Market Listing Guide
Fantasy - A Creative Apaproach to World Building
by Will Kalif
Before you can get your fantasy world to
come alive in your readers mind you have to first get it
to come alive in your own mind. It has to be tangible and
real. And you have to see it before you can expect your
reader to see it. So how do you do this? I have three
suggested methods for bringing your vision of a world to
maps of your world
If you read a lot of epic fantasy chances are you have
looked at the maps that come with many of these books.
They are a wonderful addition to the writing. They bring
a visual reality to the world contained in the novel and
they are not an afterthought to the novel. They are a
valuable part of the novel reading experience.
Maps are not just for the reader though. They can serve a
very useful function to you as a writer. Chances are good
that your main character or main characters have to
travel around the world you have created. Where are the
rivers? How far apart are the cities and towns? What are
the main features of the landscape? Are there mountains?
How long would it take your character to walk from one
place in the world to another place in the world. A good
map can help you answer all these questions.
Too often maps are almost an afterthought. The story is
written and then the map is drawn to fit the story. You
should turn this approach on its head and draw the
maps early in the writing process.
A map or even a series of maps can ground your story in a
sense of reality. It can also spur new ideas in the
story. The visual layout of a map can bring out new
ideas. Does the map feel like it is missing something.
Does it feel natural for a lake to be at the base of a
mountain? Draw it in and see if it brings a new chapter
to your story. Are there two rivers that meet? What
should be at this meeting point? Is there a city? Maybe
there is a dark forest. Maybe these new terrain features
will play a role in your story.
Maps are something that a reader often refers to. A map
is a bonus in a novel and whenever there is a map in a
novel that I am reading the map pages are deeply
dog-eared. It brings a different part of the readers
brain into the story. Dont neglect maps and
dont save them as an afterthought. Use them to
their fullest potential. Even if you dont have much
skill with drawing, your map may be good enough to
actually use in the final print version. It is the
roughest maps that look like they are hand-drawn that are
the best accompaniment to a fantasy story.
3d scenes and dioramas for your world
I am a diorama maker. I love creating little scenes with
wizards, barbarians and all sorts of evil creatures. When
I wrote my first novel I took on the ambitious project of
creating a tabletop diorama for one particular area of
the world I had created. It was a project that covered a
custom built table that was seven feet long and four feet
wide and it took a lot of time to build but the reward
for this project was also big. Having an actual layout of
a scene in the novel allowed me to breathe life into the
novel. I could now see the terrain and the characters as
they moved over it. I could envision the weather and the
plant life. It made it much easier for me to draws
pictures in my readers minds. You dont have
to do a project as ambitious as the one I did, you could
just do a small scene but this type of world building in
a visual sense will add a sense of depth to your writing.
a video game that you can walk around in
This sounds like a lot of work, and a couple of years ago
this was not an option for a hobbyist; but today the
technology and tools are here that allow you to actually
create some pretty amazing worlds in just a few hours.
There are plenty of free resources that allow you to make
indoor and outdoor worlds without spending a penny. You
just need to invest some time. The technology has
developed to the point where it is almost plug and play.
Let me give you an example. You can sketch out in a world
building tool a city. You can make it a certain size,
place terrain and buildings in it then add all sorts of
pre-made extras. In a weekend you can have a small and
complete world that you can actually use a pre made
character to walk around in your world.
There are two distinct benefits to putting the effort
into doing this. First of all you can build a pseudo
realistic rendition of an area of your story and this can
help you to visualize it better. And visualizing it
better means you will describe it to your reader better.
But secondly, and even more importantly, the process of
creating this world in a medium other than pencil and
paper will take your imagination and creativity to new
levels. As you are building your world you will see it in
a new way. This will bring you new ideas, ideas that you
would have never thought of with just a word processor.
I have worked with several different software suites for
creating worlds and one of the new ones is the Kaneva
game platform. I havent used it yet but it looks
very appealing and very user friendly. If you use this
platform to make a world you can even invite other people
to come and explore it with you. Wouldnt that be
something? You can tell them it is the world that your
novel takes place in.
Epic fantasy and fantasy writing is, by its very nature,
a creative art form. But too often we as writers in the
genre tend to focus too much on either the physical
action or the social interaction in the story. You must
never forget that your story takes place in a world you
created. And this world is the ground to which your whole
story is tethered. It must be solid as stone and be
clearly envisioned by you. And it must be clearly and
vividly expressed to your reader. Building a physical
representation of your created world brings it to a new
level and helps you convey its sense of reality to your
Will Kalif is the author of two epic fantasy
novels and is currently working on his third. You can
check out his novels, his blog, and his podcast. or see
his fantasy dioramas and get good advice on how to make
your own video game worlds at his website: http://www.stormthecastle.com creativity with
You can also check out his site devoted to epic fantasy