And that's why I wrote this series of articles on how to write a fantasy novel. I make up a small world, create some easy characters, and do some simple world-building. After that you should have a good idea of what you can do to write your epic fantasy masterpiece.
The fantasy writing articles include:
- How to Make a Fantasy World's Setting
- How to Write a Fantasy Novel's Setting: The West
- How to Write a Fantasy Novel's Setting: The East
- How to Write a Fantasy Novel's Main Characters
- How to Write a Fantasy Novel's Supporting Characters
You might already have an idea for your characters, and you might even have specifics laid out on what they’re like and what they do.
But how will the fantasy world in which they live affect their choices and behaviors? Deciding on what your fantasy world will look like is therefore very important. There are many ways you can go about creating your fantasy world, and I’ll explain some of them by showing you a map I made:
I made this map in about 5 minutes in Windows Paint. You could tell, couldn’t you? I certainly wouldn’t want to put this map in my new fantasy book, but I would certainly use it when I’m writing my story, and especially when I’m planning that story. Let’s look at how you can make your fantasy world by looking at this basic fantasy map.
What is the shape of your world? In my fantasy world you can see it’s just one large continent, almost like a donut. Most fantasy worlds will be one large continent; it’s just how most books have always been written. Do you want to continue that trend, or break from the norm? As you can see, I’m sticking with the standard fantasy mold here.
My fantasy world is round, and is probably surrounded by seas or oceans. In the middle is a large lake or inland sea. The continent is divided in two by the lake, as well as by the mountains which surround it. To the north is a vast desert, the Wo’dan Desert. To the south is an impassable swamp, the Swamps of Miletus. Where did those names come from? I have no idea; I needed a name so made them up. Those can be changed later, or you might just find that they start growing on you.
After I put in my as of yet unnamed mountains and lake, and the already named swamps and desert, I started in on my cities. I figured I had divided my continent in half with the terrain, now I needed to place at least one major city on each side of that continent. I’m a stickler for balance. The result is Finnegal in the West and Pa’dun in the East. Just judging from the terrain, it’s a safe bet that both cities are isolated from one another, and have been for some time. They’ve probably developed different cultures, and may have even gone to war with one another from time to time.
I also decided to put two additional cities on the map, both near what I consider to be the only landward crossing from one side of the continent to the other. They’d also make good forts or outposts to ensure that people from one side of the fantasy world don’t go to the other side. Drubeck is at the base of the mountains in the West, and Slotaan is in a similar position in the East. I’d imagine those aren’t the last settlements before the lake; there’d have to be some small fishing communities, right?
And that takes us into our fantasy world’s history. Just by making this simple map I’ve already opened a floodgate of ideas. Let’s take the lake. It’s surrounded by mountains, with only two mountain passes leading to it. To get to one side of the continent you’d have to take a ship or a boat across. I’d imagine that there’s a lot of joint trade on the lake, and perhaps a good deal of the world’s resources come from it. Was it always that way?
What about the Wo’dan Expedition that’s only talked of in hushed voices long after the kids have been sent to bed? It’s been about 60 years now, but many of the older folks of Finnegal haven’t forgotten their boy-king’s folly in sending the men, 5,000 in all. Their bones are still bleaching the fine white sands.
Or how about the Slotaan Seven? They were the elite instructors to the Pa’dun army, but after the Fanatics publicly humiliated them, they chose to hold their heads high and make a show of what real leadership was. For nine days they walked over the rocky plains to the Swamps of Miletus, that much is known from the Swamp Kin that live in the area. What’s not known is what ever befell them those 40 long years ago.
You can see that your fantasy world, and the terrain that it has, really have a big effect on how you tell your story, and really what story you have to tell. I wrote three fantasy novels this way, by making a map first. I’ll show you what you can do after you’ve begun making a fantasy world in future posts.