There are a million and one ways to build a world, and dozens of articles which will give you specific pointers about how to dive in. This isn't one of those articles: instead, my goal here is to help you build a world that you want to write about, because then the actual writing part is pretty easy. It's not as hard as it sounds, and can be used in any setting (historic western, dystopic futuristic sci-fi, etc.).
The secret sauce? Living in the details. I've got three examples for you below - how to embrace your settings, how to give each character (no matter how large or small) their due, and how to embrace the things which don't quite make sense.
We anchor our years through the holidays we celebrate. Think about it: we celebrate new beginnings, commemorate great moments of religious significance, and remember great moments in our national history. Holidays possess their own traditions, superstitions, histories, and importance. Different holidays matter different amounts (looking at you, President's Day).
Because holidays are woven so deeply into the fabric of any society, when you're designing a fictitious world, it's weird if there is nothing celebrated regularly. When I designed Summer Twilight, I put a lot of thought into one particular holiday in Rosemoor Dell: the Harvest Festival. In this article, I'll take you though some of the processes I used to develop the holiday and help it feel authentic.
I've been playing Dungeons & Dragons fairly consistently since 2016. I've played a few different characters in my time, with several different people, but one thing has remained constant: a good D&D session gets my creativity flowing.
The principles and themes of D&D permeate the world of Summer Twilight. I've talked about this a little bit before, and I'll get into more detail in future posts, too. Today, I want to focus on how it all starts: why I find D&D a source of inspiration. For any creator, no matter your medium, there will be things in life that help you create.
In my humble opinion, food makes any situation better. One of my favorite movies is Oceans 11 (who doesn't love classic George Clooney?), and in that move Brad Pitt's character is eating in almost every scene. Something about that quirk feels very real to me - because I, too, am eating in almost every scene of my life.
When creating a fantasy world, food is one of those things that helps add dimensionality to the environment. Think about it - when we visit new places, one of the first things we do is explore the food there. You get off a plane or out of a car, and stop at the nearest coffee shop or burger joint. Food defines a lot of different places - Maryland Crab, Chicago-Style Pizza, New York Bagels....the list is endless.
One of my favorite things about reading a new book is losing myself in it. Some people have an amazing knack for writing a place in a way that makes it feel as though you're actually there, whether it's the rain-damp cobblestones of a narrow Victorian street, or rolling fields perfumed with every flower imaginable.
There's a tricky balance here: you don't want to be so overly descriptive and flowery with your language that your reader loses interest, but you need to give enough detail that your audience can build their own image. Writing is unique that way - the only way we as authors have to communicate with the reader is with the written word. It's a lot of pressure to get those words right.
Bridget is the author of Summer Twilight, available for purchase now!