My Top 5 Worldbuilding Tools

I talk a lot about worldbuilding, and today I want to share with you five tools that I’ve found helpful for organizing and inspiring my worldbuilding and that hopefully will be a help to you, too!

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Yes, I’m talking about WorldAnvil* again, because it’s an amazing tool and the developers are awesome and super responsive and just everything about it is amazing. For those of you who haven’t heard me pitch WorldAnvil before, WorldAnvil is an online worldbuilding tool with worldbuilding templates for everything from species to objects to locations to languages to spells to… Well, you get the idea. They have a lot of options, and each template has a bunch of helpful fields that you can fill in or ignore as you see fit, plus prompts and insights under each field to get the juices flowing if you need a little extra help. Here’s a little piece of a “settlement” template to give you an example.

You can also start with a blank template, which you can then shape into whatever will best suit your needs.

WorldAnvil’s map tools are also super cool, allowing you to layer pre-existing maps and add markers that can link to articles. Check it out.

Cool, right? WorldAnvil articles also just look great, with a number of themes to choose from for each of your worlds. Here’s the homepage of my Deseran world, to give you an idea of just one of the themes.

I’ll be gushing specifically about WorldAnvil next week, so let’s move on to some of these other worldbuilding tools.

New Worlds, Year One by Marie Brennan

I read this book earlier this year and it’s fantastic. I’m sure you’re not really supposed to read it cover-to-cover, but I did, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself while doing so. The worldview is secular, so that’s rather evident in a few places; and there are a few chapters where, by necessity of the subject matter, she uses some language or covers uncomfortable topics, but I thought it was handled well. Brennan has an engaging writing style, and since she studied anthropology she has a lot of interesting insights and brought up some things I never would have thought of. For instance, do the members of your fictional culture trace family paternally or maternally, and is that in or out of line with whether your culture is patriarchal or matriarchal? Because it can be either.

This book really got my thoughts spinning, and I look forward both to rereading it and to reading Year Two.

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A Word Processor

This one is super simple, but honestly Microsoft Word is one of the worldbuilding tools I use the most. With a single worldbuilding document, it’s easy to keep everything together–and you can give it as much or as little structure as you need. With Deseran, it helps me a lot to have a central location where I can dump all of my worldbuilding ideas as I think of them and come back to organize them later. Ideas start as a jumbled mess in that document (which is now over 60 pages long) and gradually get copied into WorldAnvil articles where they’re much more organized and nice to look at.

I’ve also used Google Docs to create more structured worldbuilding templates (see above), which I’ve found isn’t the best format for most of my worlds, but which was definitely a helpful middle point for me and might work well for other worldbuilders.

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A Pinterest board with sections for "wardrobe," "cuisine," and "characters," exemplifying how to use Pinterest as a worldbuilding tool

Pinterest is great if you’re visual (like me) or if you struggle to construct visuals of certain elements from nothing (also like me). I’ve talked before about my Pinterest country boards (and I have similar boards for civilizations that aren’t strictly “countries”), so I won’t go into too much detail on that specific use here. But I’ve also found Pinterest to be great for sparking cuisine ideas, putting together a cohesive mood for a country/civilization/group/setting, collecting fashion inspiration to build into something new (fashion design is a side hobby of mine, so I find that one fun), etc. I’ve also created a couple of boards for fantasy races and legendary characters. All of these help me get a feel for the world and the elements in it, and they often spark new concepts to work in, as well.

Storyworld First by Jill Williamson

I’ve mentioned this book multiple times before, and I’m going to mention it again. This book has some great info on the basics of worldbuilding, and Jill does a great job of making the worldbuilding process practical. I still have sticky notes in this book, and I probably ought to reread it and underline things now that I do that with my nonfiction books. XD

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Have you used any of these worldbuilding tools? Which stand out to you most? Do you have any worldbuilding tools to recommend that I didn’t mention? Drop your thoughts in the comments!

Want to learn how to use tools like these for more effective worldbuilding? Check out The Worldbuilding Toolbox and learn the basics of what makes worldbuilding work and how to make it work for you!

6 thoughts on “My Top 5 Worldbuilding Tools

  1. Can I just suggest one I think you’ve either missed or not spent enough time using? The one I use primarily for organisation, &c., is Scrivener – a fairly cheap, once-off payment. There’s a free trial. I find it extremely useful. And another… I’ve also just started using Aeon Timeline for making sure my timelines make sense, which is also a once-off payment, and I have been finding quite useful, although I’m still getting used to it.
    Not trying to gatecrash your post or anything. I just know that I used to use Word or Google Docs and then switched to Scrivener and it was so so much easier. And you can make character/place templates and it’s so much easier. And I’ll shut up now.
    Great post, by the way… this sounds so insincere but it’s true…. :)

    1. I do use Scrivener for some of my projects, but I don’t use it for worldbuilding very often. I find it more helpful for drafting and editing, personally.

      Aeon Timeline is another good program. I haven’t had the opportunity to work with it much, but I found the trial helpful while I was working on my giant fantasy trilogy and it definitely seems like a helpful tool for both writing and worldbuilding.

      Thank you for commenting!

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