May 18, 2012

How to recycle posts and build worlds

You may get a feeling of deja vu reading my post today. No you're not imagining it, this is part of a great blogfest run by Denise Covey (L'Aussie to most of us online) over at Romantic Friday Writers. The idea is to repost one of your favourite posts from the April A-Z Challenge. I love to recycle, so here is my W post from April. Click on the pic to go sign up for the blogfest!

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. Hi Charmaine. Firstly thanks for joining in this fun, easy peasy blogfest. It's great to get such a clear cut teachers version of World Building. This is super awesome and there's definitely parts to use even if you're not a fantasy/sci-fi writer.

    Great post!


  2. Nice post Charmaine. Much of your advice here can apply to other genres of writing. Thanks always for sharing.

  3. I like to visualise by daydreaming. It's part of my process therefore it's work, as I keep trying to convince my family.

    Moody Writing
    The Funnily Enough

  4. Hi Charmaine, great post. I like this post a lot as for my current WIP my 2 characters are travelling through a forest. I will be keeping all this in mind while I write.

  5. Thank Myrna :)
    You're right Denise, we do need to world build even if our story takes place in the streets of Brisbane.
    Moody - I forgot to mention daydreaming, that's actually the important first step to world building!
    Rachna, forests are great in stories and can vary so much, they can be enchanting, earthy, a sanctuary or gloomy and scary and many more things!

  6. Hi Charmaine!

    Really cool and helpful post! I love books that have a clearly defined landscape. :)

  7. What a fantastic post:)

    World building is something I love to do, sometimes it sidelines me from the actual writing!

  8. Dear Charmaine,
    Great world building here!! You make it sound so interesting to a humble poet like me. Thanks for sharing.

  9. I'm so glad you recycled! This was wonderful and I'd missed it last go around... Rereading it now ;D

  10. Very informative post. It's enough to deal with world as it is without having to invent another one, but for those who love fantasy you've laid it out very nicely.

  11. I tagged this in my favorites so I can refer back to it as I complete my own world building segments. Thanks for sharing your expertise; its helpful :)

    And thanks again for participating in this RFW challenge :)


  12. I think I must have seen this post first time around, it sounded familiar. Can't recall if I commented on the original, but worldbuilding is probably my favorite part.

    I tend to focus on key features that set my world apart rather than use lists, but I do lots of maps and drawings to help visualize things. I find if I can get a solid image in my mind, it helps to bring it alive on the page.