I mention World Anvil a lot. World Anvil is one of my favorite worldbuilding tools, and I think there’s a lot to love about it, but today I want to specifically review five of my favorite World Anvil features. (I wasn’t compensated in any way to write this article. I just really love this tool.) Continue reading “World Anvil Review – My 5 Favorite Features”
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!
*Links with asterisks are affiliate links, which means I get a portion of the earnings at no extra cost to you
Yes, I’m talking about WorldAnvil again, because it’s an amazing tool and the developers are awesome and Continue reading “My Top 5 Worldbuilding Tools”
Cultures are shaped by their stories. These stories might reinforce cultural ideals, religious ideals, general morals… or, on the flip side, they might subvert or reject these ideals. Myths and legends are a prime example of this, as they often reflect the mindset and values of the cultures that created them. So today I want to talk about how to build and use myth and legend in your fantasy world. Continue reading “Myth and Legend in Fantasy Worlds”
Last week, I talked about the core elements a fictional culture needs, and over time I’ve written posts on many different worldbuilding concepts and how to build them well. Today, I want to share with you a worldbuilding checklist that includes all of the elements (both general to a world and specific to various cultures) that I see as integral to a functioning world. And I’ll include a printable version, too, so stick around to the end for that. Continue reading “Worldbuilding Checklist – The Basics”
There are a lot of elements to consider when you’re building a fantasy world. It can be hard to know where to start. Which elements of culture are the most important? Different authors might have different answers, but here are the four elements I think operate as the pillars of a fictional culture.
Element #1: Worldview
The worldview of a culture colors everything that culture does, so it’s an important element to develop. I talked about this more in-depth a few weeks ago, but worldview is the axis on which a culture turns. Without an awareness of what that axis is and how it moves the culture, you might end up with a culture that feels off-kilter, like it’s just barely off the mark. If you feel like your fantasy world is missing something, it might be that you’re not digging into the goldmine of worldview.
Element #2: Religion
Religion is closely interwoven with worldview, since the worldview of a religious person or culture will be influenced by their faith. The prominent religion in a culture will affect how its people act, what laws it passes, and what sorts of taboos it has, among other things. It might also affect what type of government the culture chooses and what the culture believes about science. It might affect their interactions with other cultures. It’s up to you whether you want this religious view to be the correct one in your world. A strong fictional religion is one that impacts the lives of its followers and operates like a real-world religion, with faith at the core and works forming the shell that others see.
Element #3: Traditions
As with the other elements of culture, tradition is tied in with its neighbors. Tradition is born out of worldview and religion and reinforces both, as I talked about a couple weeks ago. Traditions are a big chunk of what bring your culture’s worldview and religion into the tangible so that you can make them accessible to your readers through your characters’ actions. As with most things in writing, worldview and religion need to be shown rather than told, and traditions are a great way to do this. Traditions could be things like holidays and festivals, or they can be simple everyday things like prayers before a meal or chanting a mantra when you get up. Traditions are consistently repeated actions, no matter the frequency or size of the action, that reinforce beliefs. And these ought to be present throughout your characters’ lives, just as they’re present throughout our own lives. We take them for granted, our characters may take them for granted, but our readers will appreciate the glimpse into your character’s world and values.
Element #4: Education
Like tradition, this is an element of culture that both stems from and feeds back into worldview and religion. Education passes on both information and values, and it can encourage or discourage certain worldviews and faiths. This then impacts character voice, as you determine how your characters would have been trained to think. Education will also impact your character’s everyday life in your story. If they’re still students, it might impact their flexibility. If they’ve completed their education and they’re looking into careers, what education they had could impact their prospects. Are they content with their available options, or would they rather have a job they’re not currently qualified for?
Education can give a great look at the values of a culture, since education systems can and should differ significantly based on the values of a culture, as I explored last week. Education is an underutilized tool in displaying culture.
Bonus Element: Government
Government draws its influence from all four of these core elements of culture, which is why I didn’t make it a pillar itself. Government is decided based on a culture’s worldview and religion, and maintained through the influence of all four pillars. While it does feed back into a culture’s worldview, education, and even religions and tradition, I see it as secondary to these four. If you want a quick guide to government types and what cultural values they go along with, check out this post I wrote for Lavender Bleu.
What are your thoughts on these elements of culture? Are there any more important elements you think I missed? Do you develop these elements first, or do you prefer an inside-out approach to worldbuilding? Or do you mix and match? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!