There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

World-Building Resources (Part 1) December 27, 2012

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 1:32 am
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When I set out to create this particular blog, I had a list of books I planned on recommending to you all that are great resources for world-building. As it turns out, I’m a pantser even when it comes to blogging. Because as I went on vacation with my husband for Christmas, inspiration for one of the best and cheapest world-building resources ever came to me: Nature.


What is the one thing that all fantasy worlds have in common? There has to be some sort of nature, some sort of plant-life for the inhabitants of that world to survive off of. And this is, to me, one of the most important aspects of world-building. You don’t need to spend five pages describing a leaf, but it is very important that the reader be immersed in the world your characters are traveling through. Tolkien and Rowling both did amazing jobs with this. Their worlds were so vivid they might as well have been characters in the books. I feel like I know Middle Earth and Hogwarts better than I know my own backyard. Why? Details. And because I don’t go in my backyard a lot, but I digress.


You see, my husband and I set out on our Christmas jaunt and he decided to surprise me by taking me on a hike through the woods where The Hunger Games was filmed. No, The Hunger Games has nothing to do with my manuscript and would hardly fit in the epic fantasy genre, but it is yet another example of an author who knew what she was doing with world-building. Oddly enough, my mind wasn’t on Suzanne Collins or her books while we traipsed through the woods where the movie was filmed. I found myself in awe of the sites on this hike. The views were amazing and so magical I would (and probably will) use them as inspiration for my series.


Which is what led me to this blog. Usually, when doing research for world-building I turn to books and the internet. I have a whole slew of pictures of castles and rolling green hills and oceans and lakes. But in all my hours of surfing online, I’ve forgotten one very vital thing I would like to remind you all of today.

Triple Falls, NC

Triple Falls, NC

If you are looking for a magical world to help you build your own, sometimes you need to look no further than the one you live in.


Sure, surfing the net is fine. And books are a great help (see my recommendation below for a great one to get you thinking about the plants in your world). But if you really want to know what it would be like for your character to hike by a river or through a vast forest of trees, then try it out for yourself. Not only will you have experience to use in your writing, but you’re bound to find inspiration as well.


If you’re looking to start your world-building with nature and need more to go on than a hike with breathtaking views, check out this book for information on different herbs:


Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham is a great source of the magical aspects of the plants around us. Some have healing properties, others bring luck. Cunningham discusses herb magic in this book, but if herb magic isn’t the way you want to go it is still a great resource. Need to know what plants to line the way of a dark and eerie path your characters need to take? Look at the meaning behind herbs and the plants they come from (or flip through the illustrations). The book is available through Amazon or Barnes&Noble (available in both Kindle and Nook formats). Amazon also has a pretty good preview of the book available for viewing, so I would strongly recommend you take a look before you purchase to make sure this book will be helpful to you.



What world-building resources do you use? Hit the comments to give us your recommendations!



2 Responses to “World-Building Resources (Part 1)”

  1. Great post, Mara. 🙂 It really is all in the details, isn’t it?

    The world-building process doesn’t involve a whole lot in the way of “resources” for me. So far, it mostly involves discovering gaps in my knowledge of the setting– “How are those people related?” and then I make a family tree. Or, “What does the surrounding area look like?” and then I sit there and figure that out for a bit. It can take a lot of discipline to keep from glossing over things and commit to rich detail.

  2. kathils Says:

    Excellent post! This happens to me all the time when we’re hiking. I envision my characters roaming in my footsteps and usually have a whole internal dialogue going. Same thing happened when we visited Ireland. I’m sure I wasn’t the best conversationalist, too many characters inhabiting the landscape with me! LOL

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