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  • S.M. Ryan

Worldbuilding Resources



Let's talk about settings.


My urban fantasy project Journey to the Throne is set in an alternate version of New York City that exists seventy-five years into the future. Being that it is an urban fantasy you can imagine the time I had weaving in fantastical and magical elements with realism.

It's also incredibly important that everything in my world fits together in all its pieces and leaves as little loopholes and questions about its logic as possible.


Even though I'm not a planner when it comes to my stories, I always like to have my world fleshed out - as much as I think is needed -- for the story.


Currently, my coming short stories and novellas will all be apart of the same world I've been building for Journey to the Throne.


Some worlds hold more than one story for me. That's just how it is.


When it came to building my world, I did start with a few templates but mostly my own questions and taking the time to mirror real life in a fictional world with a series of "what if.." for everyday things.


Worldbuilding -- whether you are a plotter or pantser -- takes up a lot of time and is where a lot of unseen and unheard-of information goes during the writing process. But it's the most important part of the storytelling process because the world is where readers are going to immerse themselves and they tend to want to hear, smell, taste, feel, and know as much as they can while they're in it.


You can have a great story if you want, but if it's taking place in that White Room, then readers stop caring.


There's no "right" way to build the world for your story any more than there is a "right" way to pick the important settings to stage the stories but they do have to do two things:


1) Capture the reader's imagination and 2) immerse them enough in the world that they can suspend any disbelief you need them to.


Obviously, you can be as complex or as simple as you want to be with your worlds and you don't need to know everything but you do need to know what you need to know when it comes to what is relevant to your story specifically.


For example, my story is seventy-five years in the future and if I wasn't asking myself the right questions, I'd overlook something like the fact that the seasons will look completely different in seventy-five years so October 2095 would be looking real different than it does right now.


Will the reader really notice it or know why it's changed so much? Not until they're questioning why my cast of characters are still on the beach getting tanned or some shit for Halloween. (Hello global warming). Halloween beach party anyone?



As we prepare for NaNoWriMo, myself included (yes, this is me deciding), I've been digging back into my bag of resources that I tend to lean on to see what I have, what I've forgotten about, and what I can maybe use to step-up my pantsing game.


Below are some of my favorite worldbuilding resources for settings and world-building for all genres.


Remember, only take for them what you need, it's okay to ditch what doesn't serve you.

Worldbuilding Resources

  • The Ultimate Guide to Worldbuilding is one I like to use the I'm not sure how big or small the world feels like it needs to be to tell the story. This is a good starting point with some questions along the way that can help you get into a frame of thinking for your world whether it's an imaginary world, alternate reality, or an actual place.


  • Worldbuilding 101 is a resource I found a few years ago when I got back into writing and had started out by self-editing my unfinished work. It's the first resource I found that A) I really enjoyed reading and B) helped me figure out some questions I needed to be asking about the world and the characters I was placing in it.


  • This fantasy name generator is one of my favorites because it offers a little bit of everything when it comes to naming things in an entirely made-up world, but I also love that it hs generators for everything from jobs for your characters to name generators for tattoo parlors and realms.


  • 120 Worldbuilding questions is my favorite source to recommend for any writer who is building a new world, experienced or not. The questions are perfect starting off points for determining things about the world your building and as usual, take what you need and leave the rest of the questions behind for another time.



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