How Do You Worldbuild?


#1

Hey! I’ve been worldbuilding since I was probably twelve, but have hit a bit of a slump last year and haven’t found much inspiration to work on my own worlds. It’s not that I repeatedly give up on the worlds I make, I just don’t know how to refine them into what I want. I barely even know what I want.

So I wanted to ask the forum: How do YOU build YOUR worlds?

What kind of world is it? Do you have any special methods? What are your inspirations? How and where do you research?

Let me know all about it, your methods and the worlds you create. :slight_smile:


#2

Well right now I’m writing a story that takes inspiration from the DC and Marvel comics, as well as the Dragon Ball series. Obviously this is a superhero team kind of story where it’ll focus not just the MC but the characters in the team and the parents of the MC to show the character development of the MC itself. But writing it is pretty much on hold while I research the personality traits such as nihilism to make the characters realistic as possible, using Google to research helps me alot because it’s giving me a pretty good idea of the direction I need to take the story in. Having a very active imagination helps as well but don’t stress over it, just let the moment of inspiration come to you and go with it. That’s how I started the story because I got a idea out of nowhere and started to think deeper into it and I realized the more I thought about it, the more sense it made to write it.


#3

I would say the mainquestions to ask, regardless of what world, character, etc you are building are
Why and How.
Why does city A look like it does? How did it come to be, etc?
Why do people from x have this and that reputation?


#4

I mostly think about situations and characters- the latter more than the former. I think up a character and abilities & traits they might have, then friends and enemies they might have. The friends should help them in various ways and the enemies should oppose some aspect of their character similar to how Batman’s villains oppose him (Batman is Law & Joker is Chaos, Batman is a good rich boy & Penguin is a spoiled rich boy while both have gimmick gadgets, Batman is Detective & Riddler is Mystery Creator, Batman fights the seduction of the night & Catwoman embodies it, etc). There may also be friends and enemies of the friends and enemies involved. Things expand from there as the characters drive the story.

Example- Daniel Jade is an evil alien from a dark dimension who voyages to Earth intending to amass power and take over. He has Machiavelli type intellect, martial arts skills, and the ability to warp shadows to his whims and transform into a giant acid-breathing dragon.

His girlfriend is Cynthia “Crow” Marshall, a Goth college dropout who has the mutant power to make herself invisible. She spies on people for Jade and also helps him run a gang of thugs. The gang includes Berserkah (big blond Brute), Blitz (speedster Brute), a cyborg, a bomb-maker, and a pyromaniac. Jade also enjoys an uneasy alliance with the Kingpin and a few other Marvel and Disney supervillains. Jade has some fellow alien Dragon buddies too (a fire-breather, a Green chlorine-breather, others), whom he calls in when he needs heavy hitters.

Opposing Jade are some superheroes (Spider-Man, Disney’s Gargoyles, Batman if he joins the story somehow, Daredevil, others) and an original character named Nikki Holliday. Nikki is the same type of alien as Jade, but she wants to learn about humanity instead of conquer them. She is not as smart or tough as Jade, but blends in better than he does. She can also bend light and turn herself into a Silver Dragon with Ice Breath.

Nikki is a reluctant Heroine, but willing to fight Jade and can win with help from her allies. In addition to the aforementioned heroes opposing Jade, this includes some Metallic Dragon buddies Nikki can call to aid her on occasion, including a Bronze ex-boyfriend and his Crystal wife, who’s a Gem Mage (Nikki gets along ok with Crystal, but dislikes that she got their mutual boyfriend). She also poses as a reporter on Earth and has human friends who include a glory hound fellow reporter, a down-to-earth hippie photographer, a beleaguered editor, a brash security guard, an uptight detective (Nikki’s Earth Romance), and a billionaire publisher who’s secretly possessed by a psychotic Demon. I’m sure you can see a lot of story possibilities in this world-building. :slight_smile:


#5

Oh, I love wordbuilding. I wouldn’t say I’m particularly good at it, but it’s one of my favorite things about writing for sure.

For me, the most important thing is to have fun and create the world that you’re passionate about. While it’s important to have all your facts thought through and everything established. I think it’s way more fun to create an interesting and creative world first and foremost.

What I do is I will come up with my theme, what I want to create, what I want to see, what I like and so on. Just a huge bullet-points of things I find cool and awesome. And then, I justify those things. For example, maybe I want a metropolis made out of werewolves! I then try to fill in the holes about why are there werewolves, how did they establish their metropolis, etc.

It helps sort out your thoughts, too. Because worldbuilding can be overwhelming sometimes when you just Don’t Know where to start and how much stuff you have to put into it. So have some ‘key points’ (so to speak) helps getting you started and making your world more believable.

I also don’t think you have to HAVE everything all figured out. Most of the times, you wouldn’t be able to implement every lore into your storytelling. (Sometimes you might even risk infodump.) Most people would accept an enjoyable story with interesting setting, and wouldn’t care much for… well, how measurements in your world came to be. (Except for some hardcore lore fans, but really it’s not an obligation.) So I’d say you only required to have the Important Facts down (things you need in your storytelling) and others, I just go with ‘While I may not put it in the story due to the narrative, I can answer these questions people if they ask’ Just know your things, writing down notes help a lot too, but you don’t need to make an encyclopedia out of it or anything.

But that’s just my opinion, I’m sure a lot of people prefer a more serious approach!


#6

To me world building is like playing sudoku. You start with what you know you want to write about. Either the kind of story or the kind of characters or the kind of plots you want.

For me this is usually a interesting concept. Like a culture or a technology. Then I come up with a plot, mostly the start and end. What is the problem and what is the solution. Then I fill in the rest with things that make sense. What happens in the past that makes this an issue. Who is it an issue too and why? Things like that.


#7

Well, this will be a fun question to answer. I’ve had to do a lot of world building for The Lawless Ones, and it’s been loads of fun.

First, all you have to do is decide on a genre (mine was steampunk.) Then you research the hell out of that genre. I find it helps a lot to make a collage of interesting images set around the genre, to use for inspiration later.

Also, when writing a scene, think about all the every day items involved, and then consider how you could replace them to fit your setting. Say, for instance, if the MC is writing a letter. If it’s a modern setting, they’d just use pen and paper. If it’s medieval or fantasy, they’d probably use a quill, ink and parchment. If it’s steampunk, they could use an old, rusty type-writer, and if it’s sci-fi, they could just skip the writing and record a voice message instead.

And it’s also important, when considering major differences between your world and the real world, to think about how those differences affect things. For example, in The Lawless Ones, the country the game is set in doesn’t have a religion. The vast majority of the population are atheist. You might think that wouldn’t change things much, but it’s something I actually had to consider pretty much all the time. Without religion, words like “damn” and “hell” and “god” wouldn’t be used, so I had to come up with alternate ways of saying things. Like, instead of saying “Oh, my God”, a character would say “Science and magic” (since those are the only things they believe in.) And instead of saying, “Go to hell”, they’d say “Go to the grave.” Also, homophobia is pretty much non-existent in this world, since there’s no religion that tells people it’s wrong. Basically, you need to carefully consider everything your characters say and do, and think, “Does that fit in with my world?”

Lastly, I’ll say that I don’t think world building is something you can do all in one go. You start with an idea, and as you write more and more, it just develops from there. :grin:


#8

Anya is right, you don’t need everything. You can also do an episodic approach to build the world further. Imagine my previous post’s idea for Alien Dragons as a TV series.

Pilot- Nikki & Jade journey to Earth. Each starts furthering their agenda. They don’t learn of each other just yet, but they do get into the world somehow. Jade meets Crow and takes over her gang. Nikki meets Liz (the security guard) and becomes her roommate. She also gets a job as a reporter and meets her other human friends.

Episode 2- Nikki transforms into a dragon to save Liz from Jade’s thugs after she challenges their criminal activity. Liz is shocked, but agrees to keep Nikki’s secret. But not before Glory Hound Gary- Liz’s boyfriend- swipes Liz’s cell phone video of the transformation (Uh Oh). Thankfully Hippie Baxter finds and erases the video before Gary can do anything stupid with it. Nikki doesn’t know Baxter knows her secret or that he has gambling problems. Jade meanwhile meets with the Kingpin and gains an alliance. Marc the Detective is investigating Jade after he orchestrates a criminal campaign.

As the season continues, we get various other episodes that establish important developments (character intros, Nikki and Gary get into an argument, Nikki becomes friends with Baxter, Jade continues his evil activity, Nikki fights him and keeps losing, Jade learns about Nikki, etc), days in the limelight for certain characters (Jade’s bomb-maker and other minions, Marc, Liz, Crystal, etc), crossovers (Spider-Man meets Nikki and they fight the Green Goblin, etc), zany fun (everyone visits a casino or the beach, etc), and so forth. This builds to…

The Season 1 Finale. Jade calls in his heavy hitters and attacks the city. Nikki needs to transform to stop him. She’s fought Jade before, but lost every time before someone else saved her and scared Jade off. She still isn’t sure she can beat Jade. Transforming her may also expose her- what happens if Marc, her boss, Gary, etc find out her secret? Baxter may have agreed to keep it by now, or maybe he has told his bookie he might have a way to settle the debts since the bookie’s a social media mogul. There’s also the recurring side plot of Jasyn Wynter, Liz’s mysterious employer who also owns Nikki’s media company and keeps a lot of bodyguards for some unknown reason (he’s possessed by a Demon he can’t always completely control). At the climax, both Nikki and Jasyn transform into Dragon and Demon to defeat Jade and his forces. They then look at each other… will they fight now? Cliffhanger for Season 2!

Each episode’s plot can be addressed as stand alone and explore a different nuance of the world. You can further build your world as the story continues. Each episode has various character and plot arcs. Some may and should span multiple episodes. Develop things, have fun, and hopefully you and your readers enjoy!


#9

Well, even though it’s not known by many, there’s this video series on YouTube by someone called Chris Fox which is all about worldbuilding. I’ll admit, it’s not a very long series but I personally find it to be really neat.

Here’s the playlist, if you’re interested:


#10

My main sort of method for worldbuilding is actually via small stories about characters. I think to myself- “What is life like for a baker in this world? A merchant? A ruler? A priest/ess? A law enforcer? A scholar? etc.” Obviously the kinds of people vary depending on what kind of world I’m creating, but in general my ‘worldbuilding’ is really just starting with the most mundane of characters and trying to figure out what their life is like, then moving out from there- figuring out what kind of flora or fauna they’d encounter (if any) and how they’d function day to day. If that makes sense.

Research and inspiration of course depends on what world I’m building. But that’s just my kinda sorta go-to method of how to understand how a world works.

Obviously there are smaller, more intricate nuances that aren’t fully dependent on the people, but often times these can be filled in by how they’re commonly thought of and reacted to by said citizens.


#11

If you build the world and know how it works, think of a conflict that would happen in the world. Looking at the main types of conflict {man.vs.man, man.vs.nature, man.vs.himself.)brainstorm on conflicts, this makes it easy for a rough draft and an outline later on. Such as man.vs.tech The main character could be in a world where magic is common but not overflowing and they are friends with someone who doesn’t have legs. As the discovery of technology flourishes the friend gains the ability to walk again but the main character’s magic suffers in wake of this{or something…

Basically, if you already have a world built but not flushed out, a conflict gives you a beginning to build off of instead of making a ton of characters that just live their lives peacefully or end up getting cut later.

BTW wips from years past are always an inspiration, for characters especially. I kinda get a headcanon of the character and it’s like an actor that plays multiple roles, they will take up a placeholder in the story. If you ever want inspiration even just for world building look at some old wips,always worked for me.


#12

I’m a simple man. I do a simple research with a simple resource.

tvtropes.org


#13

My favorite genre to work on is historical fiction, so my worlds are usually already built for me. I simply expand upon the basis of past events with my own artistic vision

But if I’ve learnt anything form my experience so far, it’s that history is always mostly impacted by a handful of people and a few key events. Therefore, I think when you are world-building, it’s always important to start with those focal points which will really help players understand how the wold came into the status quo and more importantly, one answer could entail another

For instance, let’s say we have a nation. Should this be an nation rich in history? or a newly formed government?
If it’s new, who created it? How did he do so? A revolution? Appointed by foreign powers as a satellite? Taking advantage of the fall of a previous overlord regime? Why did that regime fall? perhaps an inefficient economic system which eventually collapsed? …and so on
Now our new leader, was he elected? or a dictator? a monarch? or perhaps an alien overlord sent to govern the planet which recently became an interstellar colony?

That said, maybe YOU don’t have to answer some of these questions, maybe the unknown, the mysterious origin of a phenomenon could be a focal point of the story which allows the players to wildly speculate themselves. Sometimes, the ability to ask the right questions is better than the capability to find answers


#14

For guidance on world I suggest look to the master J. R. R Tolkien who looked for inspiration to his stories by researching Nordic folklorist and expanded upon it by giving each civilization an identity. Most if not all fantasy stories simply appropriate what Tolkien created instead of seeking out inspiration from belief, history and folklore just like Tolkien. If you want to improve your world building you should first understand the world around you its history, culture and values then see how you morph and transform this reality into a world of your design.


#15

I build a memory palace dedicated for each specific project. All of the elements I am interested in incorporating to my narratives are translated into visual elements and I interact with them, similar to a simulation. I let those bits mix and match and play out spontaneously, paying no attention to a specific pattern. I sometimes jump straight to specific conflicts or events and watch them play out like a movie. I like the process to be as tangible and organic as possible. I don’t like defined outlines and rigid write-ups.

This process is somewhat technical for me, so I feed this process as best I can by just reading more books and exposing myself to as much interesting media as I can. Often, I subconsciously pick up on specific themes or symbols. If I find it interesting enough, I release it into this “test tube”, mix it up, and see how those bits interact with the other bits in my head.

This is mostly the reason why my writing updates are sporadic, because sometimes the prose naturally comes out of me. Other times, it feels like crushing a dried orange, looking for the juice that isn’t there. This is probably the reason why writing can sometimes be painful, because I’d rather not dish out a narrative that was just glued together in a rush.


#16

I don’t.

Worldbuilding is a distraction from thinking about the story.


#17

Tolkien is a funny example. On the one hand, because LOTR grew out of his personal project to create a new language and mythos, it has depths that few other worldbuilders aspire to. (At least in its Elvish languages and Numenorean human offshoots. The dwarves and orcs get much shorter shrift, and the “swarthy men” of the East are, let us say, not an ideal example of good civilization-building.) And Tolkien had a strong vision of self-consistent “secondary worlds” that was his most important contribution to fantasy.

On the other hand, LOTR also grew out of stories he told his children. Much of the charm and power of the story comes from these two sources running into each other–from the hobbits, early modern rural Englanders, finding themselves dropped into something out of Beowulf/Arthur. It’s what makes LOTR better than the Silmarillion, for all the mythic marvels of the latter. But it also makes the worldbuilding fundamentally wonky.

There are a few prominent sore thumbs–Tom Bombadil, the invention of golf, references to guns and mantelpiece clocks and clarinets. In culture and language, as well as (apparently) technology, the Shire is an island of early-modernity in a medieval landscape. This barely-assimilated clash is key to Tolkien’s story, and to be honest, some of the weaker moments of the backstory are where he tries to assimilate it–where he tries to establish overlaps between the hobbit civilization and the rest of the world, rather than leaving them mutually incongruous. He’s not quite as far from a Narnian-style mash-up (Santa Claus and Greek gods and talking beavers) as he’s sometimes portrayed.


#18

To view Tolkien as a master is possibly an overestmation of his abilities to worldbuild. As the world he created was simply integrating already existing material into his own world. For example dwarfs already existed in Norse folklore but where limited to just spirits and smiths. Tolkien took this folklore and made a civilization out of the myth. Giving dwarves the identity we see today as short, robust smiths with ferocious spirit.

While Tolkien is a farcry from the world building of Narnia. He is a good world building author that new authors can learn from. Simply for expanding existing mythology and adding traits to them to form an epic world.

Wettstein, Martin. “Norse Elements in the work of J.R.R  Tolkien” http://www.academia.edu/228734/Norse_Elements_in_the_work_of_J.R.R._Tolkien. (Access date Feb 3, 2018)


#19

The thing about Tolkien is that he didn’t just create a world for a singular story, he created a WORLD.

Of course, perhaps not EVERY single idea was original but it certainly takes an extraordinary amount of creativity and imagination to achieve the details and breadth of the universe Tolkien created.

My love of languages might be a bit biased but the main selling point of Tolkien’s books for me is his profound understanding of the organic development of a language, particularly present in Elvish


#20

It’s all vectors to me. What do I want to have in my world and where do I want it to go? From there I can extrapolate where it came from within the grid of the world.