5 World Building Tips (Vol 2, #1): Planets
Here are today’s world building tips! The theme is planets. You can read more in Chapter 2, “Creating a Planet,” from Creating Places, (The Art of World Building, #2).
Tip #1: “Understand What Our Moon Causes”
If we want a world with no moon or more than one, we should understand how this affects tides, seasons, hours in the day, and moonlight. Tidal locking is also what keeps the same side of our moon facing us, but does your moon rotate and how quickly? And what does this imply about your worlds? More than one moon means more interesting conjunctions of planetary bodies and eclipses, too; Creating Places includes a spreadsheet to help determine orbits.
Tip #2: “Determine the Solar System’s Other Planets”
There’s a tendency in fantasy to not mention other planets, even though they could be seen from Earth during ancient times, not just with modern technology. In SF, world builders often decide these matters. We’ll need to understand the different planet types and where they are likely to form or be now (it can change!). Mentioning them and having characters imagine that they are realms to which one can be banished, for example, adds realism.
Tip #3: “Be Careful with Constellations”
Did you know that people in the northern hemisphere see one set of constellations and those in the south see different ones? This can matter if we decide that the world’s gods have constellations. Each deity might need two of them: one for each hemisphere. Otherwise, half the world may never know they’ve got one, not to mention see it.
Tip #4: “Don’t Forget Dark Constellations”
There are dark constellations that most of us in the northern hemisphere might be unaware of, because most are only visible in the southern hemisphere. These are clouds of interstellar gas that block the light of stars behind them from reaching us. These could be used to represent our “evil” deities.
Tip #5: “Use Tidal Locking”
The phrase “tidal locking” makes us think of tides, but it’s unrelated. This means that an orbiting satellite doesn’t rotate, like our Moon, which is tidally locked to Earth. This is why we always see the same side of it. This is the eventual result of all orbiting bodies, as gravity will cause this in the end. We can use this for habitable moons. Or even a planet, which, if tidally locked to its sun, will roast on one side and freeze on the other. While this might make Earth-like life impossible, it’s an interesting place to visit if properly protected.
Summary of Chapter 2—Creating a Planet
This chapter focuses on creating an Earth-like planet. World builders should understand the role of the moon and its effects on tides, seasons, and more if we intend to have a moon different from our own or multiple moons. Mention of other planets, constellations, and comets can make our world seem like it’s not an island. The equator, climate zones, prevailing winds, and rain shadows all affect how much precipitation falls in an area, which in turn affects all life there, including vegetation or the lack thereof. Understanding these basics will help us create believable landscapes.