Beginning the Fantasy World Design
Beginning the Design
The Known and the Unknown
One of the joys of writing fantasy fiction is that it gives you the freedom to design a world from scratch; you can let your imagination run wild creating dark forbidding forests, waterfalls, lost cities, and so on…
This page looks at the beginning of designing a fantasy world.
The Main Fantasy design menu provides more in-depth details to fantasy world designing
Throughout these articles I will reference my own fantasy world that I designed to help demonstrate it, how it interacts and grows with the stories that I write. In truth I enjoy creating the world just as much as the story writing
Fantasy World designing – Overview
Frequently fantasy stories do not follow a simple path and may have multiple story lines to keep track off, my own world consist of a number of different groups of characters that are found in different part of the same world. These groups can have stories of their own as well as stories where they interact with each other, each adding there own contribution to what is happening as the main overall story develops. And naturally they will end up in vastly different places of the world during that time: mountains, forests, cities, primitive places, …
Due to multiple character groups I had to create a world that was initially defined sufficiently enough in different places to allow these groups to have their stories and not clash when they interact later (I do like a challenge!).
Rather than spend a lot of time working on any one area, it is better to put some work into some of them and build the world up between them. This is especially true of the design of the world’s geography, culture and settlements as it is these that form the background structure upon which the other aspects are based upon.
See Managing your Ideas and Plans for tips on how to manage this information once you have got the basic design in place
General tip – changing the category you are working on
Do not be afraid to change the category you are working on. When you are working through an idea for one of the categories and you cannot go any further then switch to another category and see if what you have now done may allow you to carry on there. Perhaps you have created a building but cannot yet finish the rest of the town it is in.
Checking the other categories you may now find that you can add some history to one of those other categories due to the presence of the building. Perhaps it is now a town hall but you can give it a different history before your story starts that will add to its presence, maybe it was a former prison so there my be secret escape routes to other parts of the town, or a secret dungeon long forgotten. This in turn may lead on for more ideas of the town, more stories, …
Beginning the design
Begin by writing down anything that is already well define by you or is a non-changeable absolute within the world you want to design. These may be characters, special items, special places and so on. For each of these make as many notes as possible but do not try too hard to fill in anything missing with them, that can happen later, possibly even within a story itself (that is not unknown to happen)
Now starts the challenge of creating the unknown. Begin with a simple geographical layout, a culture level setting for the world, and a little bit of history.
I decided that my world was to be an ancient one where a major catastrophic event happened a long time ago that left a world fractured in culture. Towards the north beyond a great river are cities of great knowledge, places of great learning that include vast libraries and academies – and yet for all that knowledge they still do not truly know what it was that happened in the past. That is told only in myths and the truth is yet for discovering…
To the south is a range of mountains that have only one narrow valley that gives an easy route between the north and south. The southern side of the mountain range is a harsh place to live and is not that well known on the northern side.
My stories are focused in the area between the cities of the north and southern mountain range. Within this region there is some kind of law and order that is similar to that of the medieval times of England. The stories begin at a moment in time when strange events have started to occur in the world…
With those basic settings in place you can start to think about the places and the more detailed types of landscape (forests, rivers, waterfalls, …) that the stories will require. Now is also the time to start considering a little more about the characters in the world and what they might encounter (creatures, places and other characters) on their journeys and any special items in the world.
Important Design Point
The above may sound quite a mixed bundle, an important design point that will help in your task is:
keep each idea small and test how it interacts with the other ideas that you have already worked out, before taking it any further. All ideas need to be coherent with each other
Trying it out – Does the design work
Test drive your design by having a go at writing a couple of paragraphs that relate to what you have created. These paragraphs are not meant to be complete stories and should not be world-changing or contain major plot lines, but just simple enough to test out what you have created. Use them to explore the world that contains the item created (whether a real item, a type of culture or a piece of history) and this will then help you to define some aspects in greater detail while beginning to get a feeling of how the story line would flow and to what ends.
As your world grows in size and knowledge you will find that these paragraph tests can include several aspects of the world in one go, ensuring that they do interact properly.
Writing test paragraphs to see how it works
The examples here are just a couple of paragraphs that relate to the item of interest. They do not necessarily have to appear in the final story. In this instant they were used to test out parts of my own fantasy world design.
Part of a landscape description (forest) and a little of its mystery….
The forest was not a place that people chose to visit. It was known that death awaited those who entered too far into its hidden depths and that that death would be quick and sudden with only a single scream to mark your passing, your body never to be seen again. From this came the stories, passed on to all travellers around the forest, that fierce creatures lived within the forest that would swallow you whole in one swift movement.
However if you knew the truth behind the cause of the ‘sudden death’ then you could navigate through the forest more successfully and without fear of any of the ‘fierce’ creatures – since the source for those deaths was not even alive!
A little richness added to the forest – describing a Winlin….
A rustling noise caught his attention and a flock of Winlin’s hopped over and around a bush to the left of him in search of insects and berries. Furry creatures about eight inches in height, the Winlin’s legs were capable of propelling them in large leaps that could easily exceed two foot in height; they also had short stubby leathery wings which can be use to take them a short distance into the air for a few seconds. Ignoring him they carried on down the lane before jumping over another bush.
Jenny M L ~ Inspiring the Imagination ~ Contact Me