Build A Unique World For Your Fantasy Novel!

World-Building for Fantasy Authors

This guest post was written by Clara M. O’Leary. Clara is an award-winning short story writer, and is soon to be published in an anthology. She specializes in fantasy for children, although branches out into many genres throughout her works. See her pieces on display in Colorado this winter or visit her brand-new blog

World-Building is one of the hardest things for me to write. Sometimes I will get an idea for a wonderful fantasy story and by the time I have finished designing the world (from schools to maps, to trends and more) I have lost inspiration and I end up stuck with a pile of papers about a world I can do nothing with.

Now, not every good writer is a world-builder. Take Mark Twain for instance. Huck Finn is the most dialogue-driven book out there and also one of the most famous.

But, Mark Twain wrote quite a long time ago and also wasn’t a fantasy writer.

If you look at the best fantasy series of all time, from Harry Potter to Lord of the Rings, Percy Jackson to The Hunger Games, all of our beloved authors are masters at world-building. So I decided, in order to one day become as well-known and successful as them, I must learn to create an imaginary, yet, believable culture.

What I have learned is that (if you are lucky enough to not lose your inspiration within a few hours of getting it) creating a world on paper is not only fun, but works well.

I would suggest starting with a map, then moving to the laws and government. Include details about living in this world, like transportation (a Nimbus 2000 perhaps), food, popular books, popular fashion, current events and so on.

Most importantly you need to live in this world in your mind. You need to think about it all the time, imagine it in your head, immerse yourself into it until you know all the laws and fads by hand.

This is a hard thing to do. You need to have an incredible attention span to accomplish it. But it works. On Harry Potter’s 20th Birthday this summer J. K. Rowling admitted that she did live in the Wizarding World by herself for a while. She knew it by heart and was part of it in her mind. It wasn’t until she managed to write her books that she shared it with the world.

Sometimes you may not need to create your own world. Perhaps you can take our own culture the way it was, say, hundreds of years ago. Then just add the elements of your genre to tie it all together.

No matter how you go about it, world building is your ticket. It is the way to sharing your thoughts and imagination with all those who are willing to listen. It is the way to bring a wonderful new story and place into the real world and send a little piece of your heart out to be enjoyed.

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