Visualizing a Whole World – Dos and Don’ts?

Hey everyone,

I know that a lot of authors have done just fine with developing only that part of their fantasy world that they need to have in order to tell the story they want to tell. Tolkein’s Middle-earth is an obvious example, as is Feist’s Midkemia and Kelewan (that’s two worlds for Feist, both only partially shown), and a more recent example is George R. R. Martin’s unnamed fantasy world where five books into the series we know the continent of Westeros very well and Essos relatively well, but there are obviously parts of that world even farther to the east (and possibly to the south) that we still haven’t yet seen. I suppose that’s fine if you know at the outset exactly what the full arc of your story is going to be, but I need Chalandris to be a setting that will enable me to tell stories that I haven’t had the slightest spark of inspiration about yet.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what Chalandris needs to be, and while I know it’s a little dangerous, I’m going to brainstorm a little bit here. First of all, I see Chalandris as a world with a bright and glorious history, a history filled with heroes who have arisen during times of crisis to set things right. But at the beginning of the very first novel, those attributes are relegated to a long-ago age, a world that is now deeply lost. Secondly, Chalandris is a world that has an almost symbiotic relationship with its gods. Of the nine deities that have dominion over the world, none of them are worshiped as they truly are and some of them have even been forgotten. When healthy, this relationship between the world and its gods serves as the inspiration for the entire gamut of mortal experiences from the heights of joy and exultation to the depths of grief and sorrow, and it is this same relationship which served to inspire the heroes of old to their heroic acts. But left unhealthy, this ‘disconnect’ between the deities above and the world below has resulted in a world fraught with melancholy, malaise, and decay. Happiness and joy exist, of course, as do grief and sorrow, but these passions are ultimately fleeting. Beauty, also, is everywhere; but it is a cold, dark beauty that speaks more to a happier past than to an optimistic and hopeful present.

Portraying this world to the reader will be quite a challenge and I hope I am able to pull it off, but that’s really something I should be concerning myself with during editing. What I need to concern myself with right now are the more pragmatic aspects of world-building: the landmasses and the natural boundaries and resources, then the resulting political boundaries and landscapes. I need to know these now because they affect plotting when considering plot questions such as how long it takes to travel from one place to another, why various political interests might be aligned or opposed, and many more I could list.

I’m probably just whining and I probably also have some vague, as-yet-unrecognized-but-now-suspected notion that somehow all of this information will somehow spring forth simply because I want it to. I probably just need to spend more time, pencil in hand, doodling obsessively upon sheet after sheet of graph paper until the ideas start to come and gradually take more concrete shape. I just hate not knowing what my world looks like and it’s driving me crazy. I received some great feedback from my last post which I’m very grateful for. I want to thank everyone who helped. If any of you geniuses have any further advice for me, I’m all ears; but even if you don’t, thanks for letting me rant.

2 responses to “Visualizing a Whole World – Dos and Don’ts?

  1. I had a hard time visualizing my world. Then I started writing the character’s and they “told me” the world. Everything flowed from that moment.. Perhaps put down the doodling pen and .. have your characters spill the bean’s …

  2. Oooh… I hadn’t thought of that. Great idea!! Thank you!

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