This is the first post of Fiction Forge, where I’ll be helping you Novel-smiths create the kind of fiction you’d be proud to publish. I will cover all kinds of different fiction-related topics (character, setting, plot, etc.). This is separate from my Writing Advice posts that I do on Mondays since those are more general tips on writing where these will be more focussed on creating fiction. As such even non-writers could use this for their fiction-related works.
Starting Thursday, I’ll also be doing Grammar Guides where we’ll look at building our grammar along with a bit of vocabulary. Combine that with Mondays and Tuesdays and you have all you need to become an epic writer! Wednesday prompts could even help you with what to write. The whole schedule is here, so feel free to check it out and bookmark it!
Anyway, let’s get started!
Fantasy is my favourite genre. I won’t go into why, since I would ramble on for days, but I do have to express some of my concerns. Too many authors make a fantasy story with a half-assed world that isn’t described well enough in the story.
I’m looking at you, Trudi Canavan!
I’ve decided to share with you all the Fantasy World-Building template I use when brainstorming my fantasy world. Bear in mind that this is just a template for different countries or races. I do more than this to world-build (making maps, for example), but it is a great tool that more people should use. I generally fill out one of these per country in my novel.
The inspiration for the template comes from a DeviantArt user named Droemar, so be sure to check them out.
So, let’s get on with it, shall we?
Here is where you would put the country’s name.
Just as America sports the old red, white, and blue, your country should have a set colour scheme. It helps for designing the flag and in case you needed any military uniforms.
America has the eagle. What is yours? It doesn’t have to be an animal, but a symbol should be something that identifies a country. Ever play a game called Skyrim? The dragon on the start-menu would be the symbol of the Empire.
Do you have multiple fantasy races living in one country? Or are they all humans? If so, what ethnicity are they mostly. Remember that the ethnicity should correspond to the climate. Hot deserts would generally have more brown skinned individuals, whilst colder climates would have people with a fair skin.
Is it a monarchy? If so is it absolute or not? Republic? Democracy? Empire? Theocracy? And remember to keep in mind why it is like that.
This is where you should put all the different religions of your country. If there is a state-endorsed religion (like the church of England, for example) that is either forced upon people or mostly dominant in the country, be sure to properly flesh it out since it should have an impact on the society. Mention things like the gods, what they control, any holy texts, any revered prophets, how the people worship, when and where they worship, etc.
What are their major imports? Exports? Do they have something that they produce large quantities of (e.g. livestock, wine, minerals, weapons, etc.)? Things like these will influence the type of trade as well as the type of wealth your country has. It also affects relationships with other countries.
Description of Major Cities:
I would put a detailed overview of each city that predominantly features in your story here. Do your heroes travel between two? Describe both as well as a little history behind it. If more, do the same for each. And if a certain city is mentioned a lot, but never travelled to, make sure to include it as well.
This would be something that the residents would say a lot. A common phrase or two goes a long way here. Also be sure to mention or make an example of how the people sound. A distinct French accent? Show that. It gives a lot of flavour. You don’t have to, but some people do appreciate it.
This is where most world-builders go wild and just write walls of text. Don’t do that. It’s okay if your country has a rich history, but making this section too long will detract from the purpose of this template. Get all the important details down. Details that are absolutely crucial and that you don’t want to forget. Try to aim for four or less paragraphs.
What is the physical build of the inhabitants? Are they a slim people or have centuries of indulgence made them mostly fat? Have years of hard work turned them into muscled behemoths? Also, if it’s a fantasy race, describe their look in a lot of detail. This helps. Trust me.
What do they wear? What is it made out of? Who can afford certain types of clothing? How dos clothing symbolize a person’s profession/religion or something similar? Just a few quick notes should be fine here. It will be helpful to have a few ideas ready when you have to describe clothing.
What do they do a lot? Do most of them bow their heads before entering a home? Do they mostly look to the ground when they get nervous? Mannerisms might be a very individual thing, but it can also be distinct of a certain culture. If red cheeks have always been frowned upon, most people would have a mannerism of trying to hide their face when embarrassed. That’s a simple example, but you get the idea, no?
What is the climate? Is it a hot country? Do they experience a lot of rain or snow? Things like this have a major impact so be specific.
The magic in your story and all the rules that go with it. Magic should have a clearly defined structure and set of rules even if it’s not mentioned expressly within the novel. Also, if magic is prominent, what are the laws concerning it? Something so powerful should have laws put in place to regulate it, no? What about society’s view on magic? Are sorcerers revered or distrusted? Why? I might do a post specifically on creating a good magic system if it is requested enough.
What language do they speak? And for the love of god, don’t call it the common tongue. Just give it any name but that. Bonus points if your language’s name has some logic and reasoning behind it.
What meals do the people enjoy? What are their delicacies? What food is taboo? What is the staple of the country? How do people of the upper class eat compared to the lower class? Things like these need to be answered.
What games do they play? How do the different people in society spend their free time? A small detail perhaps, but it can be quite important once you start writing (think Qudditch in Harry Potter).
How do they get around? Mostly on foot? By horseback? Remember that in medieval society, horses were reserved for only the richest of society, so not every peasant owned one. If a lower-class citizen owned a horse, it was generally a pack-animal or a horse that worked the fields in one way or another.
What weapons do they use a lot? Any signature weapons distinct to this country? Remember that the Dothraki in Game of Thrones had curved blades for mounted combat whilst Westerosi Knights had standard swords. These are examples of signature weapons. Do they have siege weapons? Are their weapons they consider taboo to use (like we currently see atomic bombs as taboo to use unless in the most dire of war-time situations). It doesn’t have to be something as powerful as an atomic bomb, but you get the point.
How do they greet? Handshakes? Hugs? Salutes? What is the standard form of greeting an individual you know vs. someone who is a stranger or close to it? Do different tiers of society greet in different ways?
Customs are things like praying before a meal or leaving your shoes at the door before entering a home (like in Japan). What is customary within the country? Do not confuse these with mannerisms, though.
Do the people have any superstitious beliefs? What do they think affects their luck? How do they believe these things affect their luck? Do they believe in lucky charms or rituals?
What does society believe? A flat world? Geo-centricity? These were pretty common back then. Religion plays a huge role here, so you might want to make sure that this section corresponds with that one.
Do they have any rituals? Rituals for a good harvest or to appease the gods? This one ties in to religion, superstition, and beliefs so make sure they correspond.
What do they celebrate? Why and how do they celebrate it? When? A harvest festival, for example, might be before or after a harvest. It might be to either ask for a good harvest or celebrate the good harvest. There will be more. Bonus points if you think up better names than the “harvest festival” and the “new-year’s festival”.
Is the populace literate? Are they schooled by the church? The State? Both? If not, who in the country is. How does their education system work? What are most people taught? What is the cost of this education? Describe details for both normal education and magical if you have magical education in your story.
Did I miss anything? What do you think should be included? Also, do you want a post dedicated to helping you with creating magic-systems for your fantasy world? Let me know in the comments!