Where do you start when building a new world?

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Minibit, Jan 17, 2014.

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  1. You've got your story, you've got your characters and plot, now you just need a place for it all to happen!

    EXCLUDING FAN-WORLDS (published universes like Narnia or Hogwarts, either tweaked or left as is), where do you start when you need a totally new world?

    I usually start with the geography, mapping out the raw world and it's resources before populating it and adding cultural stuff

    What about you?
  2. I normally go with how the world came to start. I.e. Being based of events from another series or maybe just a planet based off of earth. If not I would go with just making it pop out of existence from some higher being. I already created 5 for mine so.... yeah.

    You could also start with plainly drawing out the world and stuff. Maybe some circles here and there. Then going into detail. Like adding ridges and such. These little bumps on the maps can have their own history and can help with predicting the future as well as the past.

    The resources are a bit harder being that sometimes you may be aiming for one general type of map (like a desert, glacier, etc.). But others may be harder if your making something of a Terran planet. These are generally (but not always) harder because of the vast potential differences in the limate in these areas. But again, this does not apply to all because the land is all up to you.

    Alas the species are the hardest in their own respect. It really depends on if your race is a direct human... thing, a look-alike, or something completely different (an Argonian from Skyrim for example). *I personally think that all of this is hard work for the most part that I've been building one wold for 4 years but have so much but nothing to show for it* The species can contain a wide variety of differences and quirks like blades on the cheek for example, or a specific facial structure with mineral deposits in their shed skin.

    Next I work on the Ecosystem. Exploring the flora and fauna, which in a sense would kinda make me think of a witches mixture in a cauldron. Adding a bit of plants, a dash of animal, a sprinkle of maybe some rain over there, possibly some snow, and then a good amount of imagination to boot. This in turn comesinto a mixture that we taste, and alter if necessary, tweaking everything to make it just right.

    Then would come culture. This I have not begun yet due to working on the rest so I would have to get back on that.
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  3. I start with the gods...

    My best example would be Partheus. When I decided to create the world, I wanted to figure out how I could make it different from everyone else's...and so I created an entire race of gods...from the endless darkness known as the Thestimosa - All and None - came Chaos, the void, which I took from Greek mythology...however, that was about as far as I went with that.

    My next thing were the creations...the continents and their stories and how they differ from each other. However, for me, the priority was the dragons...which now I have so many of that I'm not sure I could ever keep up with them. Everything has its own name...and every name has its own meaning. For example, the queen of the gods is known to the dragons as Inhalla or the Mother of All...while the world is known as Industrin, which is Father of All.

    From there, it grows...now I'm working on the first book of what I hope to be a trilogy - one of three...three books for every continent. I'm not very far, but hey...it's a start. XD
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  4. Strangely enough, I start with a Character most of the time. o____o Then I develop the world around them. Where they grew up, what sort of place have they lived in, where did they travel. What kind of places will they go. It's a backwards sort of way to work. XD

    If I don't have a character, I will almost always start with a culture. I'll start with something like "I want people who ride mooses" and then plot up the sort of culture that would do that, then create the land where they live and the rest will follow.
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  5. Similar to Diana, I either start with the characters or I start with my main plot or problem.

    For example, one world I built -Håper (norwegian for hope)- was made from my idea that one of the main characters would be an artificial super-human who turned against the government. Then I thought… well… why would he turn against the govt.? And I decided that Earth was virtually out of resources, a blackened world covered in soot, pillages cities and warring countries, intent on getting the remaining resources at all costs. He turned against all of humanity, essentially wiping everything out.

    Or thats how the story goes.

    The actual story takes place many years later, and the reader and the other main character slowly discovers that Håper is Earth, and only about 1/4th of the world is green and lush once more. The Borders, the only lands permitted to use technology (which was now a taboo, because that's what brought the fall of the first Earth) was busily regenerating the rest of Håper. It's a strange mix of renaissance-y styles of living with a futuristic twist to it. Maybe I'll post it here one day :)
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  6. I don't really start in any particular area of worldbuilding when I begin, but I start with what is most pertinent to the central idea. In Lux Tenebris, for example, the central idea was the conflict between creatures of light incarnate and of shadow incarnate, so I first developed those creatures. In Dwindling Glory, the central idea was the conflict of Heaven and Hell, so I began building the geography of the two places -- drawing heavily from La Divina Commedia. In Reign of Discord, the central premise was that of the Song and the Swordsingers so that's where I began.

    In a much, much larger world, though, like the one I'm currently building for my friends as part of a custom D&D Campaign named Crucible of Mirrors, I begin with a "hook." A blurb of writing which I can use to draw inspiration from. From there I might take interest in a certain piece of geography or a certain race that was mentioned, like the bone elves in said example. From there I hammer out details, expanding them as I go along, making sure to go back to previous notes in order to preserve continuity.
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  7. I usually start from one of the following:

    1. A situation - sometime I just starting with "Hm that would be an interesting situation. How do I make it work?" Then proceed to create (in my head) the rough political situation that would need that to happen, followed with the next stage the general geography, strategic resources and son on which the political situation would work followed with me making a map. Then I can explore the stories and character in such a build setting.

    2. A map - I draw a physical map, add some borders, think a bit. Work the details. I slowly add the chunks that would make the world feel more real and present. I rarely make characters for such words if I don't start talking with my brother about them and then need to have a character.

    3. A plot/character - Oh man! I have thins beautiful plot/interesting character but no way of incorporating it in a existing setting/alternative Earth. Well let's see if I can think of where it cloud work. And then I create a world so it can fit. Usually this happens for plots rather then character trough plots focused on one character are this.

    As for the processes of making a map by now I have a few principles:
    1. Define and build the physical, magic and other boundaries and laws of the world.
    2. Define and place significant vegetation, settlements and resources.
    3. Define political entities and their borders. Make a brief history for them,
    4. Check if a it passes a basic economy and realistic feel of the world.
    For more details:
    5. 1-3 with more details
    6. Detailed economy.
    7. Detailed history.
    8. Flora & Fauna details.
    9. Add as much details you feel needed to be added. More details = more work but a more defined world.
    10. This all falls in water in some settings. I kept that in mind.
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  8. As for me... here are my guidelines:
    1. What's the root of the world? Meaning what's keeping the world together? God? Goddess? Or other things such as Tree of life or even demons! To define it in a word, Creator. There wouldn't be a world without someone or something that creates it.
    2. Species or Races
      It's odd but I planned the races and species first without outlining the territory first, since I think that it would create more flexibility on every aspect later on. I usually planned the Humanoid race first, whether it's an elf, orc, human or anything. Secondly, I would planned the other living species such as the animal, plants, and monster existed at there.

    3. History
      Now comes the interesting part, I get to decide the storyline of each species and races. Either they are extinct or not, I get to decide. History will effect the future character that I will create so I'll must be careful while writing the history of each species because it will affect their social status, and economic status.

    4. The Map
      Now comes the map, with the description of the species and history added together, I could create at least the guide lines for the location of each species. Scatter island would be better but I prefer all the species living in 1 huge island

    5. Plot of current time of the world
      3 steps away from finishing this world, beside the history, I would add the current “arc” of the world. It gives more detail or definition in the story.

    6. Character
      Create character that fit in to the Plot, I wouldn't be so detail but briefly on the bio of each character unless I want to put them into the main plot but for minor appearence no way.

    7. Finishing
      Other details such as social value withing each community (not simple at all), nation expertise, armor, or any other simple detail will be added as a finishing touch.
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  9. I'm loving everyone's comments; I need to try some of these methods; maybe I can put a new spin on an old idea by switching up the method!
  10. Personally I start my world-building stemming from my characters. "What are they used to seeing? What is the landscape they see? What do their beliefs and learned history say?" Questions of that nature is what I ask first; So to sum it I guess you could say I start with geography and society first. My current world I have created is called Cerus; it's a collaborative effort that has about four-five continents; many islands, and about 9 named countries and many others are "tribal/barbaric" lands. Basically; those of no governmental law.

    I started with three continents actually, and my friend started with one; two which converged over time. My three: Lysteria, Sashin, and a "barbaric" land over the mountains south of Sashin; are all vastly different. Lysteria is more like the enlightenment era, but with quite a large sprinkling of magic. In fact; they migrated from a country on a continent near my friend's continent. Sashin is more along the lines of steampunk; as they travel through the air to deal less with wars on sea. (Since those are semi-frequent especially with the new rule overseas!)

    I kind of work in the style I explained atop; I start off with geography and appearance creating a rough map of the world as I go based off of my characters'. I then work on society, the government; mythology and religions; some laws (are they opposing my characters, or with them? or just some of them?); common jobs, what kind of food is available and where the most food is. (Typically near the capitol!) It branches off into everything, really. Some people will mention this: "Oh! Yea, I overlooked that." Sharing my ideas help me to grow it. Cerus has changed more times than I can count. It's an ever-evolving history.
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  11. I usually start with politics which is quite funny because I hate talking about politics in reality. I think that the laws and regulations, social classes, and general economy should be mapped out before anything else is established. But that's just me of course. A lot of the time my worlds are based on this world, being that the top dogs are the enemy and that they abuse their power. So when i start world building I develop them first and work everything out from there. I then begin creating the characters and the geography.
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  12. I love worldbuilding. It's got to be one of my favourite parts of storytelling. When worldbuilding, I try and figure out where the differences are. What about different countries make them separate, rather than the same. These cultural/political borders are more important to me than the physical borders. Though, in fact, sometimes you discover physical borders while exploring these other ones. But, nevertheless, there is an inherent power to understanding what makes us different from each other. From it, we can shape what defines us as individuals, but more than that, it will also allow you to figure out where likely conflicts arise. This is an invaluable resource when developing plot and conflict further on in the story.

    In my most recent story, Fractured Bloodlines [an upcoming graphic novel], I made the defining difference between these three cultures be magic. Magic, such a unifying force, being the very thing that divides people. In one country it's viewed as something very physical, power, and inherently necessary to keeping balance in the world. It's looked at with reverence. In another country it's viewed as being nothing more than a science. And from their scientific study of this force, they have created things no one else has ever even dreamed of. Then to another it is seen as being something extremely spiritual. A personal crime to use it, except for religious context. From those concepts, I thing extrapolated and began crafting their cultures.

    I created their legends, based off what I understood to be their values. Those legends soon became the foundations of a religion, or political power. Or both. At this point I begin to see conflicts, on a larger scale than previously in this world's history, when communities were smaller. From these conflicts, changes occur and radical new ideas are developed within the adjacent possible of their spiritual beliefs. Here, we begin to see the changes that will make these separate kingdoms go in drastically different directions.

    In the case of this story, I had a rough concept of what I wanted for the story concept before I began worldbuilding. I had an idea of two separate characters entering the capitol of this Empire, at the dawn on an industrial revolution. They don't know each other, but they are coming to the city for similar reasons. These similar reasons, however, take them to two separate sides of this great city. One half of the city, a refugee camp that has turned in a sprawling shanty-city. The other half of the city, a bustling center of knowledge and innovation. And how these two sides of the city view the other, how conflicts can arise from cultural difference, and how the right conditions can make a city go up in flames. And all of this I wanted in volume one, of a six volume set.

    So, the conditions had to be perfect. And for that to happen, their histories had to make sense. I knew where I wanted the story of this world's history to end up, but it needed to feel natural. That's worldbuilding to me. Making a world who's history, it's creation, it's entire belief system, has created the conditions for the start and end of your story. It's never to me something I do in hindsight of creating my plot and novel. It happens while I'm creating that, and it lays the foundations of that idea. After creating the world, I saw my original concept in a new light, which allowed me to take it in directions I never would have before. Sorry, sorry, rambling. I really love worldbuilding lol And the world only continues to grow as you write it and discover the foundations for a whole new era of history in this world. My graphic novel shows this world at one period of time. But I've developed a world with as many stories set in the past, in the future, and long after they've left that planet behind. It will always grow, change, and evolve into startling new directions, though. Every action your character takes, shaping the foundation of that world's future.

    Which takes me to the final part of worldbuilding. The character. You, like me, may have already had a character in mind. A purpose for them, at least. There's a character from this place, coming here to do that, and in the end he does this. That's the basics of what I have for the initial thought of all my stories. I know who my character is [kind of], what he's trying to do, and where I want him by the end of it all. Him succeeding, failing, being the chosen one, being nothing, whatever. I have what I think he can be in mind. That will change. You can't really know a character, until you know where he's coming from. His past, his history, and home. The culture that developed him and why he has the values he has today. To do this, you need your world. So you begin to worldbuild, creating everything with an understanding of where you want to be. But along the way, concepts come to you. Interesting ways to make the culture unique come across your mind and when you get the world to the point it needs to be, you see that it's not quite what you originally had in mind, but it still works. Now, your character has something to build off of. I like to make characters either representations of a culture, or in contrast to it. Or by being the representation of a culture, they come in contrast to the people living in it. These things, when being developed, will help you create the base materials for every conflict your character will face along the way. Because conflict should come from the character. It shouldn't be this strange, external force always on his back. The inciting incident should be the only occasion where anything happens just 'to' your character. After that, he should be making the decisions that push your story ever on, towards greater risks and conflicts.
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  13. I usually start with visually how it looks in one area, I add geography and culture and population and so on, then I slowly go from there, adding little bits at a time until eventually I have an entire world~ ^-^
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  14. Depends on how hardcore I wanna be about it. For something completely new, I go back to basics; building a world before even touching characters or plot. This means air and water current level for shaping the geography and going through full-blown evolution processes. Then I flesh them out, studying civilisation by location; as appearance, culture and lifestyle are heavily affected by location and available resources. This requires a lot of time and research, but ultimately creates the most complete worlds. Honestly speaking, I have never, ever done this for RP's.

    For RP's, generally, it's mixing and mashing from different sources. First the general idea of the world, then a number of conflicts in it, and then branch out as needed. It can start from pretty much anything, like an image of an hourglass or the word gargoyle (an RP in which nobody ended up playing gargoyles). Worldbuilding for RP's is open-ended though. I leave a lot of stuff open so it can be filled in as we go. This is partly because I don't want to info-dump players too much and try to make as many reference points as possible. An RP-world needs to be flexible, too, so I end up never setting things in stone before they actually become relevant.
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  15. I start with an idea, I get inspired by a lot of things I find cool or really like, and then they start making me think. I have so many ideas that I hate choosing, but I know that when I pick something, it's going to be worth it. Someone once gave me some great advice for writing: Question Everything. Question why your character has these motives, why this plot is happening, how did everything come to this point, etc and etc. When I start questioning things, I start thinking of answers, I start thinking of the world, it's people and the tree grows from there. Even though I do this, I don't start with all the knowledge when I make a world.

    Now enough about me rambling, let's go over how my mind works. Once I have the idea, I generally have to pick what themes fit most. Once I start building upon the idea, one of the first things I do is set up rules for this world. Say it's a Fantasy theme. (I chose fantasy because it's easiest to work with.) Now while making this, I have to keep asking myself what's going to work, how it works and why. Like, magic can do so much in a world, and in a fantasy theme, it's generally one of the more used elements. For example, I want the magic for this world to be rare and unique, and how it works is that people must find scrolls containing knowledge of how to use certain types of magic left in the world. The limitations of these types will challenge the players to find their own way to use it, rather than just do what the others before them did.

    I don't want to go too long here, so I'll summarize the rest of this as best I can. From here, I can get into how advanced the world is, if the advancements come from magic, technology or both, or if it has changed between the two. I set up the main continent, it's main cities or towns or whatever they're called in the world, and a general guideline for how I want the world's history to be. Here on, I mainly rely on the RP growing for the world to be created, so yeah, I think I've said enough about how I start making a world. I apologize if this is a long read for some, I tend to get really into detail about some things.
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  16. I don't usually create my own world. I usually just create/morph the mythology and places of earth to fit my needs. I'v even created a Brazilian Sub-species of werewolf (saying "Sub-Species" Is more of an understatement and an insult, but it's all I could think of). I'm currently working on starting an RP for spiritual based creatures ((Buddhist mythology creatures like the Inari, Kitsune, and Ookami) whose mythology I have altered to make it seem like they were more real and more dominant in the world and such. Everything starts with a Character Sheet :p
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  17. Much like many works, with a theme I want to use, but even a single word may give problems in developing things. Sometimes things you write in documents doesn't work as well when you put it in an actual story, but there's something I learned actually helps a lot when you write the story itself:

    With the known.

    As others have mentioned, I prefer creating a story for the character and develop the world he knows while on the way: How things work, what forged the current situation, all things that are part of the first act of a story. As I go through things, I inspire myself by a lot of things (history, mythology, or even the works which I like and feel I could feasibly use something from it), and thus forge a world I hope makes sense for the characters that live in it, which can include the whole of society. This is to mark the starting spot of what settles the story.

    Then, as the character goes through his adventures, I develop the unknown.

    Beyond Hadrian's wall, the Moorish deserts, the Greek ecumene, the dividing oceans. These are things that the characters know little about, and thus create a sense of awe, fear, and triumph. Only then, as the character goes through the challenges, I allow both the character and the reader know the truths of this new world and how it runs. How the Saracens had the most enlightened cities during the middle ages, the empires the first european explorers find, etc.

    Really, I think I inspire myself by history, but often worldbuild from the point of view of the characters that live in these worlds, much like conquerors found new lands and learned from them-- to subdue them.
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  18. I start with people. Sometimes, it's a whole culture, but sometimes it's just one character, and I then look over their daily routine and such.

    Well, I say that. Mostly I just make them do the most ridiculous stuff I can think of.

    But then you have to justify everything. Before you know it, you get into stuff like the ecosystem and ancient civilisations before you've mapped the first three hours of the daily particular.
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  19. For some reason, I've always started out with the species. I love paranormal/supernatural and fantasy media, so most of my ideas are based around those genres, and with everything ranging from psychics, vampires, and witches within paranormal/supernatural, to elves, dwarves, and shapeshifters within fantasy, I always find species to be my first route. I usually do geography afterwards, then move onto other things like culture and technology, etc.
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  20. I actually do the same thing myself. Starting from the land makes it easier to develop characters for me, as well as having a general sense of what I would be looking for in the thread or story.
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