06 September 2017

Worldbuilding Resources

By David Revoy / Blender Foundation - Own work, CC BY 3.0, Link

In my last post I mentioned the decision to make my own World Book, a manual to consult as I continue rewriting The Name and the Key and its companion, The Step and the Walk. 

I wanted to share with you some of the resources I used specifically in making my book in the hopes it will help you with your own worldbuilding. 


  • World-building Workbook by Vivien Reis. Reis, author of The Elysian Prophecy, developed a downloadable workbook with her article "The Only World-building Guide You'll Ever Need." Its simple setup allows you to write in basic details about Geography, Climate, Major Cities and Landmarks, and more. There is also a section for you to draw your own Topographical Map. Download the workbook here!
  • Creating Stunning Worlds by Alyssa Hollingsworth. Hollingsworth, the author of the upcoming The Eleventh Tradehas a detailed post, "80 Questions for Worldbuilding." If you sign up at her site, you'll get a free copy of her ebook, Creating Stunning Worlds. Once you confirm your subscription, you'll get the book. You can unsubscribe from her list at any time, but it's worth keeping because of access to future worksheets and guides. 
  • Resources for Writers/The Coterie by Lady Writer (Eva Deverell).  If you love using worksheets, this site is a goldmine. Eva Deverell, also known as Lady Writer, has an extensive list of guides for writers. She not only includes worldbuilding, but she has separate worksheets covering characterization, plot, genres, brainstorming, and more. You can find these guides under the section For Writers. The Coterie is an additional resource that includes every single worksheet she has ever made, plus special access to private Pinterest boards, ebooks, and more. You do have to sign up for The Coterie but it's free, and totally worth it.
  • World Building Worksheet by NY Book Editors. From the article "Fantasy World Building 101: How to Create a Breathing World for Your Fantasy Novel," this worksheet also asks specific questions to get you thinking about the basics of your original world. You can sign up for their email letter for tips with fantasy, or download the resource here.

Web Articles

  • The Ultimate Guide to World Building: How to Write Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Real-Life Worlds from Writer's Edit. Read it here.
  • 7 Deadly Sins of Worldbuilding from Charlie Jane Anders at i09. Read it here.
  • The Rules of Quick and Dirty Worldbuilding from Annalee Newitz at i09. Read it here.
  • 12 Questions to Ask Yourself About the System of Magic in Your Fantasy Novel from Mette Ivie Harrison at i09. Read it here.
  • The Worldbuilding Archive from Mythcreants. Read all the articles here.
  • Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions by Patricia C. Wrede from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Read it here.

Other Resources

  • Behind the Name. This is my go-to guide for naming characters, cities, and countries. I do have Sherrilyn Kenyon's Character Naming Sourcebook but it's back in America, and I find myself relying on this website more and more because you can customize searches for gender or unisex names; by meaning; and by culture.  Check it out here.
  • Pinterest.  You can search for and compile more resources on worldbuilding and writing; you can also make your own boards with images and ideas for your worlds; and you can review other people's boards for inspiration. I make individual boards for each of my novels and load them up with images that evoke the world I'm going for. My board for The Name and the Key is here, and the board for The Step and the Walk is here
  • Canva. I used Canva for designing the visuals I put into the World Book, particularly with including images that inspire the source material. Because I'm all about designing the World Book to be like an actual book, I put a lot of effort into how it looks, and Canva makes graphic design really easy. I've been a long-time user. Take a look here.

I take a lot of inspiration from real-life locations when it comes to setting in my books. I have a blog series on the site called "Worldbuilding: Fantastic Settings & Real-life Inspiration" that chronicles the various places that inform the creation of the cities and villages in my stories.  A good deal of places I've personally experienced make their way into much of my writing, such as Bath, England, Tenby, Wales, and South Street Seaport in New York City. Check out the series and let me know what real-life settings shape your own work!

03 September 2017

The Making of the World Book

Image from The USC Cinematic Arts' Worldbuilding Institute.

With The Name and the Key and The Step and the Walk, I was always very strict about how I would build the world for the series. It was my fervent belief (and mostly still is) that I didn't want to spend a lot of time in the book talking about the world, and I didn't want it to invade the story to the degree it would undermine characters and plot.

As I've written before, I'm pretty comfortable with letting readers understand my books are "Once upon a time, in a long-ago kingdom..." and then they would fill in the blanks themselves. I would give clues to the time period and culture through syntax and descriptions of things like clothing, technology, the architecture and landscape, the flora and fauna, and so on. What I didn't want to include were maps, invented languages, and created races with unique names. I wanted a world that was an alternate to our own and therefore I didn't want to extensively rebuild a version of ourselves. I wanted simplicity!

However, when the novels transformed during rewrites, suddenly my story had far more magic than before, with gods and other mythical beings making appearances. I wanted my cities to be stranger and more unique. Perhaps the largest change of all involved the story's major magic conceit. It was based strongly off of alchemy, and Andresh was its primary user. But once Andresh's goal in the novel changed, the magic became more complex--specifically about the birth of gods and parallel universes.

A photo of my World Book, showing some of the gods I created.

Since the books' magic involved the creation of new worlds, I needed to have a better understanding of what it actually means to make a universe. Thus, the World Book began. 

A lot of speculative fiction writers create some sort of manual for their fantasy and science fiction universes to help track what's happening. My World Book is a tool to:
It's been fun making the World Book--more than I expected--but I made a personal rule for when it comes to the information I created my manual:

Only 15% of the World Book is allowed to show up in the novels.

I created this rule to avoid the dreaded information dump that plagues a lot of fiction. Info dump is a  controversial term whose usage has ballooned on its own over the years. There are writers who argue that info-dumping is necessary, and that when it works, it can be magical

I still like the term because it suggests that not all details are needed at one time, and that you must watch for sensory and information overload. You don't want to derail readers from the story; you don't want to give them an excuse to put down your book. 

Whenever I've given critiques and reflected on my own work, I usually ask writers: Do we need to know this right now, or in the near future? Does it advance the plot or develop the character? Can you sprinkle in the details over the course of the novel, when they are most relevant? 

As inspiring and exciting as my World Book is to me, I estimate that 85% of it will never be relevant to the plot: the details therein have nothing to do with my characters, their scenes, their motivation, purpose, or stories. 

My World Book is written mostly for me, for my benefit and enjoyment. If it's not for my readers, it won't (and shouldn't) go in.


I'll have a follow-up post on how you can build your own World Book, with plenty of links to helpful sources (and lots of worksheets). Stay tuned!

02 September 2017

Here We Go Again.

From Big Hero 6 via Writer's Relief
Lord love a duck, it's been ages since I've last posted! Some of it had to do with the crazy technology issues I've had (internet has been such a struggle for me over here, along with a super-fritzy laptop). Most of it has to do with my number-one life problem, time management. 

I have to admit, I've been consistently busy since I started working in Japan. Contrary to what a lot of stuff floating around on the internet says, my job as an assistant language teacher requires a lot of work on my part. I am just as busy as I was back in the USA as an adjunct prof at NCSC, but the nature of my work has changed significantly. 

I have a lot of creative control with what I decide to teach. I plan all of my lessons myself and pretty much run my own classes with my JTEs assisting me. I spend most of my downtime at my schools making the things we need for the next class (I pretty much live at the laminating machine at school). I am also wrapping up TEFL certification and other online courses, on top of sneaking in some travel and relaxation where I can.  

I am always planning, making, and doing...but I'm having such a great time with it. Teaching over here has forced me to tap even further into my creativity and I find myself coming up with things I never would have imagined to try when I was a teacher back home.  On top of that, it forces me to be creative on the fly. It's been a very long time since I was able to come up with an idea on the spot, and the ability to improvise is very much needed for this line of work. 

I've been writing again, and more regularly than I have in a long, long time. (Just not on this website. Oops.) I find that when I am unhappy with my life and under a great deal of stress, writing becomes insanely difficult and I stop making time for it. For a couple years now (!!!) my work was like an equation I couldn't solve. I felt like I was on the edge of coming to some sort of understanding about it, and I vaguely knew what I needed to do, but just couldn't figure out how. 

Because my creative gears are whirring again, I'm tackling a lot of problems in my earlier works. I also started worldbuilding my novels from scratch, and abandoned some major ideas I'd been working with for a long time with my thesis novel and its sequels. Some of what I've abandoned had been a core part of my personal beliefs around writing in the fantasy genre, so it's like a shock to my system. That's long enough to be its own post. 

Since coming to Japan I've rewritten chunks of my books, and now I've  recently taken a pause from them to create what I'd like to call a World Book. I actually never wanted to do something like this, because I was of the mindset that if it wasn't necessary to the story, you just don't include it (I have earlier posts on this site railing against appendices and maps as a requirement for the fantasy genre). It is fun to worldbuild but if you get lost in the excitement of it, a lot of that will leak onto the page in the form of info-dumping. 

I've always believed that when I write, the world should be secondary to character and plot. And yet, I'm making this massive worldbuilding portfolio of things that will likely never make it into the books. But I think I just need to pour it all out of my head, and the understanding that comes from it will continue to help me figure out what my books are missing, and where the stories will go. 

I'm happy to continue my writing adventures, and I hope to slowly kick this site back into gear. Please look forward to it! o(*>ω<*)o