology? how is it made? how accessible is it? how is the technology maintained? when did the technology come into this world? how did it influence things (i.e. care for land, weaponry, speed of development, social differences)? how does magic affect it? what type of technology does your world prioritise, e.g. entertainment, agriculture, transport, communication? Why and how does this affect your world/economy?

step four: WHO IS ON THE LAND?

Ocean background with plants and rocks on the bottom, and building on the right. A mermaid sits on the left and animals surround the scene.

Now it is time to add some life to your portraits.

animals
what animals exist in your world? do magical/mythological creatures exist? what are the relationships between magic and non-magic creatures? what are the relationships between animals and humans? how is hunting regarded? Any endangered species (anything done to protect them)? are there any common pets? are there any feared animals, predators or legends? what animals are the most or least valued (why?)? what type of habitats do the animals need (where will certain species be found and what time of day)?
πŸ’‘ TIP πŸ’‘

If you’re curating new species, a great place to start is by looking at what skills and abilities you want each one to have, which depends on their habitat. Animals are products of their environment. Think… how intense is the light? how does night differ from the day? what is the temperature? how much water is available (what type of water)? what is the ground? what are the colours of the environment? where is shelter? what are the seasons? is it an open space? what other species live there? what is the hunting hierarchy? what plants are around? etc.

From these factors, you can build believable species. e.g. how do species handle hot environments? what do they eat? where do they sleep? how to protect themselves? Real-life examples can be so helpful. Sloths πŸ¦₯ have long claws for climbing trees. Scale-Foot gastropods (snail) 🐌 basically build themselves an iron armour to survive in hydrothermal vents (they are soo cool). Flamingos 🦩have long legs to stop water from touching their feathers so they can fly away from danger.

people/supernatural beings
do humans exist? (do they have magic (developed in a later section)?) do mythical people exist (i.e. elves, dwarves, gods)? Describe their general abilities. do they exist alongside each other? how do they interact? how would it affect social structure? do inhabitants differ depending on location? what would each of their daily lives look like? consider the genealogies of people and how this affects society.
clothing
how does clothing change for different places (different climates)? what are the typical items of clothing? is underwear available? how do they fit? are they comfortable? what are common clothing colours? how are the different colours achieved? who is responsible for making the clothing? what are the unusual garments that are still worn? what materials are used? how are the materials gathered? does clothing differ between groups (i.e. genders, jobs, wealth, age, religions, social groups (e.g. goths, jocks))? what do clothes cost?

what about accessories (jewellery, hats, headbands or hair accessories, make up)? are any of these daily or ceremonial usage? can you get piercings or tattoos? how would hair be styled? what hairstyles are popular?

what is the armour, if any? what are the common weapons? do weapons differ in different countries? (how would this affect war strategies?) what are they made from? who makes them? are they strong? do they break easily? can you get repairs? how has weaponry changed over time? how does magic affect the weapons?

UNDERSTANDING YOUR SOCIETIES & CULTURES

step five: DEVELOP THE INHABITANTS

Ocean background with plants and rocks on the bottom, and building on the right. A mermaid sits on the left, with thought bubble saying 'I want to be a chef at the best restaurant in town and help the hunger problem' and animals surround the scene.

Develop the different inhabitants. To understand the norms and social structure of your world. This is important to make your inhabitants believable and distinct. Remember to prioritise the questions relevant to your plot.

language
languages: how many different languages exist? are different languages commonly taught? is being bilingual/multilingual common? is there a dominant language/gloabl lingua franca? do any languages share a common origin? are they any extinct languages? do different languages get different responses (i.e. french is seen as romantic)?

speech: how has speech changed over time (translate old documents etc.)? what are the native speakers' abbreviations? what are the common grammar mistakes? what are the common phrases? (β€˜oh my god’, β€˜loser’ (insults), β€˜excited’, β€˜sh*t’, β€˜what?’) what is the sense of humour of the place? what are the popular/common jokes (i.e. knock, knock, a widely mocked person, sarcasm, who is often at the expense of the joke)? are there any taboo subjects that people shouldn't speak about (punishable?)? can the same object have different names by different groups (i.e. the batch debate in the UK... bap, batch, roll, bun.) what gestures do people use? what are their greetings? what are their manners like (how are they shown)? 
πŸ’‘ TIP πŸ’‘

To give your book an individual mode of speech, you can draw off local myths, religion, and media culture to create phrases and invent your own idioms.

views/social differences
what is the most powerful group? what are the feared group/s? what groups are oppressed? are there any conflicts between certain groups? what are the causes of these conflicts? have the differences always existed, and do they still exist? are any groups physically separated from each other? 
differences to consider: magic (magic valued or not), sex (male-dominated etc.), sexuality (LGBTQ+), race, money, religion (more on this later), age (old seen as a drain on society, youth seen as stupid etc.), disabilities/illnesses. how are all these accommodated/treated? 
what matters are different on a social level (i.e. differences in social classes could be lifestyle, interests, views and wealth)? 

views: what is the most important thing to serve in your world (family, god, your clan, royalty)? how is public intimacy regarded? what are the beauty standards of your world? what is seen as beautiful (i.e. eyes)? what body parts are seen as scandalous? what is considered standard intelligence? what stereotypes exist for different groups (age, different cities), e.g. young people are lazy? what is the age when people are considered 'old'? how do the rich display their wealth? what are common insecurities? do certain colours mean differnt things? what are the views on war? what views would be deemed controversial in your world? What is considered the worst crime to commit?

does slavery currently exist? if so, where does it exist? how long has it existed? if slavery doesn’t exist, has it ever existed? if it was abolished, what did it take? (links to history) how long did slavery exist?

worldbuilding book rec NΒ°2: The jasmine throne by tasha suri

…for a book with an in-depth exploration of social politics, especially concerning how women are treated.

education
is education valued or looked down on by society? who goes to school? is it limited to one group of people? is it compulsory? is there a requirement to get access? what do they learn? where are the schools located? how many schools are there? are there boarding schools? do they have holidays? how many children do they accommodate? how long are the pupils in the education system? how are they grouped in classes (age, ability, subject)? how long are the school days? are all the resources provided for students (or up to parents)? is there a uniform? what is the examination process, if any? can they retake? how many stages are there (primary, secondary, university)? what are the benefits of children succeeding? are there various standards of schooling in different places?
economy/jobs
does the world have more small or big corporations/businesses? are certain classes not allowed to own property or businesses? why is that? 

what kind of jobs are there? what are the desired jobs? what jobs are looked down on? what are the high-level jobs, middle-level jobs, and low-level jobs? What are the most undervalued jobs, and who works them? 
how are labourers treated? are there any work unions? if so, what are the general opinions about unions? how do people train for jobs? what is the job application process? Do people get holidays? Is there a military setup? how are people enlisted (necessary by a certain age, optional)?

how are business records kept? what is your tax system? if one doesn't exist, why is that, and what are the impacts?
money
does money exist? what is the currency? does it differ in different countries (have different values?)? what is your money made of? what does money look like? how is it made? how is it kept safe? do banks (or alternatives) exist in your world? how are the banks run? who is in charge of them (gov't, wealthy)? are records kept for individual people? are there records for the amount of money in a city etc.? how do people typically receive it (hand to hand transactions)? how does credit operate in your world? 
if no currency, is there an alternate barter/trade system in place (or both)?
communications
what is the carrier system (i.e. word of mouth, pigeon, phone etc.)? how many different forms? if letters, what are they made of? if ink is used, how is the ink gotten? are there different colours? what do they use to write with? how is the utensil made?

is there a postage system? if so, is it reliable? who pays for it? how quick is it? any emergency methods? 
politics/leadership
what type of government exists? (monarchy, oligarchy, dictatorship, democracy) how are people in power chosen? how much power do individual leaders (kings) have? what is the difference between governing bodies in different countries/areas? are they any large scale alliances between countries? how are these alliances maintained? are political relationships strained or peaceful? what are the local governments like (i.e. city mayors, local MPs etc.)? how do they report to the main governing body?

is the leadership system seen in a positive or negative light? are they actually good or bad (or both)? who benefits from the system the most (and who the least)? is it corrupt (give the details in how and why)? how are members of the political system selected? what are the rulers' names (king, empress, shah)? 

what laws are there? how do the laws vary among different countries/cities? how are the laws made? how are the laws enforced? what is the sentencing system, and how are criminals punished? are criminals likely to be immediately crucified or innocent until proven guilty? how are people in power monitored against crimes? do prisons exist? if so, who runs the prisons? how do they affect each prison? what rights do citizens have? how do rights/citizenship vary among cities/countries/people? any there any censorship laws? 

how are wars fought? what are the different approaches across different countries? If there is a military, what is its hierarchy structure? is the military looked upon favourably?

worldbuilding book rec NΒ°3: jade city by fonda lee

...for a book involving intricate politics from laws, leadership structures, national & international relations, and more.

πŸ„ REASONS TO READ THE GREEN BONE SAGA BY FONDA LEE | flipping through fantasy
time/measurements
how is time measured? (e.g. watch, sundials) what does the calendar year look like, i.e. how many days are in a year? what do they call their months?

what do they use for measuring distances? how do they measure weight?
medicine
what are the common illnesses? how does it affect daily life? who is most likely to be afflicted (and why)? what are the deadly diseases? what do people believe illnesses & diseases mean in your world (e.g. the gods are mad at you, miasma theory)? 

what is the healthcare system like? is it funded? are there doctors (what are they called)? how equipped are they? how is the equipment made? what do they use for bandages/stitches if they have them? how skilled are the doctors? where are the healthcare centres? how are they organised? are they available in most areas (including small villages)? how does treatment vary between the wealthy and poor? how does society handle disabilities and mental illnesses? 

how does magic affect healthcare? can healing be instantaneous? if so, how did this affect healthcare development? is magical healthcare seen as superior to normal healthcare, or is it shunned more? do they believe in medicine or tend to lead towards religious approaches? are people currently experimenting within the medical field? what natural drugs used? is there any form of birth control? how do they handle periods? is pregnancy high risk (i.e. high infant mortality rate, risks for mother)?
family structure
what are the common structures (e.g. nuclear, bean pole, reconstituted, same-sex, single parent)? does marriage (or a similar process) exist? are divorces available as well? how is family diversity treated (e.g. stigma against divorced or unmarried people)? is one type of family more dominant in specific areas/society? (i.e. single least common in poorer areas as two salaries are preferable)? in terms of family planning, does the government prefer more children or less? are adoptions/abortions available? do they provide incentives for these? what are the gender roles in families, if any (i.e. breadwinner)? when are kids expected to move out? Once moved on, are families expected to live near each other/what role do they play in each other's lives? Are people close to their extended family? 
religion
what is the core religion in your world (if there is one)? what are the smaller religions present in your world? For each religion, consider: what are the beliefs in the religion? what are things that are disrespectful to religious beliefs? what are the rituals/practises involved? are there any religious buildings (e.g. temples)? who are the religious people (e.g. priests, soothsayers)? how respected are the religious beliefs in society? how does religion affect the individual (i.e. what values do they promote?)? how many different religions are there? how do they interact? what are the beliefs and rituals of the different religions? how do they treat birth, marriage (or similar event, if any) and death? any ceremonies (what are they like)? what do people believe happens when you die?

how do the different religions react to one another? how common is religion? if religion is not dominant in society, what are the alternatives? philosophies? science and technology? laws? how do religions interact with science and/or the political system? do they work tonight? do they clash in ideals? is one respected more than the other? has religious belief grown or declined over time? are there any cults/sects etc.?
special occasions
what holidays are celebrated in your world? any celebrations that are not common but still celebrated by certain groups? why are they celebrated (religion, historical significance, seasonal)? how are they celebrated? does everyone have days off (if not everyone, who is allowed off)? 

do they celebrate birthdays? how are they celebrated? when do inhabitants "come of age"? is there a ceremony? do they exchange gifts? if so, what would they be?
recreation
what activities do kids do? is there a 'nightlife' as such? if so, what does it entail? (what makes it different from day activities?) what activities are done for pleasure (art, games, gambling, drinking, poetry, sports *great post about sports here* etc.)? how often do people take time for recreational activity? does it involve money? how much? what is the difference between the rich and poor activities? what are the common toys/gifts, if any? 

what role does music play in society? what musical instruments are there, if any (what are they made from)? what do people sing? are there nursery rhymes? are there old songs that everyone knows (maybe a tale about an old warrior/king)? is there any film or theatre? do they have famous people from the arts? 

where are all these activities held (e.g. theatre)? Are there special training areas too? are there competitions and awards for certain activities (e.g. sports)?

worldbuilding book rec NΒ°4: caster by elsie chapman

...for a book set around a well-developed magical fighting competition. You can see how powerful of a role recreational activities can have.

literature
are there books? what are they made from? are books common (can everyone read)? what are they often about (stories, non-fiction, religion, laws, history)? what are the popular ones? do they have 'classics'? do the books deteriorate over time? what language are they written? do other formats exist as well (e.g. screenplays, religious texts)?
food
what do the inhabitants eat? any common foods (the staples of the diet)? what are the classic or universally loved foods/meals? what are the common drinks? how are the drinks made? what are used for dishes, cups and cutlery? how are they made? does everyone use them? 

how many meals in one day? how is each meal different? what times are they eaten? does everyone eat together (servants?)? where does everyone eat (tables, floor)? how advanced are the recipes/cooking skills? how is food transported? what are the different diets (allergies, vegetarian, healthy diets for warriors etc.)? how does diet differ in different places, e.g. ocean cities eat mostly seafood? How does diet differ between the rich and poor?

HISTORY

step six: UNDERSTAND THE HISTORY

Ocean background with plants and rocks on the bottom, and building on the right, wooden sign in front states 'atlantis founded 34ad'. A mermaid sits on the left, with thought bubble saying 'I want to be a chef at the best restaurant in town and help the hunger problem' and animals surround the scene.

Time to develop your past. Have a strong awareness of your world’s history but don’t go over the top either. It will be endless if you let it. It is also good to remember parts of history will come to you when writing. It is okay to not know everything before you start. Nevertheless, it is a vital step as I’m pretty some kind of history will be affecting your plot.

historical knowledge

what are the major eras? Can you split time into chunks (periodisation)? (e.g. BC, stone age etc.) what is considered the rise of civilisation? (vary between locations) when did the key societies form, and how have they changed up to the present day? was this change easy, slow or in-process? (the age of the society will affect this) what are the major cultures throughout the past? 

what are the key historical events that most people would know? what have been the major wars and conflicts? what are the significant events in history? what have been the biggest movements? what are the most prominent disasters in the past (i.e. widespread disease, natural disasters, genocide)? who have been the major leaders of the past? (are any seen as truly evil or true heroes?) what have been the major alliances? what have been the major differences? what have been the most revolutionary moves forward, and how did they happen? what have been the significant regressions and stepbacks? 

what are the recent events in history? emphasise the events that directly impact your characters & plot. e.g. new policies/laws, change in leadership, economic insecurity, mass murder.

commentary on history

are there any patterns in the past? how has history influenced the present day (increased fear, political structures, labour laws)? what are the changes amongst people from past to present (i.e. clothes, buildings, norms, procreation, jokes, language, interests, labour)? are any of these changes visible in present-day (e.g. old vs new Edinburgh)? how did development (and the rate of it) affect everything else? what historical sites exist in the present day, and are they valued (e.g. heritage sites)? 

are there any differences between what people believed happened to what actually happened in the past? (things becoming distorted or misinterpreted all the time. this would be a great way to add nuanced layers if relevant to the plot) how and why did those differences in facts come about?

worldbuilding book rec NΒ°5: the poppy war by r. f. kuang

…for a book with a complex history (inspired from real life) and a masterful military plot.

πŸ’‘ TIP πŸ’‘

The knowledge of history will vary among different people in society… Educated people know historical events and facts. The level of understanding will vary even among them, each only fully knowing specific parts. Most people are only aware of the basics, aka the biggest events. If you want to take it further, give people different recollections of the past and their effect on the present.

MAGIC

step seven: DEVELOP THE MAGIC

Ocean background with plants and rocks on the bottom, and building with green creature coming out of it, on the right, wooden sign in front states 'atlantis founded 34ad'. A mermaid sits on the left, with thought bubble saying 'I want to be a chef at the best restaurant in town and help the hunger problem' and animals surround the scene.

Know your magic. Your magic system will typically be unique to your book, so it’s always a good idea to know the ins and outs. It is more believable and entertaining this way.

logistics

how long has magic existed? how is the magic accessed (any tools needed? wand or is it hand movement, mind, speech)?how was it created (or was it always present)? is it universal (if not, how is it selected (random, genetic)?  when do beings get magic (under specific circumstances, born with it, have to train (how are they taught it?))? how long does it take for people to 'master their magic'? how does age affect magical ability? what is seen as basic/beginner magic?

do people each have specific forms of magical ability (e.g. one has invisibility, someone else has flight)? what magic is seen as the most powerful/dangerous? what magic is more likely to be seen as a joke? how will emotions affect their magic (e.g. control, intensity)? are there differences amongst the magical community in terms of power strength? do the differences depend on genes, personality, random selection, or training? are different people or creatures better at specific types of magic? 

what are the limits of using magic (mental drain, physical exhaustion)? what weakens the magic? how do they recover if they suffer burnout or weakened power etc.? what is the magic unable to do? can people lose their magic? what would happen if magic was performed incorrectly (failure, accident)? are there ways for non-magical folk to access magic? if so, what would be the consequences?

social commentary

does everyone know about it? what are the laws concerning the powers/magic? how is magic treated as a whole by society? do they encourage it or condone it? what are the punishments for misuse, if any? is it or the people feared? are magical people oppressed (or do they oppress unmagical folk)? is magic respected? does society look down on magical or non-magical beings?

how does it influence the development of society? e.g. sped up medical discoveries. How does magical ability affect careers/families? how does magic affect everyday tasks? can magic be stored or transferred to something/somewhere else? 

worldbuilding book rec NΒ°6: sorcerer to the crown by zen cho

for a book with an intricately developed magic system, both in political/social rules and vastness.

πŸ’‘ TIP πŸ’‘

Include vivid contrast to make places/moments stand out to the reader. And, remember, don’t just include large scale detail. The smaller ones are sometimes the most powerful and help build a more in-depth image.

  1. It is going to be character central time!
  2. Specifically developing the villains, gods and main characters
  3. Then the end of planning nears! 🎊🎊
Black typewriter title on white background, saying how i'm currently feeling. A pink happy and sad face at each end of title.
…multiple times. I have felt very SORRY for myself.
A pink smudge on white background with black typewriter font stating quote of the day.
“Not everyone can or needs to know every single detail about the world. Just write your world. I promise you don’t have to be an expert on your medieval garbage system.”
– dontbotherwiththisblogthanks (tumblr user)

What books have you read with great worldbuilding? What made it stand out to you? If you write fantasy, how do you approach worldbuilding? What are your tips? Do you enjoy it?


27 thoughts on “The Wailing Writer | a step-by-step guide to fantasy worldbuilding

  1. This is SO useful, thank you! I like worldbuilding, but I feel like I struggle with making everything feel cohesive at times. One tip I have for worldbuilding is that learning about history and reading classic literature from other cultures helps me SO much. I think it really helps to learn about the different ways societies work and the different worldviews people might have.

    I always struggle a bit with magic systems, I think. I typically just grab stuff from real-world historical magic practices and just call it a day whenever I’m stuck πŸ˜… I probably should get more creative about the way I go about things, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yayyy, I am SO happy it can be useful for you πŸ₯°
      I so agree, it can be fun to come up with these ideas and you can feel the potential in them, but building them into an interwoven web with multiple other aspects, all influencing each other is a ✨STRUGGLE✨!
      that’s a great tip thank you, history and classics are often an insight into what you are trying to transform your world into so reading them allows you to experience the interconnected nature of it all! thank youuu so much for that gem 🀩

      Magic systems are hard, I find through writing them you learn more about them in ways! Getting stuff from real world history is really cool! I mean everything been done before in a way, I think creativity comes from how it is done, not necessarily what it is!!
      Best of luck with all your writing pursuits ❀️

      Liked by 1 person

  2. omg sophie thank you SO MUCH for this post, definitely bookmarking it!!
    I’d done the basics for my wip like land and a bit of history but i hadn’t even thought of the other deep things like medicine and measurements, so this was VERY helpful. tbh, i just used to write down whatever i had in my mind about the world and then sort things out and build more from there but it’s been a while since i’ve gotten back to my fantasy wips. Building a fantasy world also means building it’s history and that takes up a lot of research so i’m kinda hesitant to venture out there haha. the amount of background history behind the poppy war amazed me so much, plus the accurate points in the plot asljbflkl that must have taken a lot of effort!! just worldbuilding in general is also such a big process, it’s hard to know when the things will be useful and if they’ll cause any plot holes.
    this guide is honestly an savior and i loved exploring the questions- i was surprised about how many things i had never even thought of!! thank you sm again, AMAZING post <333

    Liked by 1 person

    1. aw.. janhavi, sorry I am late replying… this comment was sent to my spam for some reason! But thank you soooo much for this comment! I am SO happy this post can be helpful for you 😍πŸ₯°
      I remember writing my first draft of my fantasy novel without worldbuilding πŸ™ˆ and struggling with missing information! So I researched questions and realised how much there is to consider.
      I definitely think writing what comes to your mind and adding on freely is a great way to understand your world, thinking without restraint or worry!
      I agree the worldbuilding, especially the history is intense. It is a whole minefield, and whilst you will constantly add as you write and understand what is relevant to your plot, you need a strong knowledge before. I understand the hesitation, it puts me off and the fear certainly wins on some days. The Poppy War is on a whole other level, the detail is staggering.
      It is a big process, I agree it is a worry looking forward and thinking do you have everything but you will reread your book soo many times and you can catch things then.
      It makes me soooo happy to hear this guide can be helpful, you have no idea how nice to hear ❀️. You’re welcome and thank youuuu for this lovely, amazing comment πŸ’žβœ¨πŸ’ž

      Liked by 1 person

  3. AHHHH SOPHIE I LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS POST SO MUCH!! It’s so informative and I ADORE YOUR FORMATTING!! also I love how you’ve included book recs as well, it’s so helpful!! Saving this for future reference ahh πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

    Liked by 1 person

    1. THANK YOU SOOO MUCH SUHANI ❀️❀️ this makes me so happy to hear πŸ₯Ί yay, glad you liked the formatting too, I know it was a lot of information so tried my best to make it accessible and visually structured! Ahhh… Yayyy!! Thank you so sooo much, loved reading your comment πŸ˜β€οΈπŸ’ž

      Liked by 1 person

  4. SOPHIE!!!! I LOVE THIS POST SO MUCH!!!!! its so detailed and AMAZING and ALL THE EXAMPLES YOU INCLUDED ARE THE MOST HELPFUL AND THE TIPS!!!! THANK YOU SO SO SO MUCH FOR THIS!! as a huge world-building-lover-but-also-does-not-know-how-to-actually-do-aforementioned-building (aka me), THIS IS SO SO HELPFUL AND MAYBE I AM SERIOUSLY CONSIDERING LETTING YOU TAKE OVER THE WORLD EVEN THOUGH THAT’S BEEN MY SECRET AMBITION ALL MY LIFE?? AND DID I MENTION THIS POST IS AMAZING??? Because it is AND THE FORMATTING IS GORGEOUS. now excuse me while i go devour all the rest of your posts i’ve missed (i apologize for that, BUT BLAME SCHOOL OK??)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. THANK YOUUU SOOOO MUCH πŸ’œπŸ’šπŸ’— honestly your comment means the world and I am so happyyyy you liked the post! I wanted it to be helpful so yayyyy, thank you sooo much!!
      I know when I first started worldbuilding, I had no idea, like how do you even begin (and now I am hoping I know a little more) but it is one of my favourite aspects of fantasy books so I knew I wanted to take it seriously!!
      Ahhh… Thank you, you floor me 😭πŸ₯Ίβ€οΈβ€οΈ and thank you for considering letting me take over the world, no one has ever said that to me πŸ˜‚ would it sway you to my side if I said I would give everyone cake (and even more to you) 🀣
      You are too kind and I love it, thank you sooo SO sooo much for all your kind words, it has made my day. I don’t deserve you πŸ₯°πŸ₯° thank youuuu ❀️
      No need to apologise at all, I understand and I hope school has been going okay. Thank you for even coming back to my posts πŸ₯ΊπŸ’—πŸ’—

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ahh Sophie, cannot begin to describe how incredible this post is!! (have been so behind on commenting on your lovely blog πŸ˜­πŸ’–) You brought up so many different parts of worldbuilding that I’ll definitely be bookmarking for later. You also brought up details I feel like I don’t ever see explored too much in fantasy & its definitely got me thinking about different parts of the world in my own wips! πŸ’•πŸ’•

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ahh… thank you very much!! It means sooo much that you liked this post!! πŸ’• (aw.. don’t worry about it. thank you for still reading πŸ₯°).
      I definitely tried to make this post as open as possible, as I have had to narrow down specific bits in my world and it helped me a lot anyway. It means the world to here this post can be useful though! πŸ₯ΊπŸ’•
      There are so many aspects of fantasy that you don’t see explored in popular books and it is what makes working on your own so fun in a way. Yay, and best of luck with your WIPs!
      Again, thank you for reading ! πŸ’•

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t think I actually realised there was so much to think about in terms of worldbuilding 😱 so many questions!! I don’t think I’d know how to even vegin answering them. Although I guess some aspects tend to be more fun to develop than others, especially depending on that person’s interests. I always love learning about magic systems for example so planning one of those out sounds fun. Religion I like because I think learning about different beliefs is fascinating, especially if gods are involved. And I always adore learning about the history of places, there are so many interesting tales cropping up when it’s done well. Planning actual landscape terrifies me though πŸ˜‚πŸ™ˆ
    I don’t think id have thought of flower legends & Constellations but both sound wonderful & I have seen them pop up in books. Developing the animal population would be fun too. Especially if mystical creatures are involved. Special occasions can add a lot to a story too. Its just so daunting when you look at such a long list though 😱 but then as you get into the planning I guess more & more ideas start coming to you.

    I think creating inspirational mood boards is probably pretty fun. I’d love to be better at art too because then I’d be able to sketch out clothing designs & character drawings. Bet that would be fun to do. Although I imagine myΒ  attempts would be awful πŸ™ˆ stick men/women must likely πŸ˜‚ names can be hard I think as well. Coming up with something new yet believable. Especially for places.

    I still need to read all your worldbuilding Recs. City Of Brass, Poppy Wars & Jasmine Throne I NEED to read this year. Ideally Jade War as well but I need to get that series out of the library. All your suggestions are on my tbr though.

    Great post, I really hope planning goes wonderfully for you. And I really hope that I get to learn about your fantasy land one day as with how much planning seems to have gone into it I’m sure it’s incredible.

    Looking forward to your character post. Especially as you’ve promised villians and gods 😍😍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is a lot to consider. Thinking about worldbuilding has certainly made me appreciate fantasy authors more!
      One step at a time. If I try to think of everything there is to do, I would just cry πŸ˜…
      There are definitely fun aspects, and when things click together it can be sooo satisfying.
      Magic can be quite freeing as you can develop your own rules. Whereas architecture seems more research based.
      Religion is fun, because you are playing with a lot of power with the gods.
      History is such a vast area to explore and you can spend years on it, but it can be sooo interesting.
      Landscape can be too technical at times!! πŸ˜‚
      Yeah, the Greeks loved legends through flowers and constellations πŸ˜‚
      Animals and special occasions are some of the happiest parts to develop. History involves a lot more tragedy!
      It can be daunting but like you say, they can all relate and evolve on its own, in a way.

      Mood boards are a good shout, they can bring aesthetics together. Being good at art would make this process so fun, I agree. You could make your own guide to your world, with lots of visual aids. 😍 Haha I would most likely have stick people too, my go-to drawing πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚
      Names are hard!! I tend to try to combine two words (that mean something relevant) and hope for the best! πŸ˜†

      I hope you are able to read and enjoy those worldbuilding recs as I love all these books (esp jade city πŸ₯°)

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting!! ❀️ Aww.. Thank you. I hope I get to the point where it is all complete and furnished as I still have a few finishing touches to do πŸ™ˆ but thank you for all your support πŸ’•

      Yayyy, I think I will be starting with villains 😈

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely. It does make you appreciate their worlds even more.
        Me too!! It would definitely be overwhelming to think of everything at once.
        I can imagine it must be.
        Yeah figuring out exactly what your rules magic wise are must be fun. There’s so much potential involved.
        I can definitely see how you could get lost in it. You get to create lots of fun stories for your world with it too though.
        Thats true, they did!
        Well I’m glad you find them fun to work on πŸ’—

        I bet I’d get majorly sidetracked too though looking for pictures instead of plotting πŸ˜‚ yeah you could do sketches for whatever you wanted & make a really unique world map as well. Yay both our worlds would be populated by stick people πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

        That’s a good idea (:

        I’ll let you know when I read each of them. I definitely want to!!

        Aww I’m sure you’ll get there!! You can always add additional notes as you work on your story anyway. Books go through numerous rounds of edits after all. Plus I think writing tends to bring more ideas to mind anyway at times.

        Ooh yay!! Can’t wait to find out about them!!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Absolutely!!
          Yeah, it would induce many tears I think πŸ˜‚
          It feels great getting to understand your world through it all.
          Thank you πŸ’—

          Haha true, pinterest or Google can be easy to get lost in… Like 1000 pictures later πŸ˜‚
          It’s be so cool but yayyy stick people are groovy too 🀣

          Yay, thank you. ❀️

          Thank you πŸ₯Ί definitely, especially as you will understand what is most relevant to the plot when actually writing it, so you know better where to direct your focus!
          Very true. Aw.. Thank you for all your support again β€οΈπŸ’—β€οΈ

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I can imagine πŸ˜…

            Definitely. Looking for inspiration pictures leads to those ‘where did the last five hours go’ moments πŸ™ˆ
            Stick men in a fantasy world πŸ˜‚

            Yes that’s very true. I guess it’s a constantly developing process really as more comes to you.
            It’s okay, sorry for being so absent recently πŸ’—πŸ’—

            Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m so guilty of just writing and working out the world building as I go. My brain focuses more on the characters and then I find i get a bit stuck at times because I haven’t ironed out the details of the world around them! πŸ™ˆ should definitely take a bit of advice from thisπŸ˜‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have done that in the past too! I definitely got stuck not knowing my world and making up strange, inconsistent details along the way. But it is so tempting to get straight in when the characters and plot are (in my opinion) so much more fun to explore! πŸ˜‚ Aw.. I hope my post has helped in some way and good luck with your writing ❣️

      Like

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