Worldbuilding Questions: Post #5 – Magic and Magicians: Rules of Magic

At the request of a new reader to the blog, I want to push out another worldbuilding post today! We’re going to begin diving deep into the building of a magic system, and trust me, its going to get interesting. I know exactly how complex this particular part of a universe can get; I’m just finishing wrapping up the finer details of my own magic system, so I’ve been working in this mode for at least two weeks in two separate periods.

Magic systems take time. That’s what it comes down. Building a magic system from the ground up takes time, especially if you want it done right. And you do because it’s going to be the foundation of your entire universe. Whether magic plays a main role or a supporting role, a fantastical universe will always be held in tether with some type of magic. Patience and attention to detail are key.

Let’s get started! Follow this link to the appropriate page.

Magic: Building a Foundation

Very first question, probably the most important question of all time. What can magic NOT do? What are your limits? This is key; take some real time thinking about this. Make a list. Make it reasonable. When my boyfriend and I were going over my magic system, he kept bringing up these tiny holes, the most nitpicky scenarios of all time, to point out flaws. That’s what he does; I’m not bitter about it. Okay, maybe a tiny bit bitter. I mean, EVERY nitpicky scenario you can think of. But what it did make me realize is that I needed to curtail my magic much more than I had originally anticipated. Not just on a large scale, but on a smaller scale too.

Once you’ve established limits, now you’re going to establish how magic users try to get around these limits. Is there a way of combining spells that have a similar effect as a spell forbidden by your system? Is there a loophole that you particularly need to be exploited during a scene? This can be as simple or as complex as you’d like, just like your limits.

Now to focus on the price of magic. Magic has to come from somewhere; it cannot occur spontaneously unless you want your system to be flimsy. It won’t hold up without at least a leg to stand on. So establish whether it takes years of study to master magic or whether a user uses a bit of their life force every time they use a spell. Then just as above, is there any way magic users try to get around this price?

Let’s talk about how a user can tap into their magic power. What does it take to do that? Can they tap into their willpower to cast a spell? Is there any type of ritual? Is every spell individually cast with different processes or is it all the same? What’s the time frame on a particular spell? Can spells be temporarily stored for later use in amulets or potions?

An Important Step

I want to digress from the questionnaire for a moment because I want to hone in on a step that I feel this questionnaire doesn’t go into enough detail about. A little bit further down this section, you’ll see a few questions based on the varieties of magic practiced. You see one, maybe two questions regarding this topic and then nothing else.

I feel like this is a mistake that this questionnaire makes; it doesn’t give a young writer or a new fantasy writer enough of a basis to know how to build the varieties of magic they want in their story. Don’t get me wrong, this is the best worldbuilding questionnaire out there, but even the best can make some mistakes.

My advice: stop your progress here and take a few days to write down everything you want to be able to do in your story in terms of magic. Add things later as they arise. Organize it. Make it easy for you to read and comprehend, no matter how complex it may be. If you can easily understand it, your readers will understand it.

Here is a fantastic link to start with. This is an article that comprehensively covers the different types of magic. Be prepared to be inspired by magic you didn’t even know existed, let alone had a name for it.

I think this is a good place to stop for today; I hope I’ve given you a lot to start with. Signing off!

Worldbuilding Questions: Post #4 – History of the World

Welcome back to another post in my worldbuilding series! Today, I’m going to be guiding you through building the history of your world. We’re going to cover both the broad history  and the specific history of the setting of your story, if applicable.

Now why history? Why think about your world in perspective from the past when your story is set in a present time?

Every event that occurs throughout the course of your story is based in something that happened prior. Whether on a smaller or larger scale, the conditions of your inciting incident occurred because the pieces all lined up at the precise moment. While maybe all points and questions don’t apply, many will help you shape your world and your story simultaneously.

Remember that we’re working off of this link.

World History

First, we’re going to start with ancient history. We’re looking at where the beginning of written record began and what kind of old tales and historical legends are available. These will give you a basis of how much time civilization has existed as well as some historical events that impact your story.

Then we’re going to actually backtrack and revisit a little further back in history: the beginning of civilization. This question is more to track the spread of people across an area. Where towns and cities built up and why. Proximity to natural resources would be necessary, but what about magic? Did magic affect the way people migrated and settled down?

We then move on to one of the most intriguing parts of a world’s history: relationships. If you’re working with a world that has different countries or realms or kingdoms, what are their relationships to each other? You will need to establish alliances, rivals, and trading partners. Relationships between entities such as these could be very crucial to the way your story pans out, especially those planning on introducing a war. If wars play a role in your story, what conflicts in the recent past have left hard feelings amongst participants?

Don’t forget to think about what languages people speak! Whether it’s one or multiple, you could potentially create development of various cultures and how they have spread out across your world over time.

Specific Histories

The next set of questions will only be applicable if you’re working with specific countries or kingdoms within a larger universe. It’s based primarily on comparing one to all of the others. How accessible is this area to outsiders? What kind of resources does it enjoy? What kind of weaponry and defense systems are in place? That specific question is important for establishing the balance of power in an area. Where are the closest rivals?

History is made up of important figures as well. Are there any specific historical heroes or villains in your story that may come up? I know that in my story, the beginning of modern day Fae history starts with the sacrifice of an incredibly powerful Fae queen.

The last questions consider resources and trade, which I will go into more detail with in a later article on the economy.

I hope you all have continued to enjoy this series of worldbuilding specifics and will continue to follow the series. Comment below with any and all questions about worldbuilding!

Worldbuilding Questions: Post #3: Physical Features

Welcome back! It’s been a while since I posted a worldbuilding post, so I wanted to come back to help out my fellow writers! Tonight, I want to talk about building the physical aspects of your world. This is CRUCIAL to any well-written fantasy story for several reasons. Now, the importance of physical aspects should be obvious, especially if you’re covering a wide area of your world through your writing.

If you need a refresher on the link I’m working from, click here!

Now to start off, you need to determine how much ground your story is going to cover. Are we operating in the context of a singular town, or are we traveling all across a realm? This is going to determine the detail of which you craft individual areas as well as the full universe as a whole.

Next, let’s talk about climate. What does the climate look like in various areas of your universe? Is it consistent everywhere (could be an interesting concept to play with)? What areas have the best climate for farming? Which areas have a climate that makes them inhabitable? How do the differences between your universe and our Earth affect your world’s climate (for example, having multiple suns)?

Now for the fun part! Building the landscape. Anything you can think of is fair game. Mountain ranges, valleys, plains, deserts, islands, rivers, oceans, lakes, forests, ponds: and that’s just the tip of the iceberg (ooh, maybe some sort of ice land mass?). What areas have the most fertile farmland? That question is going to be important for establishing economies. Certain areas are going to have economies that are fueled by cash crops and others that have to import those crops to feed their people.

Where are natural resources located? Various minerals, valuable assets like gold and diamonds, industrial assets like oil and coal, where can you find those? What economies are going to benefit by having proximity to those resources? Where are water resources running through? Is it freshwater? Salt water? Is there any sort of water purification system in place for places that don’t have access to the purest water source? What are those water sources used for primarily? Drinking water, irrigation, used to run things like a mill wheel? Think about how that affects the people of your fantasy communities.

Once you’ve addressed the questions above, among a few others in the questionnaire, you’re going to have a really good idea of the physical aspects of your world. Of course, you’re going to need to refine these basic ideas into something a little more detailed. Remember, throughout this whole process, we’re getting you ready to communicate your world effectively in your story through description. Knowing more about your universe is better than knowing less.

I hope you guys enjoyed this week’s edition of Worldbuilding Questions! Stay tuned for Post #4 where I’ll go over building the history of your universe!

Worldbuilding Questions: Post #2 – The World

As promised, I am starting my Worldbuilding questionnaire walk through off with a bang! Today, we’re going to be looking at the first section of questions, which encompasses the most basic questions about the world you want to create. I want to give you just an overview of the questions (because obviously, you can go to the link and read them yourself), but I also want to give a bit of commentary about why these details are important when crafting your fantasy universe.

Section A: Basics

When I started using this questionnaire, the very first question took me a while to think about. You wouldn’t necessarily think about whether the laws of nature and physics still applied as your first step. I actually had to go look up what these laws were (I don’t do science very well. >.<) But believe it or not, your universe could entirely flip on its head (perhaps even literally) due to changes like these. Does gravity apply? Do the laws of motion apply? Where does magic fit in? Are the laws different because magic exists, or is magic limited by these principles? This will start you thinking about the limitations of your magic system, which we will get to in a later article.

Then you need to make a decision about what type of world this is: an earth-like world or not like Earth at all? This not only will decide which sections of questions you look at next, but it is also going to affect things related to suns and moons, shape of the world, and terrain.

Next is the basics about people! Or non-people, if that’s your preference! These questions are meant to establish the main players in your story. Elves, Fae, dwarfs, demons, sprites, mortals, and many, many more magical creatures can grace the pages of your story, and establishing who those are early on can make things easier for you later. Marking the differences between these types in terms of habitats, living conditions, and magic now can also be useful in formatting your terrain, cities, and your magic system in later worldbuilding.

Finally, you’re going to create a very basic outline of the magic system in your universe.

  1. Where does magic come from?
  2. How much magic is available?
  3. What are the long term effects of magic on a magic user?
  4. What are the differences between magic among different races/species, if any?

Very simple questions to start off. No details yet. However, if you look at them, you can see why this author chose to include them in the basics category. The very existence of magic has to have been established somehow, whether it’s during the timeline of your story or thousands and thousands of years before.

Section B: Alternate Earth

Writers who view their universe has being an alternate version of our Earth should take note of this section. Here, you will establish where fantasy diverts away from history. How similar are the histories and cultures of our planet in comparison with yours? What makes them different? Is there a specific point in time where our knowledge of our world ends and yours begins? If not, show where things diverge slowly over time through everyday life changes. If magic exists, how have the inhabitants of Earth been unaware of it this whole time? This set of questions works particularly well for historical fantasy.

Section C: Not Earth At All

Everyone else! Join me! My universe, the Three Realms, falls under this category. You will find that this set of questions is not focused on history and culture (we will get to that later), but instead on the physical aspects of your world. Obviously, we need to establish shape, terrain, and celestial bodies (if any) circling around your world. I didn’t realize it until after I had already built my universe (which only has one sun and moon) how much it would affect aspects like the wind, the tides, and the weather if I had chosen to add something like a second moon. If you set the moons on the same side, the tides would be thrown completely out of whack. If the moons were on opposite sides of your universe, could you create an ocean that stays still? Lots of interesting things to think about.

Comment below with any questions or ideas about your own fantasy universe! I’ll see you next time where we’ll be discussing physical and historical features.

Worldbuilding Questions: Post #1 – Introduction

Worldbuilding is crucial to every story and every genre. You could be working with a modern-day city with everything already mapped out for you, or you could be building an entire world (geography, politics, social customs, etc) from the ground up. It does not matter. Without the setting, all a novel is is a storyline and characters wandering aimlessly through empty space. The world in which your story is set orients your reader and more often than not, draws them deeper into the tale you’re telling.

Every good fantasy and science fiction story relies heavily on the world that it is set in to help readers understand why events are occurring, why the conditions were perfect for them to occur at the exact precise moment that the characters were introduced. For example, what would the Harry Potter series be without Hogwarts and Diagon Alley? Who here read that series as a kid and did NOT pray that their Hogwarts letter would arrive by owl, even if you were already past the age of eleven? (or is that just me?) Without the beautifully crafted setting and laws of magic that J.K. Rowling carefully researched and lovingly wrote into existence, would that series be what it is today?

Definitely not.

Worldbuilding isn’t easy. Good worldbuilding is even harder. It takes a good amount of effort to do it right. And it can be hard figuring out where to start. When I started working with the concepts for Chasing Fae, I didn’t exactly know where to begin. Actually, worldbuilding was the main reason I had never attempted a fantasy novel before. I didn’t believe that I had all of the creativity required to bring something original to the table.

Then I discovered this.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers website has a limited amount of resources available to current and budding writers who are not members of their associations, and this list of worldbuilding both saved my life and inspired me to create. It breaks down the aspects of creating a world and diverse societies into easy to decipher categories that each have a plethora of questions geared towards making writers really think about the universe that they are creating. Now of course, this list is insane, and it is by no means necessary to answer every single question in order to consider your world “complete”. But it is a useful guide in showing you where to start and the types of things that influence any universe and that you should consider incorporating.

In this series of posts, I will go through this questionnaire and break down the sections to give some commentary on why various things are crucial to worldbuilding and offer some personal insight into the process. I hope you all will bear with me (!) because it is a very interesting topic and the breakdown will be worth it to anyone having trouble with worldbuilding.

Until next time! <3