Fantasy World Building Tips: Basics

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A friend of mine recently told me if she were to write anything, it would be fantasy, and asked me for world building tips to better her writing. She thought world building was something you could throw together, reasoning: “You can just make up anything you want to have it fit your plot.” While a nice thought, it is a little further from the truth than you might think.

The fantasy genre is, by its very nature, a suspension of certain beliefs we have about how our world works. In a work of fantasy, a reality can exist that is very much like our own or very different. However, just like real life can be broken down into individual building blocks that create the whole, the same can be said for a fantasy world in a work of fiction.

Size of the World

One of the first things you must do when creating a fantasy world is figure out the geography. Creating a fantasy map is one of the most important building blocks in the process, as it can dictate many aspects about what is to follow. Does your story take place in a small, dense area with little outside influence, a vast world full of different environments, or does it fall somewhere between the two? The size of the world you create defines a number of things: population, variances of cultures, politics, where (and how many places) characters can travel, etc.

Parameters

The next question you must decide on is the parameters of your world. If there are one or more equivalent time periods from reality which apply to your world, think about the important characteristics that immediately spring to mind.

  • Are humans the only people or are there other races?
  • Do the same laws and rules of nature we have on earth apply to the fantasy world?
  • Does magic exist? If so, what are the rules?
    • What does it affect?
    • Who can use it?
    • How does it work?
  • How much, or how little, has technology advanced?
  • Is technology mixed with magic—perhaps they are the same thing?
  • What is the physical world like?
    • Flora and fauna
    • Climate
    • Terrain

People and Culture

I will be going into much further detail in the next entry for this series, but something to always keep in mind as you build the basics is how the people inhabit this world you create.

An important thing to remember while creating the basics of your world is to let your imagination roam free. This is the stage where you can have pages and pages of notes if you so desire. Editing and fine-tuning these concepts come later.

World building is not easy, but it can be amazingly fun to discover a world of your own making.

Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN)—What is it?

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What is an LCCN?

Assigned by the United States Library of Congress, an LCCN is a reference number used to locate the bibliographic data of a book published in the United States. Unlike an ISBN, your LCCN does not refer to a specific edition or format, and can be used for hardcover, paperback, and subsequent editions of the same book.

Should I get an LCCN?

In a word: yes. One of the most important reasons to obtain an LCCN for your book is for discoverability. Not only does the number help the Library of Congress maintain its catalog, but it helps librarians create their own catalog entries for new book acquisitions.

How to Acquire an LCCN

You can take two avenues when applying for an LCCN. Larger publishers (publishing houses which have three or more authors) apply for the Cataloging-in-Publication (CIP) program while smaller publishing houses and self-publishers apply for the Preassigned Control Number (PCN) program.

If you have applied through the Preassigned Control Number program, you might find it helpful to hire someone to create the Publisher Cataloging-in-Publication block of information—you must clearly label the PCIP as such, since it is not created by the Library of Congress.

For further information on book cataloging, see the article Getting Your Book Noticed.

Tying Up Loose Threads

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There is always a bit of anxiety mixed in with the excitement of finishing a book. As I, finally, completed the second book, I had to be certain important pay-offs in the third book were properly set up. I suppose I could work on the book ad infinitum, adding more and more to plot and characterization to the point the book becomes bloated—a downfall all writers seek to avoid. There comes a point where the manuscript just feels right, and I am happy to say I’ve reached that point.

I am undergoing the final read-through of the manuscript at the moment, tightening prose as I go along, before I hand it off to my editor. I look forward to having you all read it soon!

The Importance of Character Names

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As anyone who loves language knows, words contain power, and there is nothing more powerful in any language than a name. Knowing this, it was important to me when I started writing to come up with the perfect character name for not only the main characters but minor characters as well. For most authors, agonizing over how to come up with character name can be just as stressful as choosing the name for a baby—it comes as no surprise to find a Google search for “baby names” produces over 600,000,000 results.

What you call your character can influence your readers’ perception of them. The name can elicit feelings of importance, mistrust, or even humor. For instance, C.S. Lewis used a character name to great humorous effect in one of the more famous lines in his book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

In effort to help, here is the process I follow:

  • What is their background? If the character is part of a certain race, political, or geographical background, I will already have a background in mind for them—sixth century Welsh Gaelic, for instance.
  • How about their personality? Knowing their background is from sixth century Wales, I look up meanings behind names from that era to find one that describes a certain aspect of their personality. Are they fair? Brave? Mischievous? Etc.
  • Is it too similar? While there is no way to make sure there hasn’t been a character written about in the era of fiction writing, a certain amount of common sense research is done as to not name a character the same name as a popular fiction character or a real person. Common sense: the protagonist of your manuscript shouldn’t be called Harry Potter or Perry Hotter either.

It really is as simple as that. Of course, there is always a gut feeling involved when it comes to writing a character. If the name feels off for some reason, change it.