Getting Started with World Building

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Revision, Jul 17, 2012.

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  1. Getting Started with World Building

    World building can be terrifying and overwhelming, especially when one is starting out. Even simple worlds take a lot of thought, effort, and detailing. The more in depth your world is, no matter if it is true to physics or has its own system of existence, the more difficult knowing just where to start is. My personal method is to think about the world. The first image that comes to mind is where I start, be it the geography of a region, architecture of a temple, or creation of a species. Very often, this is the easiest place to start because it has the clearest image.

    As you create this aspect of your world, take notes on questions you want answered. Here are some questions that will help you start branching out and developing your world. Feel free to come up with your own.

    Why is this thing important?
    What function does it have?
    What directly influences it?
    What does it impact?
    Is it edible?
    Is it some other resource?
    Does it talk?
    Has its importance changed throughout history?

    World building is very intricate, and everything connects with everything else eventually. Try to have most aspects connect with at least two others for a simple world, four to six others for a moderate complexity world, seven to ten others for a complex world, and over ten for intricate worlds. The more connected your world is, the more realistic it will seem. However, try to keep things from seeming forced. Remember to leave some evolutionary dead ends or things that, while they may have an explanation, may still be mysteries to the current inhabitants.

    Keep in mind before you get started that even a moderately detailed world without the history detailed takes a great deal of effort. The current world Iskari and I are building has taken a combined sixty hours of work so far. Depending on how fast you work, yours may take less or more time. While this world is rich and playable, it is also far from complete. Detailing a world completely is an impossible task that would take a lifetime, so don't try. Even doing an intricate world will probably eat a year of your life. This worldbuilder recommends moderate to complex.

    But now that you know where to start and know your world will never be complete, how do you decide what to put the most detail into and what to leave simple? Think about what the world will be used for. If it is political, put the most of your time into politics and religion. If it is going to be for an archeology story, make history and prehistory your focus. Science fiction will require attention to ecology and technology, while courtly intrigue needs detailings for culture and clothing. If it is an adventure story, focus on regions and races. If it is all going to take place in one city, put a great deal of detail into that city but only enough for the rest of the world to carry the story should your characters decide to travel and to lend credibility to the city where the majority of the story is taking place.

    So now you know how to start world building. Remember, you can start with drawings, music, or whatever the first clear thing to pop into your head is. It may be changed in the long run, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a good starting point. So, happy building and stay tuned for more Getting Started workshops.
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