Some Fun World Building Tips!
Disclaimer: Your plot/story comes first. Don’t add a bunch of flaunty details for the sake of ‘World Building’ if it doesn’t add to your story or takes it off course, It’s not worth it. These are just some things I’ve tried in different, separate stories that were fun exercises for me as a creator.
This is the most useful if you have multiple countries in a fantasy world that interact with each other in some form or fashion. Most countries have a different national language, and then different dialects of that language. Therefore, if you have two characters from Country A and Country B that speak different languages and live a decent distance apart, they’re probably going to have different speaking structures and slang. For instance, maybe Character A always says ‘Oh my God’ and maybe Character B always says “My Gods!” Incorporating little details like that will make your story more real and believable without requiring writing out another language.
Also, language is based on history, religion, and culture. If Country A and Country B have different religions, they’re going to swear differently. It’s more interesting if you don’t just substitute their god’s name into a generic phrase that is the same across all languages.
Food is SUPER cultural and SUPER fun to play with while world building. What is considered “travel food” in the country? What do they drink out of? What’s a popular type of alcohol? What’s the traditional ‘comfort food’? Desserts? What do you offer guests when they come over to your house? This is also dependent on the terrain. If the country has a lot of swamp and bogs, they’re not going to have an endless supply of grains. If it’s mostly a prairie, they’re not going to have oranges. Do a little research on what type of foods could be grown in the environment your country is in, then figure out what foods can be made from these plants.
This is really easy to incorporate into fantasy worlds by just mentioning for half a sentence what food the characters are eating, and it tells the reader a lot about the environment and culture of this country.
This one only works if you have younger characters who are attending school or receiving lessons. If you have the right environment for it, it’s really fun to mess around with. Ask yourself questions: what would my character study at this age in this environment? History? Math? Language? Art? Music? Philosophy? Magic? Combat? Religion?
While your character is learning about the history of one or multiple countries, you can easily expand your reader’s depth of the world through short descriptions. You can explore the linguistics of a country’s language and develop time periods. I have one WIP where the main character is having to read multiple classical novels and plays, but she also reads modern fantasy. Having a history helps deepen the believability of a world. If you’re exploring art, music, or philosophy, make sure to mention famous artists, musicians, and philosophers that your character either despises or looks up to. Magic is fun too. What type of magic is your character learning? How do they practice it? How is it viewed by the majority? Combat depends on culture; different groups of people fight differently and use different weapons. Religion is fun to play with, and through an educational setting, it can be smoothly explained.
Even picking just one or two of the above list (or even adding some more!) gives just a bit more depth to your story and solidifies your world!
4.) Popular Culture
Pop culture shapes our world soooo much it’s ridiculous. Having some version of it will make your world so believable. What is your world’s version of Taylor Swift or Pan!c at the Disco? What’s your world’s version of Fortnite dances? What are their ‘memes’, so-to-speak? Who do they make fun of? My high school of 300 people has inside jokes that make fun of our principal. Even if it’s a little jab at the president/king/dictator of a country, just add a little something extra that can help give a clear image of modern social culture.
How do the citizens of your country receive their news? Newspapers? Is there just a giant bulletin where the king posts news? What type of news do they receive? Politics? International? Economic? Environmental? Sports? Pop culture? Editorials? Feature stories? Do they receive news magically? If so, how? Do they have some form of radios or televisions? What issues are present in society? Is anyone doing anything about this?
This is fun because it’s a very real thing you can include that once again gives your story some believability. A large country needs some sort of communication, and through the media is one way to do that. In an absolute monarchy where news is completely controlled by the government, this can be used to show contrast if the king is indeed a bad king. Also, differences in mass communication between two countries (maybe one has a bulletin controlled completely by the king and another has a law protecting freedom of the press) can show differences between the two. Also, political cartoons are fun.
AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST!!
Study world history. Pay attention to differences between countries and mirror/combine elements of culture and history into your own original world. You learn the most from what has actually made it—the real thing!