World-Building is quickly becoming my favorite aspect of creating High Fantasy writing. But, as this is my first time writing a novel, I’ve been winging it. There is hardly any method to my madness here.
When I began my story, I had a character and a basic plot. I started to create a world around it. As the world grew, the plot shifted and changed and grew. The character changed some and was filled out more. I added characters. I did more world-building. Things continued to change. Characters disappeared, others grew bigger. I started working on adding a magic system, and the plot just kinda went up in smoke as a result. So I decided I’d turn things around. I began focusing on the world-building first, plot second. I’ve had far more success this way.
At this point, in my mind, it makes more sense to build a world before building a plot. I want the world to make sense and I want the plot to fit the world. Achieving both goals, I expect, will aid in reader immersion. In an effort to achieve both simultaneously, I discarded all previous plot ideas, even putting aside all the characters I’ve created already. I effectively began anew.
To begin my world-building, I decided a few things. I wanted Humans for sure. I wanted other races too, but I didn’t know what other races to have. So I went to Pinterest.
Writing Tip: Let me tell you, Pinterest is a crazy useful tool as a writer. I began with searching for fantasy characters. I found some orcs. I began looking at orcs. I knew I wanted orcs in my novel and I had a brilliant idea for an orc culture based off of a few of the orc characters I found.
Okay. So I had Humans and Orcs. I began creating an Orc culture that was not the usual. I thought to myself: I see male orcs all the time. I don’t see female orcs often. So, I created a sect of orcs entirely comprised of Orc Warrior Women. They gave themselves a name (that will not yet be disclosed).
I also created an Orc chieftain who ruled over the majority of the Orcs (the warrior women live apart from the rest). I had a King. I took an old character, changed him a bit, and made him King over a human nation. I had two kings. I grabbed an old idea for a necrophage hivemind. They started threatening all the nearby kingdoms.
Suddenly I had a world event. I envisioned a council of kings coming together to take on the necrophage hivemind. Whether or not this would be part of the plot, I didn’t know.
At this point, because I’m crazy and have no clue what I’m doing, I went searching for cover art inspiration. I found some. The old work in progress name The Blood of Monsters changed to something new (that will also not yet be disclosed).
As a result of this cover art, I knew this council of kings would have five kings. I knew then that Elves were going to be a thing. Back to Pinterest. I created another King and a Prince. I had three kings. (where I am at, I still have three kings. I don’t know who the other two are yet)
Okay. I had a question. Why was this necrophage hivemind just now becoming a threat to the region? I found an answer. I created a lesser deity. I gave him a name. He needed a motive. So I made a greater deity.
I discovered a new question. If deities exist, what about magic? I decided yes, magic is real. So I pulled in a mysterious order of mages that I had created previously. They were mysterious once more. (I still need to finish the magic system)
I considered the lesser deity. I decided his motive would have further reaching consequences than the necrophage hivemind. So I created monsters. More monsters. I started building some world lore. Religion began to take shape. I then remembered I still had no plot, not even a main character. I despaired.
I dug through my old plot ideas. Picked up a few pieces. Banged off the broken bits. Glued a few good parts together. Inserted my old MC. I had successfully birthed a plot baby. I planted it in my world. It fit perfectly. It needs to grow now.
Now, I have a baby world and a baby plot. They fit together though. Mission accomplished. On to phase two. I need to water them. They will hopefully grow together in the ideal symbiotic relationship.
So…back to thoughts on world-building. I believe quality world-building is important. I think it is crucial, even, to a well-crafted story. When I read a book, I expect to be dragged into full immersion. If I don’t find a book an immersive experience, I generally don’t want to continue reading. So, if pairing world-building and plot together into a seamless entity is part of a strong immersive environment, what else can be done?
After reading the introduction to Jesper Schmidt‘s Fantasy Map Making (I’ll be writing a review of this book soon), I agreed with him that creating a map for your story is an excellent tool to achieve greater levels of immersion. Many people are visual learners. A visual map can help a reader avoid confusion by remembering which country borders which or what direction the ocean is in from a specific city because they saw a map. I know when I see a map in a book, the author is typically more invested in making certain I am immersed. I am more likely to read a fantasy or sci-fi book with a map than without a map. (read his book for more discussion maps and map making for your world)
I will say one more thing about maps though. One of Schmidt’s points is that a map can be useful for the writer too. It can help you keep things straight as you write. So, with this in mind, one of my next steps is going to be creating a map of my world. I am pretty excited about it.
Until next time.