I can has world?

I’ve sent a few queries for Twenty-Somewhere and plan to send a few more, but in the meantime, I’m also moving forward with my new story. You know, the one about the twenty-something couple that gets thrown into another world, which puts their relationship to the test.

As I mentioned before, I already wrote a lame first chapter that I had to scrap. Now I’m realizing just how much prep work I really need to do before I can try to write the real first chapter. Not only do I need to outline (something I don’t usually do because I’m stubborn/lazy), but I also have to truly create the world into which this couple gets thrown.

Worldbuilding. Oy. I’ve never really done it before. In fact, I’ve usually avoided it when possible, because as I mentioned before, I’m stubborn/lazy. I mean, inventing their clothing, language, geography, customs, history, values, whaaaa? I get tired just thinking about it!

But, no more. If I want to do this story right, then I have to do right by this story, and that means giving it a rich, full, carefully thought-out world.

Am I daunted by this task? Heck yes. But I’m looking forward to it too. Because some of my favorite stories revolve around fantasy worlds. Chronicles of Narnia, Fushigi Yugi, Harry Potter…

What about you? What are your favorite fantasy worlds, and why? What do you think makes them so great? I’d genuinely like to know, because I need all the help I can get!

(Also, for any other inexperienced worldbuilders like me, check out this great list of worldbuilding questions on the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America’s website. And thanks to Erin for showing me that.)

Like this:



All part of the process


Snippets: Get it?


  1. Albie

    Laputa – Castle in the Sky
    (except most of it was “normal” world… just the part in the sky was different/cool!)

    Um… not much of a reader, and I read a lot of scifi (so mostly spaceships :P)

    Avatar, obviously. =)

    I’ll add more if I think of them…

  2. Les

    Welcome to my world heh. The one that’s actually helped me the most is this one: http://larseighner.com/world_builder/index.html

    Be forewarned, it’s intense. Some of it doesn’t help me too much because I write what I call “realistic fantasy”. As in, it isn’t too out there. No orange skies, etc., but a lot of it is really useful, especially as a reference later on.

    Good luck ;)

    Oh and, my favorite fantasy world probably resides in the Shadow Moon books by Chris Clairmont & George Lucas. They pick up where the movie “Willow” left off and tell the story of Elora as she grows up.
    .-= • Recent post by Les: A memory of years =-.

  3. I haven’t read too many books that take place in other worlds, but I have read The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter and I love them. I have an idea for an other world story too. But it takes so much work to create new worlds I put it on the back burner for now.

    Thanks for sharing that link. : )

    Good Luck, Kristan!
    .-= • Recent post by Kimberly Franklin: Break =-.

  4. I love fantasy…but sometimes I think it’s just so much work! But I love stories about getting sucked into another world! I love Lloyd Alexander stories too.
    .-= • Recent post by Lindsey: To Cut or Not to Cut (Probably Cut) =-.

  5. I’ve read quite a bit of fantasy. Used to be just fantasy for adults, I guess – you know, the stuff in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section of the bookstore. But Harry Potter has propelled me into the kids/YA fantasy section, and I’m enjoying that version quite a bit. It’s a lot more whimsical. One series you might want to consider reading if you haven’t is the Fablehaven series. I just finished the first four books (book 5 comes out in March), and they were quite good. It’s like Harry Potter and Twilight in that it takes place in our world, there’s just magical/otherworldly stuff going on that we regular folk don’t know about. I’m not sure how you envision your story – incorporating some fantastical elements into our world or having your characters leave our world entirely.

    I do think it takes a lot of work to create a fantasy world. It’s probably less work to have it be part of our current world, like HP, Twilight, and Fablehaven. At least then you’re not starting from scratch. I also think that incorporating magic into our reality almost *has* to be whimsical on some level, which I’m drawn towards. The adult fantasy stuff I’ve read that’s set entirely in another world tends to be grimmer. I’m not sure why that is, but that seems to be the way it goes.

    Consistency is supreme in world building, so forethought is necessary. I think that to write in that genre, you’ve got to like world building. If not, why do it?
    .-= • Recent post by Sonja: Quinn’s moral compass =-.

  6. Albie and Sonja-
    I too am drawn towards stories that incorporate magic into our reality, especially when it’s done without disrupting the reality we know! I think that’s what’s so great about HP and Twilight: they make it possible for their worlds and our worlds to exist simultaneously. Narnia too, but most of the action is set in the other world, which is probably how mine will work…

    I’ll have to check out Castle in the Sky and Fablehaven.

    How funny, your link goes to Patricia Wrebe’s questions too! Her list must be considered definitive.

    Lol yeah I usually push my other-world ideas to the back too. Sigh. Taking the plunge this time…

    You know, I had Lloyd Alexander stories read TO me in middle school, but I never picked them up myself. I need to, because I remember really enjoying them. Thanks for the reminder!

  7. Favorite fantasy world?! How can I choose? I obviously love a lot but the two things that always make a good fantasy world for me are (1) consistency of world/tone and (2) depth. These can be shown to me in several ways, but what I think it comes down to is that I like to be convinced the author knows everything about the world (even if s/he doesn’t!) because even the minutiae of the world seem tacked down in the description. (Minutiae I usually define as the little differences between our world and theirs that are subtly implied. For instance, our world uses a certain system of time/dates/months/seasons — I like it when a “far off” world takes into account that their winter months aren’t “January” and “February” because, really, are they?) A few good authors for this: Robin Hobb, Robin McKinley, Sherwood Smith, Jim Butcher, & Diana Wynne Jones. (Patricia Wrede’s works, too, are very good!)

    You’re going to have so much fun!
    .-= • Recent post by Erin: Finished?! =-.

  8. Another series that I forgot to mention is the Percy Jackson series. If you haven’t heard of it, the premise is that all the Greek gods are still around and kicking… and having sex with mortals, thereby continuing to create heros/demigods ala Jason and Hercules.

    I’m bringing that series up in the context of world building. Riodan (the author) did have to do some of his own unique world-building, but mostly he used worlds that were already created: ours and then the Greek stuff. His part was combining them. You can certainly make the same case for Fablehaven. Twilight might have required a bit more world-building around the vampires, but Meyer certainly had a lot of information she could use rather than make up. And Harry Potter also uses a bunch of stuff we already know as myths and fairy tales.

    So if you’re struggling to create a world of your own, you might want to consider snooping around existing folklore, fairy tales, and mythology to see if something grabs you. Then you just figure out how to put it together with our reality. Plus you don’t have to bog down the narrative with explaining the alternate world because your reader already knows it.
    .-= • Recent post by Sonja: Quinn’s moral compass =-.

  9. Maybe you can use this time to revisit some of those fantasy books? And don’t forget A Wrinkle In Time!

    I always get annoyed when people suggest this for me but it sounds like free writes could be really helpful to you now. Spend 20 minutes writing about a place your five year old self would want to visit. Spend 10 minutes writing about what the world looks like in 3025. You get the idea. Have fun and good luck!
    .-= • Recent post by Rebecca: Finding Your Passion or Am I Even On The Right Track? =-.

  10. Les

    That is kind of amusing. I didn’t check the link itself, just looked and it was the SFWA one… I had no idea they were the same.
    .-= • Recent post by Les: A memory of years =-.

  11. My favorite Fantasy world will probably always be from C.S. Friedman’s Coldfire Trilogy (Black Sun Rising, When True Night Falls, Crown of Shadows). Aside from Gerald Tarrant, the world she created is the biggest reason to read those books. Fantastic stuff.
    .-= • Recent post by Todd Newton: Movies: The Twist on Trapdoor Books blog =-.

  12. meagan

    Hi! I’ve never commented here–but it was too irresistible as I was just contemplating some of the same things. I love to get out my markers and some poster board/sketch pads and draw maps, sketch clothing ideas (or cut them out from magazines), work on genealogies…I’m a visual person, so I need those representations to help me when I write. Consistency, for me, is the difficult part.

    My favorite fantasy world would be…hm. I love the alternate history that Jacqueline Carey creates in Kushiel’s Dart. Sherryl Jordan wrote a YA a long, long time ago called Winter of Fire that had a simple, yet very interesting world where humanity was divided into two races, the Chosen and the Quelled. And, of course, Narnia, Middle-Earth and Hogwarts.

  13. Erin-
    (1) and (2) are good points. And exactly the reasons I realized I have to really do this, I can’t just try to figure it out as I go, or skim the surface of the world. Plus, your enthusiasm for this is infecting me, hahaha.

    Am I allowed to pick Celestere as a favorite?! :P

    Well, I haven’t read Percy Jackson, but I’ve certainly seen a LOT of commercials for it. :P Good point on borrowing. Especially since, you’re right, it helps the reader to recognize familiar aspects.

    I’ve actually not read A Wrinkle in Time, can you believe it?! But yeah, freewriting for my world might not be a bad idea. Thanks!

    Hmm, I’ve never heard of them but they sound kick@$$! Thanks. :)

    Yup, “drawing” is on my list of things to do tomorrow, haha. And I’ve heard great things about Jacqueline Carey’s work. I think Erin lent me some…

  14. Aurora

    Ender’s Game, duh. =)

    and you know, if you find you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it. reading something where someone has done all the work of worldbuilding may be awesome, but actually doing it yourself may not be for everyone. doing it on a large scale would just give me a headache. maybe just make your world different from reality to the extent that you’re willing to go.
    .-= • Recent post by Aurora: How to love an artist =-.

  15. I’ve actually never read Ender’s Game… o_O I’ll get on that!

    Yeah, if it really doesn’t work, I can’t force it, but it’s something I have to give a genuine attempt, or else I’m just cheating the story. I don’t want to be afraid of hard work, you know?

  16. Laputa – Castle in the Sky is awesome! Check out Nausica of the Valley, well anything by Hayao Miyazaki is definitely imaginative like Avatar. I forgot about Ender’s Game too. And we love us Fushigi!

    Whatever it is, your world will come out in the story. And trust me, it is way more interesting than the current project world I’m in.
    .-= • Recent post by Angie: Honesty, honestly =-.

  17. No problem! I hope you enjoy them. I talked about the world & worldbuilding in this post:
    .-= • Recent post by Todd Newton: Movies: The Twist on Trapdoor Books blog =-.

  18. Jon

    Good luck with the research–remember things like this take time, I mean, for gosh sakes it takes novelists years to figure out all of these things before they even write the first draft.

    Has anyone mentioned Alice in Wonderland yet? That’s an old standby, at least for me.
    .-= • Recent post by Jon: Telling Details =-.

  19. Angie-
    Lol. Sorry… but I’m sure your project will turn out great too!

    I better not take years, lol. I’m not going for Tolkien complex. But you’re right: I need to remember to be patient. :)

    Alice! I didn’t think of her, but that’s a good one. And sadly, another I have not read…

  20. Have you read anything by Holly Lisle. She was the creator of the website Forward Motion.


    It’s run by someone else now, but it’s got lots of great information. Holly also has a worldbuilding workshop on her site.

    .-= • Recent post by Natalie: Spike & Mike at Babelgum =-.

  21. Thanks for the links, Natalie! No, I haven’t read anything by her, but I’ll check it out. :)

  22. I see someone mentioned Castle in the Sky. I’m going to mention Spirited Away. Essentially, the main character is thrown into another world, inhabited by the old Shinto spirits. It’s similar to how our world is set up, only…not. :P

    Also, I liked Howl’s Moving Castle. Great steampunk world there.
    .-= • Recent post by Dara: Friday Dance =-.

  23. My fave worlds were in:

    Journey to the Center of the Earth
    Wizard of Oz
    A Wrinkle in Time
    anything in steampunk worlds
    .-= • Recent post by Margot: Oh Face =-.

  24. Haha, somehow the steampunk thing doesn’t surprise me for you, Margot. You’re always on the cutting edge.

  25. Jeff

    I have loved a lot of fantasy worlds in my day, Buffy, Evangelion, Dragon Ball Z, Star Trek, LOST, and Ranma 1/2 to name a few! Though I think, when building a fantasy world, one needs to remember that world building isn’t done out of thin air, and you are welcome to steal(borrow) from the real world(as well as other fantasy worlds). Think about Star Wars. Most of the of the elements are ripped from the real world and given a twist. Jedi’s are a lot like Samurai. The force is a lot like Chi. Imperial dynasties have come and gone throughout the ages. Think about things that interest you in real life and then push them through the prism of the world you want to craft. Also, I think you should really keep in mind character, story, and theme, and prize them above the details of the world. What’s great about stories that really catch our imagination is that they work in almost any context. Sometimes the nature of you story, theme and characters will really serve to guide the creation of your universe. For example, LOST’s world is in many ways dictated by the nature of its story and characters. Was this an over share? Perhaps… Oh well. Good luck!

  26. Jeff

    Checked out that link. Wow. Cool stuff.

  27. Nah, not an overshare. Just very cool and insightful thoughts (with examples!). Thanks. And very good point about Star Wars and all the Japanese/Chinese parallels. I think that’s similar to what Sonja was saying, and definitely something I will keep in mind as I create my world.

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