Apr 26, 2012

W is for World Building Workshop

Build an amazing world for your story
Today I'm sharing a creative writing workshop I run for kids. It's on World Building and this is an important part of science fiction and fantasy stories. You can follow along and write up your own responses, or you can use the worksheet we use in class. It can be downloaded and printed from here:

I've broken this workshop into two parts, the lists and the drawing. You can do either first, I love the lists, my kids will probably want to draw theirs first. 

 Step 1: The Written World Description
  • Binaries and Parallels - What's the same as our world and what's different?
  • Temperature - Is it below freezing or really humid? The temperature of your world will affect the type of vegetation you have, and even the action that can take place (imagine The Wizard of Oz without a tornado). Is your weather seasonal or is it always like this?
  • Landscape - When your character stands still, what can they see and how far can they see? Can they see Mountains, ranges, hills or a horizon?
  • Ground cover - Dirt, rocks, pebbles, sand, grass or snow? How does it feel to walk under your character's feet? What sound is made when they walk on it?
  • Vegetation - Tree varieties, weeds, shrubs, edible fruits, mushrooms and flowers. This can create scents and colour to your story. Plants are used for more than shelter and food. Sometimes they can be medicines and sometimes they are just for enjoyment. Do your characters like to pick flowers? Or maybe there's a plant like tobbacco that they smoke? And maybe it's not good for them and they find out they could die from it. Maybe some yummy looking berries are poisonous.
Now beyond the ground.
  • Laws of Physics - Will your land obey them? Is there gravity? How might this affect your characters?
  • Sun/Moon/Stars - What is the natural light like or what alternatives are there for light? Does sun or moon or stars play a role in your character's religion?
  • Civilisation - Is your world built up or entirely natural? Are there pathways, roads, houses, airports, industry?
Step 2 - Drawing
  • Draw rough maps of the entire area and show how your different locations meet up.
  • Draw up an outline of each town, where are the homes, the shops, the tavern, etc.
  • Then go wild and paint or sketch lots of views of your world, be as artistic as you want!
Want to visuaslise your world but don't have crayon skills?
  • Make a virtual world in a game like Sims3 or Second Life or perhaps you can suggest one?
  • Search online, steal National Geographic magazines and travel brochures. Cut out all the elements that match your world and glue them onto a large sheet of cardboard. Layout the pictures to align with your map, showing where the rainforest is compared to the Castle and what you pass when you travel from one to the other. You can keep this by your desk while you write.


  1. Great post, thanks for the share. I just love world building (and I'd probably jump straight into the drawing too!)

    I'm busy running my way through the A-Z of World Building on my blog this month!

  2. Hey, Charmaine
    This sounds like a good approach to building a world full of sensory details.

  3. Thanks for sharing , this was a great "W" post.


  4. Awesome tips! I love world-building! The funny thing is, I'm writing historical right now and a lot of these same questions (except the ones about the laws of physics) apply.

    Thanks, Charmaine!

  5. Excellent post. There is so much to consider when worldbuilding. I admire fantasy writers for doing that.

    J.C. Martin
    A to Z Blogger

  6. Love these lists! I rarely use lists (my brain is pretty global), but I'd like this set up! :)

  7. I am amazed at how creative writers can be when it comes to designing a world, the physical laws, the governing laws, and the creatures. Its a lot of work I'm sure.

  8. It's handy being able to visualise the world because that helps to make your world consistent.
    Great tips.

  9. This is great Charmaine. You will be able to lead us on a journey together! Thanks for the info.


  10. Hi Charmaine, this was a great post. Lots of fantastic information. Thank you for sharing the World Building PDF link.

  11. This is fantastic--and so generous of you to share. Thank you!

  12. That's a great post :)
    I am glad you shared with us

  13. Thanks for a great post & thanks for sharing :)

  14. What a great workshop! I bet the kids love thinking of answers to all of these questions, and they sound perfect for adult writers, too.

  15. These are great questions to ask when building a new world. I often don't think of many of these things... not in the beginning anyway!

  16. Great post! Thank you for sharing. I will find this useful myself. I love reading and writing about new worlds.