Fantasy world creation is no easy task. It takes creativity and hard work to make an imaginary world that your audience will love. But with careful planning and execution, you can create a rich and vibrant world that will keep your readers coming back for more.
In this article, we will discuss the steps necessary to create your own world for fantasy and science fiction. So put on your thinking cap and let's get started!
Why do we love a fantastical world?
The fantasy genre is one of the most popular genres in literature, film, and gaming. And it's no wonder why. Fantasy worlds are places where anything is possible. Where else can you find dragons, wizards, and talking animals? In a fantasy world, the sky is the limit. An entirely new world is an opportunity for the writer to explore different cultures, customs, and moral values.
This genre allows readers (or viewers, or gamers) to escape from their everyday lives and experience something new and exciting. It's a chance to explore different cultures and meet new people, all without leaving the comfort of your own home.
The importance of a well-defined world in a fantasy or science fiction story
A good fantasy novel, show or movie is often defined by its world. Middle Earth, Westeros, and Pandora are all examples of fictional worlds that are as well-known as the stories set within them.
Creating a believable and fully-realized world is essential to writing a good fantasy story. The world should be fleshed out with its own history, geography, and cultures. It should feel like a real place, even if it's completely made up.
Fantasy worlds live on in the audience's mind even after they've experienced the story it took place in. Think of all the people who love visiting Wizarding World at Universal Studios or Hobbiton in New Zealand. These fictional places help their stories live beyond the page and screen and can literally come to life in the real world.
Essential elements of a fantasy world
When creating a fantasy world, there are certain elements that are essential in order to make it believable and enjoyable for your audience.
A believable history
Every world has a history, even if it is just the history of the planet itself. In order to make your fantasy world believable, you need to create a detailed and convincing world history for it. Historical events are what shape the current culture of the world.
For example, in the world of Game of Thrones, the history is a huge part of the story. The Targaryen conquest, Robert's Rebellion, and the War of the Five Kings are all historical events that have a major impact on the characters and plot.
A well-developed infrastructure
A believable fantasy world needs a well-developed infrastructure. This includes things like transportation, communication, class system, magic system, and government. These institutions and systems should be fleshed out and make sense within the context of the world.
For example, in the Harry Potter series, the wizarding world has a very different infrastructure than the Muggle world. There is a Ministry of Magic, elaborate magical transportation systems, and a whole society hidden from the non-magical population.
Your fantasy world should have a variety of cultures, each with its own customs and traditions. Real world cultures can be a great starting point for developing your own. You can also create entirely new cultures from scratch.
In the Lord of the Rings, there are many different cultures within Middle Earth, from the Elves to the Dwarves to the humans. Each culture has its own unique customs, traditions, and history.
One of the most fun aspects of creating a fantasy world is coming up with unique creatures that inhabit it. These can be anything from benign animals to fearsome monsters. Use your imagination and let your creativity run wild!
Another essential element of a good fantasy world is the locations within it. These can be anything from sprawling cities to dark forests to snow-capped mountains. It is important to have a variety of locations so that your readers can explore the world and find new adventures.
Locations in a magical world can often be more exciting than in the real world because they can be imbued with magic. In the Harry Potter series, some of the most iconic locations are Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, and Hogsmeade.
[.article-cta]Read this article on how to develop a story's setting.[.article-cta]
StoryFlint's World Building Bible Notion template
StoryFlint's World Building Bible is an easy-to-use Notion template that will help you organize all the information about your world! It’s perfect for writers who need to keep track of their characters and settings in one place.
This Notion template will help you:
- Gain clarity on your fictional world by organizing your characters, locations, history, settings, and more.
- Easily refer back to notes as you're writing or building your campaign.
- Build your story's characters with pre-made templated profiles.
What's included in this Notion template:
- 7 interconnected databases for not just characters and events, but more things like your world's countries, cities, governments, landscape, cults, religions, sports, language, animals, plants, historical figures, and so much more.
- 4 pre-made dashboards organized for different workflows to help build your world.
- Instructions on how to upgrade StoryFlint's Fictional History Timeline into a World Building Bible.
- + integrated Ultimate Character Builder version includes StoryFlint's Ultimate Character Builder built-in and already-integrated.
Organize your fictional world the way you want all in Notion!
The Art Of The Lord Of The Rings
Unlock an unseen world of beauty and adventure with The Art of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, an exquisite collection of more than 180 original artworks and sketches from the beloved author that captures his creative process behind this beloved story.
Immerse yourself in Middle-earth like never before as you explore maps, inscriptions in runes, and Elvish script, plus pictorial sketches that illuminate Tolkien’s process for writing this classic novel.
Get your copy today to experience all these amazing features for yourself!
- 180+ images printed in color from high-quality scans and photographs - many never published before.
- Expert introduction, comments, and editing from Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull – two of the world’s leading Tolkien scholars.
- A behind-the-scenes look into Middle-Earth with maps, sketches, inscriptions in runes and Elvish.
The Art Of The Hobbit
Discover the complete artwork created by the author for his story, including related pictures, more than one hundred sketches, drawings, paintings, maps and plans - some of which are being published for the first time in color! Get an insight into Bilbo Baggins' world and enjoy Tolkien's vision for The Hobbit as never before.
Immerse yourself in this beautiful collection of illustrations that will bring to life your favorite characters from Middle-earth like never before. With these images, you can explore every corner of Tolkien’s beloved fantasy universe with unprecedented detail and clarity.
Buy The Art Of The Hobbit today to experience J.R.R Tolkien's masterpiece like never before!
- Unprecedented insight into the world of Bilbo Baggins and characters who inhabit it through Tolkien's complete artwork for The Hobbit.
- Enjoy Tolkien's vision for The Hobbit in vivid color with some illustrations published here for the first time.
- Explore every corner of Middle-earth with detail and clarity through a beautiful collection of illustrations.
The Art Of The Lord Of The Rings
An exquisite collection of Tolkien's sketches.
The Art Of The Hobbit
Explore Tolkien's complete artwork for The Hobbit.
Things to think about when building a fantasy world
Now that we've gone over some of the essential elements of a fantasy world, let's talk about some of the things you need to keep in mind when building one.
It is important to keep your audience in mind when creating a fantasy world. You want them to be able to immerse themselves in the world and feel like they are part of it.
The tone of your story
The tone of your story will dictate how much detail you need to include in your world-building. A light-hearted story will require less detail than a dark and gritty one.
How much information to include
When building a fictional world, it is important to strike a balance between too much and too little information. You don't want to overwhelm your readers with too many details, but you also don't want to leave them feeling lost.
Parallels to real world history
Parallels to the real world and history make your world more grounded and believable. Do some research and find some interesting facts and stories that you can use in your own world.
However, be careful not to make your world too similar to ours. You want your readers to be able to escape into your world, not feel like they are reading about the same thing they see every day.
When creating the world for Star Wars, George Lucas used a lot of World War II iconography and imagery as inspiration for the look and structure of the Galactic Empire. This gave audiences a clear distinction between the bad guys and the good guys.
Where do I start with fantasy world building?
There's no one correct way to start to create a fantasy world. Here are a few ways you can get started:
Start with creating a map
I wisely started with a map...
– J.R.R. Tolkien
One of the best ways to start planning your fantasy world is by creating a map. This will give you a bird's eye view of the world and help you to plan out the locations and features within it.
When Tolkien started to build one of the most detailed fantasy worlds of all literary fiction, Middle-Earth, he drew out the map of the world first to get the land and distances right and made his story fit into it. Tolkien said, "...it is weary work to compose a map from a story."
Start with your main character
Another way to start building your fantasy world is by starting with your main character. This can be a great way to get to know your character and their backstory. Once you have a good understanding of who they are, you can start to build the world around them.
Think about what kind of world they would need in order for your story to work. What kind of people would they interact with? What sort of locations would they visit?
Knowing your main character and what goal they have for the story will help you build a fantasy world around them that is either meant to help or hinder them from reaching their goal.
Start with one major event in its history
You can also start building your fantasy world by starting with an event. This could be something like a war or a natural disaster. This can give you a good foundation on which to build your world.
Think about how this event has affected the people and cultures in your world. What has changed because of it? How have people adapted?
Start with your own experience or knowledge
Another great way to start building a fantasy world is to start with your own experience or knowledge. This could be something as simple as basing your world on a real-life location or culture.
You can also draw from your own hobbies or interests to create a world that is rich in detail. For example, if you are passionate about history, you could use real-life events and historical figures to inspire your fantasy world.
Tolkien's passion and knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon language and history was a major cornerstone of building Middle-Earth. He used that knowledge to create his own fantasy languages, character names, and mythology within his world. He also used a lot of his experience in training horses from his time in the first World War to help him build a lot of the horse culture in Middle-Earth, especially the lands and people of Rohan.
How to keep your fantasy world organized
A good way to keep all the information of the fantasy world you've built organized is by developing a world building bible. This is a document where you can keep track of all the important information about your world like its history, cultures, religions, races and locations.
If you're like me, I like to be able to organize my story's world the way I like it. Notion is a powerful tool that's used by many creators and teams to organize their work and content in custom-made databases.
That's why I use Notion to house my World Building Bible. Through interconnected databases, I can stay organized and consistent with my world as I'm writing my story. It's organized the way I want and I can change it as I go.
If you're interested in organizing your World Building Bible in Notion, I've created this Notion template with everything explained in this article ready for you to populate your world in it.
[.article-cta]Check out StoryFlint's World Building Bible template.[.article-cta]
Building a fantasy world can be a daunting task, but it's also an incredibly rewarding one. There is no one correct way to do it. The most important thing is to have fun and let your imagination run wild.
Start with an idea of what you want your world to be like and build from there. Use the tools and resources at your disposal to help you bring your world to life. And don't forget to share it with others once you're done. The more people who get to experience your world, the better.
Happy fantasy world building!