So You Think You Can NaNo: Worldbuilding

So, put up with me again. Yes, I know I’m not an expert, you didn’t like blah blah book of mine, whatever. This post isn’t for you. It’s for those just trying to write their first (or maybe second) book.

Most of you know about worldbuilding, but here I mean Romance Fantasy worldbuilding. By that, I mean not SciFi. Definitely not. I don’t have the cahones or skill. But the run of the mill, Lord of the Ringsish, questish, other world that doesn’t exist.

I know how to cheat. Yep, and it’s so freaking easy.
One thing I’ve received high marks for in reviews is for worldbuilding. Especially for Lords of Ch’i, in which I had to make up a world ruled by the Elements and with a different look and feel to each part.

See, the trouble with fantasy is that you always, always tend to put your people in the Wood (with a capital W). It’s green and leafy and full of elves and fairies and whatnot. And guess what? We’ve all read it and seen it. A bazillion times. It can be really dull. But if that is the only thing you have in your toolkit, use it. Because when it comes to cheating on worldbuilding, the key is to….Write What You Know. Yup.

Here’s how it works. You’ve been to, let’s say, Jamaica. Think for a moment about Jamaica. Lush. What crops do they grow in a lush environment like that? What do they wear? Flora, fauna, mountains, waterfalls, turquoise water, dramatic skies. What are the “native” houses like? You’re not expecting a lot of white marble or Indiana limestone. Probably not moted castles. BUT–what would a fortress look like in Jamaica?

How about food? Drink? I’m not suggesting you have your elves sit down to a round of Red Stripe beer.

Try another location–Iowa. Yep, I said Iowa. Flat, lakes, pig farms. And some pig farms. And then a few farms.

Because, you see, a world is believable when all the parts go together. The anthropology/sociology/archaeology/all the -ologies work. And it will be fresh, because your dragon-fighting sword wielding dude won’t run into all the other dudes from the other Nano’ers in the Wood.

Try it. Pull together a place that makes sense. Places on Earth mostly make sense. Egypt, camels, the need for water, tents, stone. We tried it on this planet and found what worked. Oh, did I mention you can pick any century, even millenium on our planet and it still works. That gives you a lot to work with that doesn’t look like Lord of the Rings.

George Lucas even did it for SciFi. You can certainly do it for Fantasy.

Come on, add your tricks!

6 thoughts on “So You Think You Can NaNo: Worldbuilding

  1. BJ Wheeler says:

    Thank you again Terry! I am loving your little “What to do/What not to do” tutorials. Thanks for taking the time to help out the newbies like me, or anyone that wants to improve their writing!

  2. ciarcullen says:

    Thanks for stopping, BJ. They’re just little tips. Maybe one will hit someone who needs it the right way…

  3. BJ Wheeler says:

    I’ve caught myself doing some of the things you mentioned in your last post. I love that you are taking the time and interest to help out aspiring(and perspiring) writers.

  4. It’s funny you mentioned woods– my NaNo story takes place in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula– guess what they have there? Wood– Forests– Water. LOL I’m at a part in my novel where my main character goes on a hike–she’s angry and unprepared– gets lost. I think I found a way to make it more interesting though. There is a location near by where it’s a gorge– wilderness, volcanic formations form like the stoneage or something…I’m thinking that more interesting than just a forest. *snicker*

  5. Janusz Buda says:

    Sci-Fi is a death-trap. If anyone could foresee the technology of the future and its consequences, he or she would be picking up a Noble Prize not writing novels. Humans are notoriously inept at predicting the future because they invariably extrapolate the present. The same thing goes, I think, for stories closer to home. Venture outside places you’ve visited yourself or personalities you’ve know and sooner rather than later you’re going to slip and fall. Writing about other places and periods is another death-trap, though regency romances or globe-trotting adventures don’t suffer from the instant obsolescence of sci-fi books written just 30-40 years ago and set in the super-futuristic world of, say, 2005.

    This is why I’m not a fan of fantasy or steam-punk. You can cobble together as many anomalies and contradictions as fancy takes you and get away with it. There a limit to my suspension of disbelief.

  6. anny cook says:

    What a great post! And yep, I almost fell into the Wood trap. This is great!

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