Writing Fantasy: Creating a World Step 1

Writing YA fantasy has been a favorite of mine since I could write. So, I decided it would be fun (and hopefully engaging) to focus more of my blog posts on the fantasy genre. Today will mark the first post in my new series, which I have coined "Writing Fantasy: Creating a World." Highly original, I know :P

When I first sit down with the intention of creating my own world from scratch, there are a series of steps that I go through, often somewhat unconsciously. I'll be going over each step, for the next several blog posts. Each step may take some time, and will likely stretch out over the course of your world-building, as new ideas spring up and mesh together.They are intended to give those of you who are interested a starting point, if you're unsure where to begin creating a world for a fantasy novel.

Step One: Geographical Features

If you have a knack for drawing, this step might be a favorite. The very first thing I do is determine what kind of fantasy world I want to write about. A vast earth-like world similar to Tolkien's Middle Earth? A far-off volcano planet? A world covered in water save for a tiny island in the center? Pick a setting that inspires you, because you're gonna be stuck with it for an entire novel, or maybe even a trilogy/series. You don't have to develop every single geographical feature right away (after all, geography and plot need to weave together in a novel, and that often develops through the writing process). But having a starting point is essential.

Here are some examples of geographical features you might want to include in your fantasy world:
-volcanic activity
-ice lands

Variety is good when it comes to creating the geography of a world. Also, pay attention to what types of ecosystems lie next to one another in real life, as a sense of reality is important even in fantasy. Once you have an idea of how the world looks in your head, it's often helpful to sketch it out in the form of a map. Feel free to google search or look at published fantasy books for ideas about drawing your map. Develop something that you feel comfortable using, and remember that it doesn't have to look perfect. It's just a reference that will help you when you sit down to write your story.

Now it's your turn to speak--have you ever created a map for your story? What's the first step you take when creating a fantasy world?


  1. Most definitely a map-doodler first. I highly recommend them. They're so easy, so fun, and so addictive!

  2. For me, step one is creating the capital city or the main character's entrance point (a street-level view). The rest of the world geography tends to organically grow as the character explores his/her environment. I usually save map-making for step three, after I've got a list of landmarks a character will encounter and a few chapters written (which gives me a direction of movement).

  3. Jessica, agreed! I love drawing out maps over and over again until I deem them "perfect" :P

    Eli, that's an excellent idea. I do find it very useful to consider the location where the character first appears as a starting point, and work on building the world around that.