Note: this is the start of Creating Life (The Art of World Building, #1).
Series like Harry Potter, Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars are beloved for their intricate and detailed worlds. Each has made their creators famous, respected, and fabulously wealthy. They’ve generated billions in revenue across multiple industries, including books, movies, games, and endless merchandising. They’re part of popular culture. How can you emulate such skill? This book series, The Art of World Building, will teach you how to create believable, imaginative, and hopefully lucrative worlds to improve your fantasy or science fiction career.
My first goal with this series is to provide you with tools to speed you along in what is often time-consuming work. My second aims to help you realize your dreams and make great choices. Whether you’ve built many worlds before, are in the middle of your first one now, or have never started, this series can help you achieve your objectives by providing:
- An examination of your goals, options, and how much of your attention each subject needs
- Detailed advice on the pros and cons of every approach and how to balance them
- Extensive research on real-world elements you should understand and utilize
- How and when to use analogues
- Thought-provoking questions to help you make informed decisions and stimulate imagination
- Classification of world building elements into related areas for clarity
- Practical examples illustrating potential results
- Ideas on organizing world building files for quick access and minimized redundancy
- Reusable templates to ensure consistency and thoroughness
The examples included in the text were created specifically for this guide and are not drawn from any setting I’ve created, except in rare instances. Where possible, well-known books, films, and TV shows have been cited as good examples that illustrate a point. With examples of what to avoid, I’ve usually avoided naming the work. Many of the examples and discussions herein can trigger ideas.
The book has a website where you can find additional resources and information on other volumes in this series.
Where to Start
The series, and chapters within each volume, can be read in any order but are arranged according to what might come first in a world’s timeline. Gods, if real, precede humanoids, which precede undead humanoids, et al. But our creations can be invented in any order. In fact, crisscrossing back and forth between different subjects is part of the work. We might start with inventing gods before working on species, then update our gods based on what we’ve done with species. It’s unusual, even unlikely, to invent something and then never revisit it.
Only you can decide where to begin, but it’s recommended to take any idea and run with it, writing down whatever occurs to you. If there are problems with it, they can be fixed later as you update and improve upon it. If you haven’t read a chapter in this book and have an idea for something that’s covered here, go ahead and write down everything you’re thinking. Stopping to read this might make the idea vanish. We can also get it into our heads that we must do something “right.” This is a dangerous thought because it inhibits creativity, which is the lifeblood of all art, including world building. It’s better to jot down a poor idea and fix it later than to stall, research how it could be done, get overwhelmed, and then forget it or lose interest.
Doing it “right” is itself “wrong” much of the time, as there are seldom rules that cannot be bent and even broken. All advice, whether found in this series or another, is best stated in an open-ended manner and taken as food for thought rather than as a gospel that must be followed. If you disagree with anything written here or elsewhere, good for you. Deciding not to do something, or going about it a different way, still adds clarity to our process and results.
So where do you start? Where your heart lies.