Worldbuiling, Part 2: Ecosystems

In this worldbuilding post, we’ll be talking about ecosystems and ecology–what the surface of a world looks like regarding the natural environment. We’ll be discussing plants, trees, animals, bodies of water, forests, etc.

Ecosystems are of prime importance when landscaping your story and in working with animals and plants. Even more so if you have characters which are gardeners, farmers, hunters, gamekeepers, or others who work with land.


Types of Land

Your basic starting place with an ecosystem is what types of land are included in  your community, continent, and then world–whatever is shown in the story. Earth, for instance, is currently being built up in many countries so that there is less and less farm land. Alaska’s forest is being stripped in gold mining, while the jungle is also being stripped. Black Beauty mostly takes place in the English countryside and in the middle of London, two very different environments.

First, describe the immediate surroundings of any main communities. What kind of forest does your Elf live in? What kind of grass do does your great plains tribe see the most? How hard is it to till land for farming compared to having a simple kitchen garden?

Who or what lives in each type of land? Tolkien, for instance, had clearly defined that Elves live in forests, the Hobbits in the hilly green country of the Shire, Men in cities of many kinds, and Dwarves underground. If you have more than one species, do they share land?

While Xcheamo has many types of land, it is mostly made up of wild forest (old growth forest), dense jungle, and thick grass land areas (both plains and rolling hills). Normal field grass is at least 4 ft high, if not more. There are many types of animals and other creatures that live in all these areas. Most Lupa live in clearer areas, but also frequently roam and travel in nearly all their land, save the dessert–1 pack lives there and keeps the ways of living there. They don’t farm the land, but nearly everyone has a garden.

Make sure that the land your characters live in or on is conducive to their occupation and way of living.


Vegetation and Creatures

Here, you should decide how closely your landscape resembles Earth. Will you use Terran plants and animals, something very similar, or start from scratch? Also take into account what type of setting you’re working in. Desert planets will not have much vegetation; worlds that are entirely water will have very different vegetation than planets with land masses. Here, one must consider exactly what the world is like–if you say the planet has extremely harsh conditions, your plants and animals must reflect that. Spend time developing fierce creatures that can easily dismember people or aquatic plants that don’t need soil. What is the base color for vegetation?–green, blue-green, red, brown, other?

Because the Lupa are fierce and live on a harsh planet, I created many creatures with like fierceness, and even small birds that are able to kill people. It is a world rife with poisons, and many plants and animals are poisonous. If something is poisonous, describe how–is it carried in the pollen? Must one eat it? Some plants are okay on a wound but not to ingest. How quickly does it kill, and how?

Also give any plants or animals you create names. This will go a long way toward being believable.


If you are creating most of the plants and animals for your world, it’s greatly helpful to make lists of plants, bushes, insets, mammals, etc., with details about each cultivar or species. I personally have one master document for creatures, and one for plants. These are further broken down into sections like “trees”, “insects”, “reptiles”, “bushes”, etc. Make some arbitrary decisions along with what you know.


mu: a type of large beetle, with an elongated oval shape. Silvery gray with red underwings and belly. Lives deep in forest, and eats off the forest floor. Their backs are well armored, and they usually go about their business peacefully and don’t seem to mind being a part of children’s games.

āankai: a flowering plant that grows both wild and cultivated. It is easy to use in herbal products, but has a scent that does not mix well with most others. The plant is a light blue-green with long leaves that close over the flower entirely when closed. The flowers can be silvery white through light hues of other colors, and consist of 3-6 long petals. However, the most common variety is a silvery white color with four petals.



Water is an important part of any ecological systems, and honestly one of the last things I addressed ecologically on Xcheamo. While there are no large great lakes due to the supercontinent structure, there are rivers, plenty of streams, ponds, and other smaller bodies of water. Most continents have at least one major river, such as the Amazon, Nile, or the Yangtze. My best advice here is to place water where it’s needed, and where it logically makes sense. Every town or village needs a source of water, and if your characters are traveling they will need water or places to refill their canteens.


If you have people who live along the coast which are featured in the story, you’ll also want to decide if they venture out onto water–whether seas or large lakes. The Lupa, for instance, will sail on large ponds or lakes, or closely along the shoreline for a short distance, but are the sort of people who are uncomfortable regarding sailing and sea voyages. They prefer to keep their feet on the ground and stick to landed life.



In your first attempt at building land and environmental landscape for your world, put together a basic interaction system between types of land and levels of the food chain. While you may wait to expound on it until a later date, having something in place will help you begin building the story and especially any traveling, hunting, or harvesting done within the story. If you’re creating creatures and plants, do some initial ranking as to what creatures prey which other creatures and which basic vegetation is fed on by other levels of the food chain.

Locations for nesting, herds, and other such groups is also important in how certain creatures will interact with each other. The chaos or harmony of many of these elements can be used to set tones and give your world character and depth. Xcheamo generally has a wild feeling, so animals which are very fierce looking and extremely aggressive, massive and twisted old growth forests with places where the sun never reaches, and poisons which always have the inhabitants on guard go a long way to creating this feeling.

How your people live will also have an impact on the world’s ecosystem. How much do they interfere? Do they embrace or reject nature, and to what degree? What’s the average person’s footprint like? Are there different groups who think different things about the environment? If the people have caused problems or pollution, to what extent? How much tech do they use? All things to consider.

Also factor in the seasons and weather, as we discussed in the Environment section last time.


While this is one area that should be started on very early on in the process, it’s also one that may take some of the most time to build and expand as the various other elements of your story come together, so don’t worry about building a complete working ecosystem overnight. Especially if you’re building from scratch, it may take some time until you have a complete picture of the ecosystem as you draft and rewrite, and discover new things.


Worldbuilding, Part 1: Environment

Hopefully, this will be the first post in a series of worldbuilding guides as a resource. We’re going to start with environment, and I’ll try to do the parts in a way that builds and makes a natural progression.


If you have already begun writing a story, or have been thinking about it for some time, you should have a sense of the basic surroundings of the character(s). Whether it’s a planet or particular city or community makes very little difference at this stage. If you know something about it, write it down. Things to know here are

Where is it located?
About how many people live there?
What kind of land is it?
What is nearby?
Are there any landmarks?
How have the people who live there shaped the land?

Planet Example
Xcheamo, for instance, is positioned on an outer edge of the Delta quadrant, and is the second of 4 planets in the system. Over time the Lupa population ranges between 20,000 and 40,000 people. With one large continent connected to both ice caps, is a verdantly green and wild planet with primarily uncultivated plains and forests. While there is a desert in the southwestern regions, the most important area is near the middle just above the equator, where the Place of the Touched serves as a gathering place for learning and culture. This is the most changed land, as most building, cultivation, and removal of poisonous things has been done here. Overall impact on the planetary scale is minimal.

Community Example
Jax’ pack is in the lower northeast of the continent, more toward the middle than the coast. The land there is mostly woodland hills and forest. The pack is made up of about 30 members ranging in age from 8 to 80s. They live mostly in wood houses clustered near the center of their land and 10 to 20 minutes apart. Their land includes several steams and ponds, a high ridge in the north they call “the rise,” and an astral gate in the woods next to the stream behind the house Zaira and Jax live in while they’re there. The majority of land change is for gardening and the affects of hunting, as well as a few paths around the area.

While large scale geography may not be so difficult, the detailed maps in the front of many fantasy books can be quite daunting. Coming up with all those details requires several sources.

  • Plot: What does your story need? Especially if your characters are going on a quest, you’ll need terrain to suit it.
  • Arbitrary: Place mountains, lakes, or rivers where they make sense. For instance, large cities need a lot of water.
  • Discovery: You may be writing about a character’s home and find they are close to a mountain or have a pond or lake nearby.
  • Travel: How and where do people travel? How close is that mine they need to get to? Low long does it take to get to a main city?

All of these things, and possibly more, will combine to give you a good idea of what the world is like. Some details may come when you’re further along, and that’s okay.

Seasons and Weather
The next thing to consider is seasons. Does it resemble Earth seasons? How closely? How long is each season? If not, is it always cold, always hot? How long is the growing season, and how does it affect people? How do the season lengths differ in various areas?

Weather is the other large factor to environment. It will play into your seasons, so It’s probably a good idea to do them together. If you have a long growing season, for instance, you should have good weather for plants and growing during that time. If any season is very short, is it also very intense?

Xcheamo, for instance, has long springs and summers, but very short and intense summers and winters, about 3-4 weeks. Winter, for instance, is incredibly cold, and going outside can be quite perilous. Most Lupa stay indoors as much as possible, or go out in groups. Spring, on the other hand, is long and temperate. Autumn storms are great and terrifying. Things are much more the same throughout the year around the equator, and only warm up a certain amount once you get far enough north or south.



Don’t forget that while getting started can be daunting, breaking the process into small, easy steps will allow you to naturally build and get closer to completing a physical environment for your world. Many items, including ones we’ll deal with later, will have a part to play, and help to further define your environment.



50 Bookish Questions

1. What was the last book you read?

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

2. Was it a good one?


3. What made it good?

The author successfully captures the voices of her main characters–attractions at a zoo mall with comparatively sparse but resonant words.

4. Would you recommend it to other people?


5. How often do you read?

I usually have to choose between reading and writing, so when I’m not writing.

6. Do you like to read?


7. What was the last bad book  you read?

I didn’t fish Storm Rider by Akira Yoshimura, it didn’t keep my interest.

8. What made you dislike it?

While the writing was fine, it’s mostly about sailors and a bit dry.

9. Do you wish to be a writer?

I am one.

10. Has any book ever influenced you greatly?

Many books.

11. Do you read fan fiction?

Yes, but I have very high standards regarding both grammar and quality.

12. Do you write fan fiction?

Yes, Harry Potter or a multiverse involving many different continuities.

13. What’s your favorite book?

I’m not sure I can list them all here…

14. What’s your least favorite book?

That I’ve finished? The most recent is probably Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan. That I haven’t finished, Dream Voyager by Thomas Locke.

15. Do you prefer physical books or read on a device?

Physical books. Devices don’t feel the same and the tactile experience is important to me.

16. When did you learn to read?

Before I went to school, but I don’t really remember.

17. What was your favorite book you had to read in school?

I really don’t like a lot of “literature”, but I did enjoy East of Eden, and Twelfth Night.

18. What is your favorite book series?

Um…There are quite a few. Harry Potter, Narnia, Dragonriders of Pern, Lord of the Rings. Protector of the Small. Definitely others.

19. Who is your favorite author?

Anne McCaffrey is definitely up there, J.K. Rowling for Harry Potter, M. M. Kaye for The Ordinary Princess. I like particular things, usually, I don’t know if there’s an author where I’d seek down everything they’d written.

20. What is your favorite genre?


21. Who is your favorite character in a book series?

That’s a hard one, I think I’ve ready too many books to really know. Of mine, Miara. Let’s go with the favorite series answers here: Harry Potter–Remus Lupin; Dragonriders–Menolly, Moreta, or Ruth, although who doesn’t love the Masterharper.

22. Has a book ever transported you somewhere else?

I thought that was one of the main points of reading stories?

23. What book do you wish had a sequel?

The Darkling Hills by Lori Martin has one, but it’s nowhere to be found (at least in English).

24. Which book do you wish didn’t have a sequel?

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

25. How long does it take you to read a book?

It depends, I read a lot of YA stories, so a few days or over a week for a normal novel.

26. Do you like when books become movies?

So long as it’s not bad, yes. I understand they are different mediums and they will be different.

27. Which book was ruined by its movie adaption?

Blood and Chocolate, The Dark is Rising. I’m sure there are countless others.

28. Which movie has done a book justice?

The Lord of The Rings trilogy has probably come the closest.

29. Do you read newspapers?


30. Do you read magazines?

Florist Review

31. Which do you prefer?


32. Do you read in bed?


33. Do you read while on the toilet?

Yes. I also don’t like it when other people don’t have reading material in there.

34. Do you read in the car?


35. Do you read in the bath?

Yes. Especially YA novels. Most of A Series of Unfortunate Events was completed there.

36. Are you a fast reader?

Not super fast.

37. Are you a slow reader?

But not slow, usually.

38. Where is your favorite place to read?

I’ll read a whole lot of places, not really sure there’s a favorite.

39. Is it hard for you to concentrate while you read?

If the TV is on, or somewhere particularly loud. Otherwise I’m usually okay.

40. Do you need a room to be silent while you read?


41. Who gave you your love for reading?

My mother.

42. What book is next on your list to read?

Not sure! I usually pick what I feel like reading at the time and I’m between books now.

43. When did you start to read chapter books?

Early in elementary school.

44. Who is your favorite children’s book author?

Possibly Marguerite Henry for her horse books or the team behind the Serendipity books. However, I try not to differentiate too much when it comes to chapter books.

45. Which author would you most want to interview?

Anne Rice or Tamora Pierce

46. Which author do you think you’d be friends with?

No idea.

47. What books have you reread the most?

The Ordinary Princess

48. Which books to you consider “classics”?

I tend not to like literature, so more along the lines of more accessible/popular books which have become classics.

49. Which books do you think should be taught in every school?

Definitely more fantasy and science fiction, I don’t remember reading any of it in school, and they often require the reader to be more intelligent to keep up with everything going on.

50. Which books should be banned from all schools?



Ultimate Book Tag

I saw this list of questions/challenge over at at Milliways with a pen and thought it was a pretty good list of questions (and also something to think about for some of my characters). There also seem to be other good writing prompts, etc., over there, so do check it out. Feel free to copy the questions and do your own.


  1. Do you get sick while reading in the car?
    • No, I never have.
  2. Which author’s writing style is completely unique to you?
    • I really do not like Virginia Wolf’s stream of consciousness style and have never ready more than a few pages of what we were supposed to in school.
  3. Harry Potter series or Twilight saga? Give 3 points to explain your answer.
    • Harry Potter. It is quality work with an intricate and well crafted story, has excellent role models, and the writing style draws one in while reading.
  4. Do you carry a book bag? If so, what’s in it (besides books)?
    • No, but I carry a very big purse and usually have both a book and a notebook for writing. Also everything I usually need, like my wallet, keys, a bathroom kit, etc. Gum. Gum is pretty important. And thus a lot of wrappers. Umbrella, train pass, USB drive, headphones, floral knife.
  5. Do you smell your books?
    • Old ones, yes. But usually not in public.
  6. Books with or without little illustrations?
    • While they’re not necessary, I do like them. Especially in books like the Redwall or Unfortunate Events Series.
  7. What book did you love while reading but discovered later it wasn’t quality writing?
    • No idea here!
  8. Do you have any funny stories involving books from your childhood? Please share!
    • Not that I recall?
  9. What is the tiniest book on your shelf?
    • A tiny flower language book, it’s only about 2 inches.
  10. What’s the thickest book on your shelf?
  11. Do you write as well as read? Do you see yourself in the future as an author?
    • I am a writer, but probably will never bother with publication.
  12. When did you get into reading?
    • As a very young child, we always had them and were read to since I can remember. My mom was a librarian and we always had plenty to read.
  13. What is your favorite classic book?
    • Depends what you call classic. Probably something like Dracula, Black Beauty, or The Wizard of Oz. I used this list of classics.
  14. In school, what was your best subject?
    • English
  15. If you were given a book as a present that you had read before and hated, what would you do?
    • Stick it on the shelf for a bit and then donate it.
  16. What is a lesser known series that you know that is similar to Harry Potter or the Hunger Games?
    • There are so many great YA series and books out there. The Prydain series is pretty good, and The Dark is Rising. Also, Redwall. I know they’re not quite what was asked for, but all very good.
  17. What is a bad habit you always do while blogging?
    • Blogging isn’t my primary focus, so I don’t post for long periods of time and tend to ignore work when I do.
  18. What is your favorite word?
    • Right now, probably Miara.
  19. Vampires or Fairies? Why?
    • Depends on the story. Vampires usually, as they tend to be taken more seriously and I’ve ready more there. Anne Rice is totally the queen of Vampires, though.
  20. Shapeshifters or Angels? Why?
    • Shapeshifters. The species I write about fall into this category, and they are far more interesting than angels.
  21. Spirits or Werewolves? Why?
    • Here, it really depends on the treatment, but probably the latter. I really dislike that vampires and werewolves are pitted against each other so often.
  22. Zombies or Vampires? Why?
    • Vampires. I like vampires and don’t like zombies. Just have never been into them.
  23. Love triangle or forbidden love?
    • Love triangles are far more interesting and involve a lot more tension and conflict than forbidden love. Bonus points for complications if it’s between a group of friends. It fits more with what I’m interested in writing and reading.
  24. And finally: Full on romance or action-packed with a few love scenes mixed in?
    • The best stories are always ones that include elements of several types of stories, such as travel, drama, a bit of romance, magic/powers/science, mystery. So definitely the latter here.

Worldbuilding: An In-Depth Illustation and Resources

In conjunction with my guest post over at The Caffeinated Writer on March 4 (thanks, I really enjoyed writing it!), I thought I’d share some more in depth worldbuilding ideas and resources here on my own page. For those who may not know, I have spent close to twenty years now building the Lupa people, their homeworld Xcheamo, and the nature of some of their lives on Earth, and am knowledgeable on this subject.

The number one thing I can tell you about world building is that it can be a very long process. You may think you know something, and then a character will go “What are you doing? That’s not how it works, this is what we do.”

Have you seen  or read how some authors, for instance Alice Walker, talks about their characters as if they are real? I do that, too. After they’re with you a while, it gets to be that way. There’s a point where you stop making all the decisions, and the story or characters tell you what’s going on. But I digress.

I have to admit that there were times in early years where I dreaded making decisions, or wouldn’t know what to do. I didn’t know which things were more important. However, as I came to know the Lupa as a people, and especially some key characters, that changed a lot. When you know a people really well, it becomes much easier. You know what they will usually think about something, and the things they’ll see in a certain situation. Instead of pondering how to make things be, they tell you what fits with their world view, and how they got to it.

Here, we’ll look at a specific  instance of world building, and then some further resources. Please be aware the illustration deals with a mature topic; if this offends you, you have been warned (trust me, there is a reason!).


A Practical Illustration of Worldbuilding from the Ground Up

As a Christian I have often struggled with how and when sex should be portrayed in stories. Not as in whether it should be addressed–topics should be addressed especially when they’re difficult. But I knew that as a species, the Lupa don’t have quite the same view. Their instincts and hormones are much stronger than Humans, and there are times that they are literally not able to control them. Here, I’m specifically using this topic because I had a hard time with and it illustrates well how this particular aspect was built and integrated into Lupa society.



The beginning of Lupa history had been set up to include a point where the species nearly died out due to the harsh nature of their world. This built a certain DNA set that most Lupa after this carry. Among many other defining features of their species this included traits that produced strong children. People who have more sex are likely to have more children, with a greater chance of survival.



The Lupa ended up with a high sex drive. It’s referred to as “mating season,” experienced by all women of child-bearing age. I’ll spare the details here, but it’s a yearly 2-week span where women are pretty much forced into a state of nymphomania by their hormones. Their pheromones during this time are extremely powerful and will affect any male in range. There is neither very little choice nor control in the matter.


My Choices

Remember when we talked about setting limits over at The Caffeinated Writer? I used it here: instead of making mating season a series of carefree orgies, it’s something with much more depth and complication. How would you feel if your body basically took you hostage once a year and made you do things? Not very nice. So that was one of the parts I controlled, although logically, with this setup.


How Do Lupa Deal with It?

So, what would the Lupa come up with in dealing with this? They are a very practical species, so you go away to an isolated area for the duration. They have places specifically designed for this. If you are mated and want a child, your mate will come see you for sexy fun times and hopefully you’ll end up pregnant.

The other unique thing they have done regarding this specific part of their lives is similar to “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Everyone understands that it’s not controllable, and so Lupa will simply ignore, pretend, or deal with the consequences without trying to make a big deal about it.


How Does this Affect Morality?

There are 2 main thoughts among Lupa about what is appropriate as far as sex is concerned. They understand that they can’t always control such urges, especially during certain times, and so most Lupa view the tumultuous hormone changes connected with puberty to be a time when people explore sex for the first time, and begin to understand their own sexuality, either on their own or with a partner. It’s seen as mostly harmless and part of having a good understanding of oneself. There is, however, a minority group that feels this isn’t necessary–at least with a partner–and prefer to leave that aspect until they are mated. One should still understand oneself, and most of the debate is centered around partners.

This is not to be confused with finding a mate and preparing to bond (Lupa bond their souls together as mates). This process, and any sex involved with it, is taken very seriously and treated quite differently than what happens during puberty.


How Does this Affect Society?

One thing mating season does is allow everyone to have some understanding of what it’s like not to be in control of themselves. While women clearly bear the brunt side of this, men also find themselves similarly controlled by their hormones in response. The fact that Lupa experience the joining of souls with their mates, as well as seeing what it does to their perfectly normal friends once a year, has developed a kind of understanding among them as a people.

While to outsiders may seem like a time of blissful pleasure, they all know it’s actually a time of intense dissatisfaction and torture. It’s not easy or fun to experience, and outside the moments of bliss one has if one is lucky enough to have sex, most women only remember how badly they wanted something they couldn’t have, and the horror of having no control. Many Lupa don’t get into conversations about this aspect of life once they’re adults; everyone understands those two words and what goes with it, and no explanations are necessary. In the rare case a non-Lupa joins with a Lupa pack or family, initiating discussions about mating season are often seen as a source of embarrassment, and extremely awkward. It’s usually not until the person sees or experiences it for themselves that they really understand.

The other thing this does in Lupa society is remind everyone of how strongly their instincts affect them, and that sometimes it is not their fault when those instincts take over. They have developed tolerance for their strong instincts, and in some cases come to embrace them, such as fighting. I’ve yet to meet a Lupa who doesn’t enjoy a good fight. It’s made them learn where to very clearly draw the line between a good fight and a serious political or societal war. The first is always a good thing, and the later is highly avoided. Their laws are very clear on what is acceptable and what is not. (Most of their laws pertain to fighting and registering offenses which are settled by fighting.)


Is it okay to simply say “They’re not Human?”

My answer to this is yes. Cases in point come from Star Trek. Some of the central components people know about species like the Vulcans or Klingons are seemingly impossible for Humans. Many Vulcans choose to suppress all emotion, and they are successful at it. People still love Vulcans. The Klingons built their culture on fighting and challenges, and enjoy hitting and biting each other as part of courtship. People still love Klingons.

While not everything is a “they’re not Human” situation, there are times when we should allow ourselves to use it. The license I’ve given for the Lupa and their instincts is one of the two places I primarily use it for them. It lends interest and also conflict, which are great for storytelling, but also allows me to logically follow from background to species character to how they live and deal with things. Lupa are not Human. They have different sensibilities and are built differently, both genetically and spiritually, and that’s often just cool.



There are a lot of great resources online for worldbuilding. One thing I found especially helpful was checking out the wiki sites for different fandoms. Many of the pages one can find demonstrate different aspects of important information most want on a planet, city, item, or character. I’ve used the Lupa at an online roleplay site with a wiki, and the page for Xcheamo is here. Filling out different sections from other world/planet pages was extremely helpful. I’ve also used the Harry Potter wiki a lot, and their character pages are very well set up.

A great character resource I use a lot are online dollmakers, such as Doll Divine or Azalea’s Dolls, who have a lot of beautiful custom built dollmakers. Building looks and a wardrobe for your characters forces you to choose what they’d pick of what’s available, and more importantly, why. Zaira almost never wears a skirt, and certainly never makeup. Miara will wear anything except straight black or white, has a leaning towards 1980s styles, and likes bright, fun makeup. Eiry’s favorite historical period is Regency. It’s a great way to get to know your characters, plus you have a stock of outfits for when you need to describe what they’re wearing. Online clothing catalogs are also helpful.

Google image search or Pinterest are greats resource when you’re looking for something specific, products your people make, or landscapes that might be useful.

Be conscious of what’s around you. If you see something while out shopping, a stranger near you with an interesting face, or cool jacket, take a picture or write it down. Jot down interesting names you see or hear for use later. If you see a great spooky house, try and get a picture. Don’t be afraid to record things that interest you.

Read. One very important thing to do if you want to write is read. Be knowledgeable about stories and writing by reading others’ work, and seeing what works and what doesn’t. See what might work for you. If you’re interested in writing in a genre you haven’t before, get some books of that type and see what they’re like. Understand that visual entertainment is different, and has different rules. What works in each is going to be different.



I hope that you’ve found the walk-through illustration and resources helpful, and if you know of any great resources, please let me know, I’d love to see them. Questions are also welcome!