How to start a new world

In this post I’ll be talking through some different ideas to help inspire you when starting a new world. There are many methods of worldbuilding, so use whichever techniques work best for you – after all, it’s your world, you can build it how you like!

Where to start?

It can be a bit mind-boggling when it comes to knowing how to start a new world, so I’ll go through lots of different areas that you can explore (in whichever order you like)!

Naming your world can be a great place to start and will give you a simple point for you to expand from, but if you get stuck you can actually come back to this at a later stage. It’s ok to use a placeholder name!

Themes

If you’ve read my post about planning a new world, you will be familiar with considering what underlying themes your world might have. Once you get an idea for this you will naturally start to get ideas for the content of your world! Fantasy worlds might include magic, fantastical beasts and mystical creatures, or perhaps your setting is more sci-fi and futuristic?

If you’re stuck for ideas on themes, you can look to your favourite TV shows, films and games for inspiration, for example Bethesda’s Fallout series has a fantastic apocalyptic atompunk theme that really ties its worldbuilding together in a consitent and memorable style.

Key questions to think about when choosing a theme/genre:

  • Does this genre rule out a concept that I want to use?
  • How much do I know about this genre?
  • Do I enjoy this genre? – this may sound like a silly question, but if you don’t really enjoy reading about a certain genre or topic then chances are you won’t enjoy writing about it!
  • How can I make this theme unique to me?

Time Periods

A key area to consider when starting a new world is what time period it might be set in. This is really important to establish as it will denote what level of technology people in your world may have access to as well as any real world cultural influences, architecture and history that you could draw inspiration from.

Key questions to think about when choosing a time peroid:

  • What level of technology is available?
  • What methods of warfare exist?
  • What methods of transport are there?
  • How do people get their food?
  • What conditions to people live in?
  • How are societies generally governed?

Technology

Perhaps you’ve already got an inkling of an idea for your world! That’s fantastic! Using this as a starting point (even if it’s a small one) you could consider the levels of technology that will be available in your world. Do you want your world to have guns? No guns? Faster than light travel? Or maybe it could even be a prehistoric setting!

Knowing the level of technology will allow you to slot into place how the people of your setting will function within the world in which they live.

Key questions to think about when choosing a technology level:

  • How will people travel long distances in your world?
  • What level of medicine and healthcare is available?
  • What methods of fuel or power are available?
  • Is your world on the brink of discovering a new technology?
  • How is the discovery of a new technology impacting society in your world?

Setting Alignment

How will you convey the general mood of your world? Is it a joyous and wonderful setting full of epic adventures in which heroes save the day? Or is it a bitter world full of strife and daily struggles, but a glimmer of hope keeps people going? How you present your world will have a big impact on what world building content you create for it and it will even influence how your characters interact with the world.

Here are some setting alignments to consider, but remember that your world doesn’t have to fit into a single category forever! It could change from the perspective of a main character, or a cataclysmic event may change how the world is perceived.

Noble Bright – the world has a positive outlook and stories focus on good news, progress and development. Heroes and protagonists have fun and there are always people around to help save the day.

Noble Neutral – the world has a positive outlook and people live their lives in a productive manor. Mishaps occur but it’s not the end of the world, the quality of life is great!

Noble Dark – the world is a dangerous place, but there is a great cause that people believe in and communities are close knit to overcome the threats of the world.

Neutral Bright – there is a good balance of lawful and chaotic events within the world but overall the world has a positive outlook and future.

True Neutral – similar to real life (depending on your perspective and where you are) – there is a good balance of lawful and chaotic events.

Neutral Dark – the world is a dangerous place, but people continue with their lives nonetheless and have learned to cope.

Grim Bright – the world is a truly dreadful place, but there is a glimmer of hope as a scarce number of individauls seek to make the world a better place.

Grim Neutral – the world is a truly dreadful place, sometimes people help each other out but this is counterbalanced by warfare and strife.

Grim Dark – the world is a dreadful and dangerous place. There is seemingly little hope amongst all of the fear, oppression and poor quality of life.

Key questions to think about when choosing a setting alignment:

  • How do you want people to perceive your world?
  • Is there a reason or something that caused your setting to feel this way?
  • Will the tone of the storytelling change at some point in time?

Locations & Climate

An excellent place to start building a new world is to consider the lay of the land. This could be in a large scale world map – or a more localised setting like a city, town or even just a street! Knowing the geographical features of your world can help you understand what the climates are like and what resources would be available. Big mountains in the way? How will people travel to nearby places?

Creating a simple map (or using a free one included in my resource bundles) can be a fantastic visualisation tool and will help you organise different locations within your world.

Key questions to think about when choosing a location or climate:

  • How would different climates affect the people who live in your world?
  • How do people survive against natural disasters?
  • Based on their local climate, how do people dress? Are their homes different?

 

Hopefully these starting points have given you a spark of inspiration! Eager to get started? Here are 4 quick tips for setting up your new world on World Anvil.

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