Guest Post: How to build a fantasy world by Joseph Macolino

Hello readers! Kirsty was kind enough to offer me the opportunity to post on this blog and I want to take that opportunity to talk about how I go about building a fantasy world. What qualifies me to write about this? Well, besides my obsession with all things fantasy, I happen to write in the genre, and my Evorath series features a vibrant fantasy world that has attracted a lot of positive attention. Yes, I am sure I have plenty to learn myself, but with my own experience, I offer these key points to consider.


Characters – Known Who You’re Writing About


Though people have different opinions about which aspect is most important in a fantasy novel, character development is always going to be towards the top of the list. For me, building characters was the first thing I did. Rather than going into detail on this one though, Kirsty made an exceptional post about character creation, and my method is largely similar. If you’re looking for a resource to get started, that one will definitely do. When in doubt, make sure you know everything about your character, including his/her favorite dessert, holiday, and any birthmarks (s)he might have hidden.


Geography – Setting the Lay of the Land


World-building is essential to good fantasy, especially if you are writing a fantasy epic. For me, geography was the second thing I tackled. While you might not have all of the names picked out, start early on creating a map. Remember, it doesn’t have to be pretty at first. Just outline the world and some key locations. Later on, you can get this made into a professional map. As a result, you will ensure you remain consistent when you talk about locations and your readers will have an easy reference as well.


History – How Did the World Begin?


While building the geography of your world as it stands today is essential, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of history as well. There are a lot of different history factors that you need to consider. Some of the questions to ask yourself include:

  • How old is your fantasy world?
  • How many major nations or kingdoms are there?
  • Has the landscape changed over time?
  • Has the balance of power shifted over time?
  • Do they name locations or events after historical figures?
  • Does your world track time as we do on earth (are there 365 days in a year, 7 days in a week)?


Questions like this can help fill in the formation of your world. History is what helps build a culture, and without knowing the history o your world, you won’t be able to create a convincing universe. Whether you just use this for your own records or you publish it all later is up to you. Regardless, make sure you know the history of your world.


Lore – On Gods and Magic


All good fantasy books involve magic at some level. How does that magic impact your world? One of the other essential aspects of your creation is to make sure you have set lore for your world. Some of the questions to consider here include:

  • Are there gods in your world? A single God?
  • How does magic work in your world? Can anyone learn it, or is it limited to those who are “gifted.”
  • How powerful is the magic in your universe?
  • If there are God(s) do they have an active role in the universe?
  • If there are no God(s), do the people still have stories about them?


While this is definitely not an exhaustive list, it is a good place to start.


Story – How Does it Shape History?


Finally, the last thing you need to consider is the actual story you are writing. Common sense might make your stop at this point. Hold up. Story is the LAST thing to consider? In my opinion, yes. The reason for this is that without the other elements, your story has little ground to stand on. If you haven’t already built a foundation for the world, how can you control for consistency?


When you think about it, story will naturally come as you create the other aspects of your universe. For someone writing epic fantasy, this is why the actual story goes last. Using these other elements, you can then figure out where the story fits in with the history and how it will shape the world going forward.


Is This the Rule?


As I mentioned earlier, different authors have different ideas of what makes good fantasy books. With that in mind, you might want to re-prioritize this list. Perhaps to you, the lore of your world is the number one most important thing. Or, maybe you write a character-driven story and don’t intend to create an expansive series. It is possible to just have a single novel outside a series, and though you still need to have a detailed world, it doesn’t need to go into the same depth as an epic fantasy does.


Of course, the beauty of all this is that you can apply it to just about any work of fiction. So, if you are looking to pump out some good fantasy books, remember this is a great place to start. At least, I like to think so.

Joseph Macolino1.jpg


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