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  • Leonora Seitz

Generalized World Building

I'm not going to put sprinkles on it; world-building can be very hard. There are A LOT of things you have to consider, and some readers will tear you apart for leaving things out. Not only is there a location, but a culture, and don't forget currency. Trying to brainstorm all of this AND had it make sense can be tedious and for someone who gets overwhelmed by having to create so many things at once, it can be scary.


It's not as scary as one might think.

~ Start with a Map

Maps are hard because you have to make it look realistic, which I have been told, and I believe is rubbish. It's fiction, it doesn't have to make sense, but if you want it to, you might have to do some research on geography.

The actual creation of the map can be quiet fun, and I'll share a trick with you that I have seen used many times over. Depending on the size of your map, grab a hand full of change (make sure you have a variety, big and small) Or if you have dice, you can use those two, but you'll need a few. Toss them across a piece of paper and outline the shape they make- that's your country. You can manipulate it of course if it's too crazy for your liking.

Now here's where the sizes (or numbers on dice) come in. All the different sizes or numbers are assigned certain geological landmarks. Largest coins (or numbers) are mountains, others are forests, or bogs, or lakes. You'll have a variety of terrain, and in my opinion 'it's natural' because it was random and so is nature.

After that, you can always roll again (or toss coins), and where they land can mark where your larger cities are versus your towns or villages. You can always move them of course if it doesn't make sense, or it doesn't work with your story.

~Inspiring culture to use for your book

If you are creative enough to literally pull culture out of thin air, you are a scholar and a genius, but I can't do that. At least not entirely. I usually search for a culture similar to the one I am trying to portray and use that to help with the names of my landmarks as well as my cities and villages. This helps especially if you are creatively stumped and can't think of anything original, you can always use something from the culture you're bouncing ideas off of and help yourself out of the rut.

For example, I am writing a story right now loosely based on Viking/Norseman/Ostman culture. To name almost EVERYTHING in my country, I went to an old Norse dictionary and looked up words for things and used them. I used the names of Viking Gods to name my mountains and lore for various things in my country.

~ It's your baby, you gotta name it.

I can't stress this enough- NAME YOUR CREATIONS. Don't just make a map and say 'i hate naming things so I'm just going to leave it for now.' NO. It's called a working title for a reason. Leaving towns and forests without names make writing so much harder, and disrupts the flow. Name it the Dark Forest, who cares! You can always go back and change it, but if you don't name it at all, it doesn't give it your full attention and then your story is lacking the detail it deserves.

~ Pertinent to the story- how detailed do you want to get.

You can have a hundred villages, but you only have to have details in the ones that matter. If your MC's isn't going to be going through it, or living there, don't worry about anything else other then the name. Focus your energy on things that are needed. General detail is enough for those other places.

Speaking of a kingdom across the land, you don't need to worry about what those people wear, or what they use for trade unless it's important to the story. The detail is always good, but the detail that isn't useful is just filler.

~Find inspiration for the people through stories/ movies

Like I said earlier, making an entire culture is hard, but finding ones similar can help fill in gaps you can't manage on your own.

I usually pick two books/movies culture that are similar to mine and draws off those. What those people wear, how they act, how the villages or towns look, how they sound, etc. I can add my own things now and again, but I have something I can draw from, making it less straining for me.

~Devils in the details -Link to my Pinterest (go into the section 'how to write', there is a post called introduction to world-building)

This link goes to a post I saved on my Pinterest, with literally every question you couldn't possibly ask about your world and how it works. you don't have to answer all of them, but if you are feeling as if you are missing something, or that your world isn't as developed as you'd like, this will help.

~The most important part; you can always change it

Whether it be the shape of your country or its name, or the accent your characters have, it can all be changed. you are in control of all of it, so don't sweat it if your towns are all named after foods. Or if your characters suddenly sound extremely poor and depressed, you can fix it.

I hope this was helpful, and if you have any question feel free to ask!

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