Randy Ellefson

Fantasy author Randy Ellefson is the author of THE ART OF WORLD BUILDING, a guide for authors, gamers, and hobbyists. Learn more at http://www.randyellefson.com

Apr 012017

5 World Building Tips (Vol 1, #1): Analogues

This is the first in a series of world building tips! Today’s theme is analogues. This will get you started, but you can read more about this in Chapter 1, “Why Build a World?”, from Creating Life, (The Art of World Building, #1).

Tip #1: “Use Analogues”

An analogue is a world building element that has a corresponding version on Earth. Maybe we create a country modeled on Japan, using cultural and physical elements so that we don’t have to invent all of it from scratch. This shortcut helps us create realistic items for our world but has a caveat of being less interesting and original. Use wisely and you can save time and effort.

Creating Life (Vol. 1)Tip #2: “The Rule of Three”

It’s more of a guideline than a rule, but when using an analogue, it’s a good idea to make at least three major changes to it so our audience doesn’t immediately recognize it. A large, four-legged, pack animal with big tusks, floppy ears, and a trunk is obviously an elephant. What would you change to make it seem new?

Tip #3: “Don’t Use Names Poorly”

Avoid using a familiar name for something that’s very different. If you call something an elf, people expect pointed ears and a preference for forests. Failure to follow certain expectations will make them assume you don’t know what you’re doing. Use a new name if you’ve changed anything fundamental.

Tip #4: “Mix and Match Analogues”

We can combine elements from different analogues to help obscure where we got the idea. Take staple foods from one land (like rice and fish from Japan), culture from another (like Nazi Germany), and the typical appearance (including clothing) of people from a third (an African tribe). Look at the Earth like a buffet from which you can create a unique meal.

Tip #5: “Make It Worth It”

Audiences have short memories, so we should keep an analogue easy to describe and remember. This is aided by making the changes significant. Adding two extra legs to a horse may not be worth it, especially if all of the horses are that way. It’s not like the six-legged kind are faster than the four-legged ones that don’t exist in your world. Make the alterations relevant or leave it like the original.

Summary of Chapter 1—Why Build a World?

While world building is expected in many genres of fantasy and SF, we must decide how many worlds to build. This will depend on our career plans and goals. Learn the advantages and disadvantages of building one world per story vs. one world for many stories, and when to take each approach. Sometimes doing both is best, allowing for greater depth in one world but the option to step away to keep things fresh. Using analogues can help us create believable societies quickly but has pitfalls that can be avoided. Do you have the ability to create many interesting worlds, and will they have enough depth to make the effort worth it?

Buy Now!
Jan 282017

Creating Life (The Art of World Building, #1) has been written and is now being edited by JJ Henke, who’s worked with me for years on various projects. I should have it back in about two weeks. Then it will take another couple of weeks to go through all the suggested changes and format it for release.

In theory I could publish it in about a month, but to do things right, I need more time. I’m hoping to get some endorsements to help with promotion. I also must line up more of what I intend with ads, blog tours, and the like.

In the meantime, I’m hard at work on Creating Places (Volume 2) and making great progress.

Nov 202016

I’ve been finishing up Creating Life and would have been done by now, but I got caught up in volume 2, Creating Places. I couldn’t help myself. Sometimes I wake up with a good idea for how to go about writing a chapter and get carried away.

Volume 1 should be on sale by the spring of 2017. Free templates will be emailed to everyone who’s joined the mailing list.

Sep 292016

To get an idea of the skills you’ll pick up from Creating Life (Vol 1), head over to Llurien.com and check out the humanoid species.

Randy Ellefson, the author of The Art of World Building, has been building the fantasy world of Llurien for almost three decades. At its heart are seven original species, most of them with at least one race. He’s just uploaded the tip of the iceberg about each of them to Llurien.com.

Some examples:

  • Jhaikan – synonymous with evil and brutal violence. They are used in stories to frighten children and adults. Created by the gods of wrath, cruelty, cunning, and domination
    • Rhaikan – the gods of fairness, joy, peace, and truth created the benevolent rhaikan to neutralize the threat jhaikan pose to all civilization
  • Kais – 3-4 ft tall with feathery wings, the species dominates the skies
    • Daekais – the gods of deception, greed, jealousy, and fear created this flying menace with poisonous teeth, claws, and minds
    • Morkais – a benevolent race acting as interpreters, messengers, and saviors to anyone they see in trouble
  • Karelia – the gods of truth, vitality, courage, and intuition created this species, whose supernatural skills protect people from spirits and undead
    • Sorelia – a corrupted race of karelia, this nefarious race uses their supernatural talents for evil
  • Kryll – the gods of curiosity, aspiration, fairness, and peace created these scholars, peacekeepers, and acrobatic weapons masters
  • Mandeans – the gods of innocence, passion, expression, and unity created this amphibious species, who dominate the seas
    • Kadeans – the gods of hate, domination, and cunning corrupted them into becoming a terror of the waves, attacking all who sail upon them
    • Nideans – a bioluminescent, subterranean race smaller in stature and rarely seen except by those seeking what only nideans possess
  • Querra – the gods of inspiration, empathy, rejuvenation, and patience created this playful, charming species, wise beyond their years
    • Niquerra – cursed by the god of greed, this nefarious race tunnels deep for gems, precious minerals, and secrets of the earth to exploit
  • Riven – the gods of hate, haste, cynicism, and sloth created this torn species, hell bent on killing everything while dying from disease themselves, torn apart from within
    • Dariven – abandoned riven babies are sometimes found and raised in civilized society by other species, with a lifelong need to overcome their base desires



Jan 262016

I hope to make this site a central hub of information about world building, not only from my own writings, but with links to others and possibly guests posts – so if you’d like to write one, let me know!

In the coming months, more information on the series will be revealed here, including actual content from all three volumes.  I’m gearing up for publication but have some other projects in the works, too, so a release date is currently uncertain.

Please join the newsletter to get free templates once the book is published and to receive weekly updates of anything new posted here.