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.

Pern

Basics
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.

Geography
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.

 

Summary

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.

 

 

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