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World-Building for Fantasy Authors

Hey guys, welcome.

Today, we're talking about something very near and dear to my fantasy-writing heart.

It's also the main thing that makes me want to shave my head and scream.

There's really no avoiding the head shaving and screaming, but sometimes reading about other peoples' processes can help. So, I'm going to try to explain this in coherent English (which is a bigger challenge for me than it should be).

PSST. Stick around until the conclusion for details on how to be my ARC reader (get a free copy of the book in exchange for a review) AND pre-order details.

World-Building (the worst thing ever)

World-building probably doesn't have to be horrible, and I make it harder than it needs to be because I'm so chronically disorganised. I bet you're really glad I decided to share my process with you.

But before you click that little 'x' (DON'T move...I'm watching you...), I have something to share that might be valuable.

I've broken world building down into a few major questions you as a fantasy author need to answer, which can then be broken down into more detailed, sub-questions.

1. What is the political system?

a) Is it the same across your universe, or do different regions have different systems?

b) How does the political system affect the way the common people live? Do they like

it? Do they wish it was different?

c) What characteristics of the political system make it unique?

d) What real-world organization is your political system based on, modern or ancient?

e) What are the titles of the politicians in all your systems? (For example, do you call

your leader a prime minister, a president, a king, a queen, etc.?)

2. What language do people speak?

a) Does everyone speak the same language, or is there variance?

b) Are there some key words or phrases we as readers should know?

c) Is there language prejudice? (Do some people think they're better than others because

they speak a certain language?)

d) What is the history of your languages? Where do they come from?

3. Where do people live?

a) How have different people groups adapted to the landscape they call home?

b) What are the different biomes across your world? (I highly recommend researching

different biomes. I got weirdly inspired doing this.)

c) What kind of structures do each of your social classes live in? Do your kings live in castles

and your commoners live in cottages? What building materials do they use? Where do they

get them?

4. What's the history of each region?

a) Where do people come from?

b) What are they proud of?

c) What is each region known far and wide for?

Building A Map

A map is imperative. You can't find your way around your world without one.

I'm so bad at making maps. Like so bad.

I prefer to have a program that does it for me—or, at least most of it. I don't really know how land works, to be honest. I see it all the time and somehow I still...anyway.

There are lots of map-making programs out there that will help you, but I prefer Inkarnate (not sponsored).

There is a paid membership option for Inkarnate, but you can also get a lot of great features completely free. I made my map with only the free version. It looks like this:

This bad boy has pretty much guided my plot, to be honest. Without this map, I would've been lost and confused the whole time. Just having a reference image to see where everything is and where everyone is going is super helpful. So, before you actually start writing, I'd recommend having your map done.

I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to do the final version that will actually go in my book (you can't use Inkarnate maps in your books, because technically it isn't yours—unLESS you opt for the paid membership). But even though I can't use this map exactly, it's an amazing starting point when I decide to design the map that will actually be pasted into the books.

Character Planning

Character planning is crucial for consistency. Just having one place where all your character details are kept is a game-changer. I have a big folder on my google drive filled with character details. I also have a planning sheet you can download that can help you plan your characters in advance to keep that consistency going. Subscribe to my newsletter to get your free character planning worksheet. You'll also be updated on my publishing progress.

Character planning can be complicated and frustrating—but also really fun. It's honestly one of my favourite parts, and templates like the one I just offered you (FREE) help make the process seamless.

Seriously, I've been using that template for a while now, and it has yet to fail me. It's for the betterment of characters and authors near and far.

Shameless plug aside, there are a few things about characters that should be remembered in your planning process.

Good characters are:

  1. Motivated

  2. Rule-breakers

  3. Holders of strong beliefs

No one wants to read about characters that don't care about anything and already have what they want. Interesting characters want something, and they're actively trying to get it. This often makes them willing to break the rules in order to obtain what they want. Rule-breakers are interesting to read about. Even Hermione Granger (movie version), Miss Rules herself, broke the rules regularly. Additionally, characters should have a strong set of unbending beliefs that get them both into and out of trouble. No one wants a wishy washy character that believes nothing and just goes with the flow.

(SIDE NOTE: You can have a character that just goes with the flow, but they should be paired with a really strong-willed character to bring out the best in both of them.)

LASTLY, and this is my most dire point—RETIRE THE IDEA OF A MARY SUE CHARACTER.

I can't believe how many of these characters still exist in modern fiction, especially in the YA fantasy genre. No one wants to read about a main character who already has it all together and knows exactly what they're doing, who never gets beaten down or weakened, who succeeds in everything they do. That's a deus ex machina, not a relatable protagonist. Take a look at your main character. Does she have decades-worth of magical ability even though she just found out she's a sorcerer yesterday? Is she good at literally everything she tries? Does she put warriors who've been training their whole lives to shame after two training sessions? If you answered yes to any of these, then you probably have a Mary Sue invasion.

If I see one more Mary Sue character in a work of recently published fiction, I'm setting my house on fire. "

People are not perfect, and people have flaws. Part of good storytelling is giving your characters flaws that hold them back, get them into trouble, make things harder. Who wants to read about a perfect person that always finds success in their endeavours? Not me, I like my characters to suffer, thank you very much. Suffering is relatable. Struggle is relatable. If I see one more Mary Sue character in a work of recently published fiction, I'm setting my house on fire.

(Disclaimer: don't set your house on fire. It's expensive and insurance will know it was you.)

The Magic System

I made up my magic system as I wrote, and that was a mistake. I should've planned it out before hand. It was so hard to go back in and make changes to things I already said once I decided that it wasn't how I wanted it to be.

Live and learn, I guess.

Magic systems absolutely ruin me. They're so hard to figure out, simply because there's very little to compare them to in the natural world. I personally based my magic system off of electrical currents and energy, just because it was the closest thing I could find that was comparable. I based my healing magic off of prescription medicine too. It was something I had a reference for and it also provided LIMITATIONS, which is something every magic system should have. Also, comparing magic and modern technology has always fascinated me (why go to Hogwarts when you have a chrome cast).

I came up with a magic system template, which maybe I'll release in months to come as part of a newsletter incentive. Just coming up with valuable questions to answer about your magic system helps heaps. It makes the pain less painful.

I think I made my magic system harder on myself simply because some people in my world believe in it and some people don't. That was hard, especially with multiple POVs, because I'm constantly switching between people who believe in the magic and people who don't and—

(Pay for my therapy)


World-building isn't for the faint of heart. It's extensive and exhaustive and stressful when you're trying to keep track of all the decisions you've made. When I was planning my family trees, I noticed some people I said interacted wouldn't have been alive at the same time.

But hey, live and learn.

Most of your world-building won't appear in the story right away. I've noticed that world-building is mostly for the author to have a reference and remember all the decisions we've made about the world we've made up.

Honestly, making up a whole world is a major feat and if you make it through to the other side of writing that story, congrats. It'll never be easy, and it's always gonna take time. But it's time well-spent, and it can be really fun sometimes, and insufferable other times.

All the best with your world-building. I hope some of this is a help. If not, sorry. I barely know what I'm doing either.

A reminder that my first book is available for pre-order MARCH 8. Check out the series details here.

If you're interested in being an ARC reader for Book 1 (receiving a FREE copy of the book in exchange for a review), sign up here.

Goodnight all,

- A. H. A.

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