Friday, March 24, 2017


When it comes to creating the worlds used in my stories, my favorite go-to webpage to remind me about the details is Patricia Wrede's Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions. It makes me think about the economy, religion, geography, swear words, and a whole host of background details needed to make a world believable - but also don't have to be spelled out in numbing detail to bore the reader.

Recently I came across another useful list "Five Worldbuilding Mistakes Even Enthusiasts Make" and a new blog that I can delve into (the related Mythcreants - check out the links there!) for even more ideas.

Some of those mistakes listed were definitely part of lazy thinking and general assumption-making. Why should traditions in current culture and society turn up in another time and location? Even as a kid I was bothered by the Flintstones celebrating Christmas when they were supposedly in the Stone Age (B.C. does mean Before Christ). How many times is the Santa Claus story transposed into cartoon universes? Even though Santa Claus may be considered "secular" nowadays (enough so that penguins and lions and hippos can help him), there is still a religious beginning to the myth.

Traditions change when they are transplanted out of the area where they first began. Palm trees originally decorated during the Christmas season look festive enough that some leave the lights up year-round, thus losing the meaning behind the decoration (if it wasn't already lost by changing trees - there was a symbolism behind chosing evergreens as a tree that stayed green when all others 'died' during the winter). Halloween in the U.S. would look a lot different if people had stuck with the Irish tradition of carving turnips rather than switching to the larger and more visible pumpkins.

Traditions can also be lost the further away a generation is from leaving the land of their ancestors. My born-in-England-of-Irish-immigrants grandfather didn't pass along any traditions to my father that he passed along to his children, other than wearing green on St. Patrick's Day and eating corned beef and cabbage, both of which are Irish-American developments and not pure Irish (and the corned beef and cabbage custom died quickly when my siblings and I all hated it). My older siblings don't remember any customs my American-born-of-German-immigrants grandmother might have passed along to my father. So assuming customs and traditions will be carried on the same in the far future are they are in the present is not a sure thing. Each family will be different, of course.

Mythcreants has a very useful "Creating Realistic Cultures" blog that covers similar elements as Patricia Wrede's Questions site. History, weather, communications, and health are all useful factors to think about when creating your world. Manners and fashion are trendy lately, and I've enjoyed stories like K.B. Wagers' The Indranan War series, CJ Cherryh's Foreigner series and Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Liaden Universe series where you can really see the differences in how those are depicted in those science fiction societies.

Wildlife vs domesticated animals, crops versus plants city folk might have in their dwellings versus wild plant life - is a planet hostile to an alien colony? Has a culture evolved in sync with the rest of its world or does a society exist in danger of killing off all life that it doesn't find 'useful'?

Does your world depend on magic or technology? Are there any limits on your magic? What is the level of technology? Does it fit with your transportation and communication systems?

Every writer has their own way of worldbuilding. Some plot out their world before they start writing; others dive in and add details later. There's no one right or wrong way. I have found Patricia Wrede's list great both for helping me think out details and for inspiring a story in the first place.

What are some resources you use for worldbuilding?