Once upon a time you or a friend, family member, or just generally someone you know, thought about writing a story. You sought to create a world so large and immersive that other people would want to live in it too, where your characters come alive on their own and even follow their own goals.
Before we go deeper into the frying pan, I just want to tell you how very achievable that is. You don’t need exclusive writing talent or as my people call it, “follow come”. You actually just need a pen (or a laptop in some cases), some paper, great lighting, and some coffee or whatever gets you going. Ready? Set?
Your Ingredients for Storytelling
- Your world
- Your Character[s]
- Your story
The World We Haven’t Written Yet
As one needs flour before making a pie, or a foundation before you build a house, creating a world for your characters to live in is the most important step you’re gonna wanna take – albeit the most difficult – if you want to create a universe you yourself can live in. These are the things I’m thinking about when I say world:
- Geography and Weather
- History, culture, beliefs, tradition & religion
- The economy
- Social norms
Geography and Weather
You’re probably thinking about how much work this is going to be, or how you’d much rather just get to the writing first. I won’t lie to you, it is an “annoying” amount of work, but it is going to be fun and it is going to be worth it.
Firstly, all you have to do is make your fantasy world as realistic as the one you’re living in right now. Geography is your topography.
- How much water is in an area?
- What the plant life is like?
- What natural disasters tend to happen?
You’d be surprised by how these can really help your story along. For example, say your main character lives in a town by a desert, this will affect how they dress and what they eat because obviously, camel won’t be on the menu. Due to the difficulty of traversing the desert, what kind of trade do you think they’d be into? You can also expect a lot of sandstorms, this will, in turn, affect the commerce and economy of the people in that area and vice versa.
After deciding how their world looks with geography, you need to think about how the world works. Do they travel by caravan or high speed motor bikes? Are there cell-phones or are solar powered communication devices attached to every house? Do they depend on Bio-energy or is using human blood as an engine more fun in your world? Are they an alien race or is this primordial humanity? Technology or no technology is everything!
History, Culture, Beliefs, Tradition & Religion
Once this is decided upon we can take a look at the history of your people. What are their myths and their lores? What stories do they tell and how do these stories affect their daily lives. What king, virgin or knight brought your people away from calamity, and what demon, warrior or seductress caused it?
Knowing your people’s history creates a connecting system to the next two or three factors. After all, one’s history can influence their cultural, traditional, as well as religious beliefs. In African examples, researching urban and local myths in your village or hometown or…the internet, can really give you the inspiration you need to get started.
I spoke about economy quite briefly during the geography explanation but plainly speaking this is what your people earn, how they earn, the means in which their services are delivered and the services they deliver. For example, say I created a mythological desert planet, water would be an important resource, thus there would be a need for “Resource hunters” so to speak. The desert plains would in time lead to the development of new sports, new farming methods, thus new technology to help them survive the harsh climates.
What I want you to see in these sectors are job opportunities, things your people do in their everyday lives and for each other. It can get a bit technical at this point because I mean, you haven’t even thought up a story yet but I can promise that by the time you’re done you’ll have something so real you wouldn’t even have to write them.
These are the little habits a society, people or household in your world practice. For example, in Nigeria greeting your elders is imperative whether you’re passing them by on the street, in a restaurant or in your living room. With each culture, the greetings get even more elaborate. In Yoruba culture, one must prostrate before elders while you greet them. There is also a different word for each time of the day.
When visiting Drum Island in the anime One Piece by Eichiro Oda, the residents have a culture of bowing whenever a polar bear passes to keep them from attacking. The amusing thing? The polar beers bow back at you. Humor aside, social norms help to create a sense of authenticity in your world, constant usage and repetition of these norms will give it life of its own, and before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to being a pocket God.
The plot thickens…
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