To Create a World: Part 2: The History

8:00 AM


(This is the second post in a series I started last week. You can read the first post here.)
 

So you have your map.


Now what?


Creativity, being what it is, is quite a crazy, messy thing. There are three other points that I will address: Wildlife, History, and People (I might do more, but these are the three I have planned so far). All three of these seem to happen in a jumble during the creation process. After much indecision, however, I think I will address History next.

So.

Part #2: The History

 

History. Why is it important?


These next two posts will help shape the last one (which is on people) so keep that in mind. History is important because it shapes who your people are as the story is taking place. Your book could start after a long war between two countries that our now at an uneasy alliance. Maybe your main character’s great great grandfather was the king who the people rebelled against, and he is still suffering for his ancestor’s actions.


 Whatever it is, the history of your world will likely influence the ‘now’ of your world. So it’s important to figure out the crucial details of how your world came to be, and what all has happened since that time.

 
 

Step #1: The Origin Story


How was your world created? How was it born? Can you get to it from Earth? Or is it in an alternate universe, where Earth doesn’t even exist?


I always like to know how my story world exists in relation to Earth. Earth just needs to fit somewhere in my mind. It bothers me if the world exists without an origin story. It’s okay, of course, if yours does. It’s possible that my readers will never know the origin story of my WIP’s story world anyway, but it helps me as a writer to know.


NOTE: There are a lot of things you will know, but the reader won’t, necessarily (this applies to all parts of world building) . Say when people first landed on your world, there was no source of clean water and the settlers had to set out giant leaves to collect rainwater and ration it out. Your reader probably won’t need to know that, unless it effects the ‘now’ of your world.


So whether you have a solid origin story or not is really up to you. You don’t have to get real extensive on your world’s history (unless it’s important to your story).


Coming up with an origin story is really not as scary as it sounds, or as difficult. I’m going to come up with one for my story world now. What’s the name, again?


Right. Khamir. (That’s not the name of the story world, just the name of one of the three provinces, but it’s the most important since it takes up most of the map so I’m going to use it.)


Khamir. Let's see. What I might do is go look up Chinese legends or history (since I am using China as inspiration for this story world). See if a large group of people (maybe a boat?) went missing. Or maybe I don’t need a large group. Maybe during a war, a small group of families, desperate to escape, fled the country. But something happened – something went wrong – and they were forced to flee to the mountains instead. There, deep in the heart of the Himalayas, they found it. A portal. And the three or four families were sucked inside, brought to a new land free from the pain of war …


BOOM. Origin story is born: YAY! Now, I don’t know how the portal got in the mountains or who created it or why, but that will come in time (and sometimes I don’t even need to answer these details. They just aren’t important enough).


Which leads to …


 

Step #2: The Timeline


I’m not a big fan of timelines. I can only stand so much order (I’m an ENFP, what can I say? I can only take so many lists). But they might help you. I tend to just keep a vague idea of what happened in my world’s past in the back of my mind to kind of help influence the culture and people and politics and geography and stuff.


Let's see. Say these four (I’m sticking to four now) Chinese families arrived in this new land. Frightened, hungry, and scared, struggling for survival, they began to build settlements. They might have found natives [who knows how they got there(maybe they stumbled upon the portal before these significant families)] and made peace with them.


But soon, the four families grew tired of each other. They began to fight. And then a fight so large grew, the group split up. Two families traveled east, to the land past Khamir. To the land called Chenpei.  And so, these families grew over time and built villages which grew to towns which grew to cities which grew to entire nations. Yet always, there has been a stiff relationship – a rivalry of unknown origin – between the two provinces. Tare, located smack between them, is home to a people unlike those of Khamir and Chenpei. A native people who know things others do not.


See? Just that bit of history is already influencing the ‘now’ of my story world.


NOTE: These things take time. I spent eight months building and planning the idea that would become my WIP. Eight months: from the time I got the idea to the moment I put down the words, “Chapter One.” Everything was simmering and building and becoming real in my mind. That doesn’t happen over night.

 


Step #3: What You Already Have

 

You might have a good idea of some things that happen in your story world’s past. Or maybe you don’t, but you have some odd cultural traditions that you need an explanation for.


See, while most of the history you build won’t make it to your readers in words, it will show through the story you tell. It will help your creativity. It will flesh out your world and make it seem more real.


It makes a difference.


So let the ideas of how your world came to be, what all has happened since that time and the ‘now’ of your world, and cultural values and historical events that you already have but need more information on simmer in the back of your mind. Start a list, if that helps you. Take lots of notes, or take none at all. Do what works for you and let your creativity flow. If you want your culture to be afraid of water, trace that back. What caused that to happen? What happened to their ancestors to create such a stir?
 
You can get history from culture, and you can get culture from history. Beautiful how that works, isn't it?
 
NOTE: A little can go a long way.

 

Do you have an origin story? What kind of major events happened in your world’s past that effect the ‘now?’ Do you have any odd cultural values that you want an explanation for? Please share your thoughts in the comments!


Be sure to pop in next week for part 3 on wildlife!

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18 comments

  1. Nice post! I'm really enjoying this series you're building up!
    The most important origin story I've had to come up with in my world of mixed time has been to explain important rivalries in my Old Western/Egyptian society (hence mixed time). My WIP takes place during the brink of civil war which revolves around the clashing views within the royal family. History is therefore a critical part of my story, and I can't wait for the next post!

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    1. Your story world is just /so/ cool. Just saying. Glad you are enjoying the series! <3

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  2. The history part, always seem tedious, and I never have anything solid, I usually write instead of outlining or anything, and worry about that stuff later. Probably not the smartest thing to do, but I pants most of my writing.

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    1. History isn't that important, but it's great for creativity and fleshing out the story world! Don't worry if you don't have much. A little can go a long way ;)

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  3. YOU'RE SO DETAILED GAHHH. I am like, so bad with world building. I kind of make it up as I go along and hope for the best. xD I WILL GET BETTER AT IT. I need to stop being too hasty and lazy with my story. *grumble* :P

    But I loved this points! I will have to follow them when I can with a new project. *nodnod*

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    1. Everyone has thier own style! But you should totally message me when you start a new project and if you want to brainstorm and stuff. ;)

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  4. Ooh, these are grand world building tips! :D I LIKE. I honestly am not the best at world-building...but I do try really hard, especially with the culture. I think that's what REALLY makes a fantasy book stand on it's own. (Omg and I'm loving the sound of your Chinese-based one!)

    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

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    1. *squeaks* Aw thank you so much! I really do love your blog, and your beautiful people tags are lovely. And I'm glad you liked the tips! (I loved your post on maps, by the way) Thank YOU for stopping by here! :)

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  5. I have recently made a timeline of my worlds history and it is helping, most of the history was a confusing jumble until I did that.

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    1. Saaaaame. If you can muster the patience to sit and sort everything out, it becomes so much clearer. XP

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  6. These are some really great tips! Building a world is one of my favourite parts of writing a fantasy. I think you hit the nail on the head, when you said that the writer will know more than the reader. Sometimes as writers we feel obligated to share all the cool information we came up with, but it can get really info-dumpy, really fast that way.

    Cool blog! Thanks for visiting SOI!

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    1. Thank you so much! It is so, so hard for me to accept when the reader has heard enough of my geniusness XP
      Of course! Your blog is beautiful. Thanks for returning the favor!

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  7. Ah, worldbuilding. So amazing. So difficult. So rewarding. X) I love all your tips and tricks! They makes ALL THE SENSE! I may have to try some more in-depth worldbuilding at some point. XD

    I think you follow me, but I'm not sure if I've been here before? I'm basically the worst??? :O And I'm not sure if I follow you back, but I'm going to remedy that now. X)

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    1. Oh hayyy haiiii welcome to Stan! *hugs* So glad to have you! :D Glad you liked this post!

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  8. These are such great tips and it was so much fun to read :) thanks for sharing!

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    1. I'm glad they helped you! Thanks for reading! :D

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  9. To be honest, I am ADORING your blog. I also MIIIGHT be reading all of your old posts. XD

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    1. Awwww. This makes me so happy! I'm so glad you like Stan! <3 <3 <3

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