I’ve always loved the maps on the inside of books like those in A Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. Some in-class boredom last semester lead me to doodle mountains, rivers, and city layouts in my notes. Some larger blank pages lead to the first draft of a map for my own imaginary world. But, I felt my scribbles were lacking, so I went searching online to improve my artistic skills. A few articles in on “how to draw fantasy maps,” I stumbled upon the term “worldbuilding.” Worldbuilding is the process of designing a world with its own people, history, geography, and ecology. From there, my imagination took off.
After some more research, I determined that my first draft was extremely lacking in geographical accuracy. Cue me spending an hour on Wikipedia learning about how mountains, rivers, and forests come and go. More thought and careful planning went into the second draft, which is much closer to the version I am currently working with.
With a general map design secured, I started to think about the history and culture of the people that would populate my world. It is a huge writing project to undertake, and even now, I am still struggling to start because there are so many interdependent aspects of history and culture that I want to cover. I think the best way to start is an overarching outline of everything that needs to be covered. I tried diving right into the juicy parts of the world history, but found that I couldn’t write a war without motivations, and to explain the motivations I needed histories of both civilizations and their previous relations. Repeat ad nauseum. Sometimes it feels like everything needs to plop down on the page, or my Google doc, all at once for anything to ever make sense. Despite this, I still love letting my mind wander off thinking about made up economies, relations, and cultures.
If this sounds like something that interests you, I encourage you to try it out! The awesome thing about worldbuilding is that it can be as detailed or as scarce as you decide. I knew from the start that I wanted my world to be as detailed as possible, but that does not have to be the case for your world. Worldbuilding should be an escape from reality. It can be easy to get caught up in all the math and science we have at RPI. Sometimes, it’s just better to imagine.