World building for your book requires a lot of necessary research. Please don’t skip out on this! Some authors hate research, but if you don’t do your research, your world will not be as believable. When a writer creates a world readers can see, smell, touch, taste, hear, they will latch onto those books. Books with rich worlds last beyond a single year on the bestseller list. For example, “The Lord of the Rings,” “Harry Potter,” and “Chronicles of Narnia.” Yes, these books have great storylines, but if their worlds hadn’t been built so richly, they likely wouldn’t have lasted through the decades.
When I started writing, I spent a lot of time on Google image, searching for visual representations of what I wanted. Now, I mix that with a Pinterest inspiration board. For me, having visuals helps with my ability to add description and realize what sorts of things I might be missing, like colors, or if the building is covered in vines.
Let’s get started! Here are some things to consider:
Where does your book take place? This is called setting. Is it real, like Billings, Montana? Or New Orleans? Perhaps it’s a fantasy world, but you could base it on a real place. For example, in my series The Forgotten Kingdom Series, Arington is based off of France, so I spent a lot of time searching French architecture. Now that I have references (see pictures below), I can describe what the buildings are made of, what color the doors are, etc. Does your building have defining characteristics you might have otherwise missed, like the frames of the windows, or little intricate carvings in the railings? The third picture below is inspiration for one of my fae cathedrals in “The Dragon Princess.”
2. Map/Physical Description
Every town/city, country/state, land has defining characteristics. What are some defining characteristics of your area? Natural descriptions—like a mountain range, forest, and deserts. You can pull up Google Maps and search the layout of the town/area if you’re unfamiliar with it. Yes, even for your fantasy realm. Not that you have to base your fantasy realm on a real place 100%, but seeing a real town in Ireland will help you visualize how far away rivers are, where roads might lay, how towns are set up, etc. You can be far away, zoom in, and even use 3-D!
Describe what the flowers on the side of the road smell and look like. Are they real, like a Forget-Me-Not, or made up, like Fairy’s Breath (a plant I made up based off a Venus Flytrap for my book, “The Four Stones of Tern Tovan”). If your land is a desert, what plants would there be? Are there trees? Are there particular things that are significant to mention in your story? Your character may smell lavender and remember when her mother used to rub lavender on her feet before bed out of the flowerbed next to the house.
Not all books need to have a set religion, and that’s completely fine! In my upcoming book, “The Dragon Princess,” the people worship and respect nature because they are the spring kingdom and are gifted with fruits and nuts from trees. However, the religion isn’t part of the book and is only briefly mentioned by the fae. Maybe it’s just a fleeting sentence in a curse or saying (in one of my books, a character says, “May the light go with you.”).
5. 5 senses
What can be seen, heard, smelled, touched, and tasted? As you’re character walks through the marketplace, past the horse stalls, by the river, keep these senses in mind. They’re eating a delicious cake, what does it taste like, smell like, etc. How many of us have wanted to taste a treat from Honeydukes (from “Harry Potter”) or looked up how to make our on lambas bread (from “Lord of the Rings”)?
Personally, none of my books have created money because it’s not an important component of my world building so far. However, with J.K Rowling, money played a role in her world, and she chose to create her own money system. If this is something you can add to your world, feel free to add it, just be sure it’s believable.
7. Side Characters
I don’t know about you, but I love reading a book where the characters are familiar with side characters in their world. I love when they greet Paul who’s worked at the ice cream parlor since high school, or the local drunk fisherman who can catch a net full of fish his first try, or the dwarf who grows flowers, etc. These kinds of characters breathe life into your world. Your character isn’t the only one wandering around.
How Do You Get There?
Now you have some ideas of things to include in your world to help boost it, how do you get inspiration?
As I mentioned, I have a board for “The Forgotten Kingdom” series with references for castles, armor, characters, and so on (you can check out HERE).
2. Tourist Websites
Again, this helps, even if you’re creating a fantasy world. You can use real landmarks for inspiration, real mountains, real lakes, buildings, etc. Also, can also use Google Maps to virtually visit any real landmarks. This is particularly helpful.
3. Visit the place
If this is possible for you, it’s the best research to do. I’m writing a summer romance that takes place in Hawaii, and I have plans to go visit so I can see what the island actually looks like.
4. Real Information
When I wrote my circus series, NASA’s website was my best friend. Why? Because I needed to know everything about planets—which are potentially habitable, what the atmospheres and surface are like, gravitational pull, etc. Every piece of REAL information you can add to your story sucks your readers into your books even more.
Do research into the genre of your book. What are the top 50 bestsellers? What do they all have in common? Start reading! I read “A Court of Thorns and Roses” because I knew I was writing a fractured fairytale book. Her world is phenomenal, and I was able to take notes as I read so I remembered what I loved. Reading bestsellers shows you what the market likes, and why these books are where they are.
An overall great research (with LOADS of different topics) is a blog by Derek Murphy called CreativINDIE. Check it out!