5 World Building Tips (Vol 2, #3): Land Features
Here are today’s world building tips! The theme is land features. You can read more in Chapter 4, “Creating Land Features,” from Creating Places, (The Art of World Building, #2).
Tip #1: “Know Where Volcanic Mountains Aren’t”
When an oceanic and a continental tectonic plate meet, the former descends under the latter and causes volcanoes, but when two continental plates meet, they fold on top of each other, creating the highest mountains on Earth. They also aren’t volcanic. Your interior mountains will be the tallest.
Tip #2: “Olympus Mons on Mars is Huge…And Boring”
With Mount Everest being 29,035 feet, Olympus Monson Mars might sound far more impressive at 69,459, but it’s not. It’s so wide, the size of France, that you wouldn’t even realize you’re standing on one. It won’t cut a majestic figure against the sky. Bigger isn’t always better.
Tip #3: “A Volcano Can Be Anywhere”
Due to random faults that appear in tectonic plate, we get put a volcano anywhere we want.
Tip #4: “Mountains ‘Humanize’ Dragons”
Dragons often appear to be invincible, but if we want to be more realistic, make it harder for them to fly at high altitudes. This happens with real Earth birds, who struggle to get over very tall mountains. Making your dragons struggle, too, gives them a vulnerability and makes them seem more plausible.
Tip #5: “Decide How Old a River Is”
Younger rivers tend toward being fast, rapid, and somewhat straight. By contrast, ancient rivers are slow, wide, and meander in a zig-zig pattern. Using these wisely lets us avoid all rivers being shown as the same.
Summary of Chapter 4—Creating Land Features
A continent will have mountains, volcanoes, lakes, rivers, forests, woodlands, savannahs, jungles, prairies, wetlands, and deserts, but world builders should understand each to place them in believable locations. While some aspects are obvious, minor details can change our decisions and augment our resulting stories. Why say characters have entered a run-of-the-mill forest when we can say it’s a savannah instead, describing how it looks and what life is like for inhabitants and those traversing it? This chapter aids world builders in making a more varied landscape—one that is accurately depicted.