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The Ultimate Worldbuilding Checklist

Fantasy fiction is all about the skin tingling moments. It’s when fiction writing transports you confidently into that setting. In-depth worldbuilding is the bedrock for magical storytelling. Readers need to believe your story. So, let’s get brainstorming and construct a world that’s authentic. 

Sure, Science Fiction, Romance, Crime all need to start with some robust worldbuilding. But stories that fall within the fantasy genre need to pay particular attention to this. Narratives based in the real world or modern day era can rely on certain standards of reader comprehension. The writer won’t ever need to explain what macaroni cheese is, for example.

When you’re starting a clean slate and creating a new world you really have to start from the ground up. After all, this is the playground where you create the characters readers will love.

The below image contains the many themes to explore when worldbuilding:

The Ultimate World-Building Checklist

Have you thought about all of these? Why not pin it above your writing space and tick them off as you go?

Worldbuilding: What type of world are you creating?

First thing you have to pin down is what type of world it is. Is it an alternate reality like Lyra’s world in Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights? Or is it a completely new universe like Tolkien’s Middle-earth?

This can be interesting because you can either choose to use things from real life and twist them or create whole new inventions.

Some examples of familiarity in Fantasy fiction:

  • The Ford Anglia car in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series
  • Chocolatl in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. (A substance like cocoa used to make a type of hot chocolate)
  • The London Underground stations in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere

Some examples of new mind-boggling inventions:

  • The Balrog in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series
  • The language of the Antari in VE Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic

Major themes to acknowledge

You need to tackle some of the big issues to construct an authentic world. Politics, religion, and class structure all relate to power. Where does power lie in your world? Is it with the wealthy? Is it with magic? Are there different divisions of people like in The Hunger Games? Do people co-exist happily? How are people born, even?

Society can’t work without these basic pillars and if your world’s been around for a while, it needs them to make it realistic.

These fundamentals in Fantasy fiction worldbuilding are what you hang your narrative hat on, so to speak.

Aesthetics

What does your world look like? It always helps to think visually when it comes to worldbuilding. Create a Pinterest board of all the things that relate to your story’s environment. Also, remember to brainstorm ideas using all the senses. What are the smells? What are the sounds? Is your world prickly and sharp, or fluffy and sweet?

If you’re looking for inspiration, soak up the colour palettes of these famous Disney Pixar movies.

And if this doesn’t make you dash to the nearest home department shop and buy some colour swatches, we don’t know what will.

Time and history

Unless your world has only just popped into existence like someone apparating in Harry Potter, you need to think about the timeline running up to the point at which you start your story.

Examples of hinted backstory in Fantasy Fiction:

  • The long reign of control The White Witch has had over Narnia, making it forever winter
  • The Hunger Games competition as a recurring event to fear in Suzanne Collins’s fantasy series

Also, what even is time in your novel? Does your world have a 12 month calendar year like us? Can time be controlled?

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These are the major things to consider for your novel’s setting. There are, however, plenty of other things to think about when it comes to worldbuilding (why not tick off what you can on the checklist above).

Your world needs to be a living, breathing entity, complete with its own postal system, medical service and fire-breathing but disarmingly polite dragon.

How do you go about worldbuilding? Let us know if you think of anything else.

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