Sunday, September 12, 2010


By Michelle Miles

Hello, all! I want to thank Ruby for inviting me over to Greater Fort Worth Writers today. I’m excited to be talking about one of my favorite subjects: worldbuilding.

Whether you’re creating an exotic city for your action/adventure or you’re making up a new fantasy realm complete with magic, worldbuilding is an important part of the story. I’m certainly no expert, but there are some tips I’ve picked up and to keep in mind when building your new world.

  • Set up the rules and stick to them. Ask yourself these questions: What are the exceptions? Is there magic? What are the rules of magic? Once you set up the rules, don’t break them unless you have a really compelling reason. Make sure it’s not a plot device and you’re breaking the rules because you can’t figure out how to get your characters out of a jam.

  • Study other cultures, past and present. By studying how other cultures live, their religion, their traditions, their exchange of goods and money, you can learn a lot about who they are. How do they talk? Dress? Do they have any sacrificial rites? When do they worship? What do they worship—one god or multiple gods? If you know this, you can start building the foundation. Other things to consider: politics, military, art, marital customs, education, monetary system, sporting events.

  • Draw a map of your world. I think this is my favorite thing about writing fantasy. When I can envision my world, I start to draw maps. Coastlines, mountains, forests, towns, the center of the ruling king or queen. It’s great fun. I just get out my map pencils and grid lined paper and draw what I think it should look like.

  • Decide the history and mythology of your world. Because your world wouldn’t exist without this. We all have history and learn from it, so what history do your characters share? What is your world’s timeline in relation to the characters? Maybe you want to call them “years” or “eras” or “ages”. The most important thing is to decide what it is, and write a brief history. It sounds like a lot of work upfront, but it’ll help when you’re ready to write the story.

This is only scratching the surface of what you can do when you create a world. These are things I take into consideration when I begin a new project that involves worldbuilding.

If you’d like a list of questions to ask yourself when beginning a new universe, you can find them at SFWA’s website by clicking here: This is a lengthy, informative list that will aid in beginning your new frontier.

Another great resource is Holly Lisle’s website: A wealth of information for writers!
Michelle Miles
Happy worldbuilding.
Michelle Miles began writing long ago in junior high when she and her then-best friend wrote and illustrated their own Indiana Jones comic books. Star Trek fan-fiction quickly followed, as did Star Wars. Later, she dabbled in her own science fiction stories and historical fiction - princesses, towers, and handsome princes! Michelle finally found her footing on contemporary ground with her first novella. A time travel series followed along with three more contemporaries.

For more information about her current releases and to sign up for her monthly newsletter, visit Michelle’s website at You can also friend her on Facebook and MySpace and follow her at Twitter.

Her latest contemporary, SEX LUST & MARTINIS, is available now from Cobblestone Press.
Other Books by Michelle Miles:
Take Me I’m Yours (2009)
Available from Cobblestone Press

Nice Girls Do (2007)
Available from Samhain Publishing - eBook

Talk Dirty To Me (2006)
Available from Samhain Publishing - eBook

A Break In Time: Book 2 (2007 / 2008)
Available From Samhain Publishing – eBook and print

A Bend In Time: Book 1 (2006 / 2007)
Available from Samhain Publishing – eBook and print



Caroline Clemmons said...

Michelle, good article. Worldbuilding is necessary for any book--even a contemporary--to the degree that you must know where stores, homes, etc. are located in order to describe them to the readers without tripping up yourself.

Michelle Miles said...

I agree, Caroline! I find I spend more time building my world in my alternate universes than in my contemporary worlds. :)

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