A good friend of mine asked me the other day about the term "world building." I briefly explained it to him, but this morning I have decided to look into this a little deeper for those of you who read and/or write fiction. This might be useful should you ever decide to try making a fictional world of your own.
What is Worldbuilding?
Worldbuilding is the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe. The resulting world may be called a constructed world. The term "worldbuilding" was popularized at science fiction writers' workshops in the 1970s. Developing an imaginary setting with coherent qualities such as a history, and ecology is a key task for many science fiction or fantasy writers. Worldbuilding often involves the creation of maps, a backstory, and people for the world. Constructed worlds can enrich the backstory and history of fictional works, and it is not uncommon for authors to
revise their constructed worlds while completing its associated work. Constructed worlds can be created for personal amusement and mental exercise, or for specific creative endeavors such as novels, video games, or role-playing games.
I have seen the term spelled a few difference ways i.e. world building, world-building and worldbuilding.
When Jack and I began writing our novel Realmwalkers, we realized we needed to make a fictional world because this would free us from any problems with reality based on earth and earth's history. We could start from scratch and use anything our minds came up with so long as it was plausible in the minds of our future readers. Since we wrote about science fiction and fantasy, it behooved us to try this in order to present our story in the most realistic way.
Well, Realmwalkers was finally written and has done very well in sales so far. I created this blog about the world of Tiaera to help promote the book. As some of you may have caught on, I came up with the name "Tiaera" which sounds like the Spanish word "tierra" meaning earth or ground. It is a parallel earth with trees, mountains and oceans, but with some differences. What are they? Well, read some of the stories here or read Realmwalkers to find out. Anyway, I realized I really enjoyed adding more details about this fictional planet called Tiaera.
And I am not alone. There are many sites on the Inet where one can go visit a variety of worlds based on books, TV, and games.
The way I started with Tiaera was by making a series of maps using MSPublisher, a desktop graphics program. I didn't have the luxury of a stylus and tablet at that time. Every drawing had to be done by drawing with a normal mouse or by drawing the map, scanning it and enhancing it using Adobe Photoshop. One of my first maps of the new planet looked like this.
I never made a world before so I just made little chunks of outlines to represent countries and Jack helped me determine how big it was going to be so that it made sense to the reader. It turned out it is actually smaller than earth, more like mars. Thanks again, Jack, for helping me with the technicalities of worldbuilding.
Then I experienced the fun of assigning names, much like Adam did when earth was created, and I found it was a lot of fun. I went to various fantasy name generators and tossed around some made-up names with Jack until all the oceans, countries, and islands all had a name. This was really fun to do while I waited for Jack to go over some chapters at his end. Once I had the world done, I began to work on each continent.
There is no end to what you can do when it comes to worldbuilding. Many stories, movies, books and games can limit the amount of information about the world to just a few sentences or go all the way to graphic images and videos. It's up to the author or designer involved. Just remember that too much scenery and description shouldn't overwhelm the story at hand. Use just enough to set the scene and no more.
After the maps were done, I created lists of information about races, transportation, climate, languages and prominent landmarks. I used my previous experiences in games like D&D, Meridian 59 and Everquest 1 & 2. I also used recollections from the many sci fi-fantasy stories and movies. There is nothing wrong with stealing general ideas from others as long as you do not steal a copyright protected character or item. So be sure you research whatever you use that you did not fully create yourself.
I'm glad to have this blog now to further create more stories and invent new items through my creative abilities. I still don't use any special map-making software. I have looked at Dungeonjinni and ProFantasy Software, as well as others, but I decided to use the tools I already had. I still use pencil, ink, scanner, MSPublisher and Adobe Photoshop for maps and graphics. Such graphics may help me with future books or videos. It's a creative process that I really enjoy.
If you are thinking about worldbuilding, here are a few links that might help or inspire you. I've used a few of them for creating the world of Tiaera:
Pirate Name Generator
World Building School
sfwa fantasy-worldbuilding questions
Free Fantasy Maps
Map Making for Authors