Worldbuilding is one of the most distinctive elements of fantasy writing. It’s what separates the genre from all others.
It involves lands like Middle-Earth and Westeros, dragons and ogres and unicorns, and elves and dwarves and everything in between.
Worldbuilding is so important to fantasy that it quite simply couldn’t exist without it. But, as we’ll see, it’s a difficult task. And that’s why below you can find a great world building template that you can download for free to help bring order to the chaos.
You can also find some of the best tips and advice available, discover sources of inspiration, and the answers to some burning questions.
There are also lots of links to other awesome resources on worldbuilding. A template is just the start; there’s so much to learn and the journey is both fulfilling and interesting. Let’s dive in.
Choose A Chapter
- What Is Worldbuilding In Fantasy?
- Is World Building Necessary?
- How Do You Build A Fantasy World?
- Download A Free World Building Template
- What Are The Benefits Of Using A World Building Template?
- Is It Helpful To Start With A Fantasy Worldbuilding Template?
- How Do You Find Inspiration For Fantasy Worldbuilding?
- What About Using A Worldbuilding Website?
- Learn More About Writing Fantasy
What Is Worldbuilding In Fantasy?
We can define worldbuilding in fantasy as the process of constructing a fictional world that’s different to the real world, though sometimes it can exist within a real-world setting.
An example of a unique, secondary fantasy world would be Middle Earth.
The world of Harry Potter would be an example of a setting that involves constructing a fantasy world within our own.
Though the creation of fantastical lands has been around for centuries if not thousands of years, the term “worldbuilding” was only first coined in the 1965 book “Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure by RA Lupoff.
Click To Learn How To Start Worldbuilding
Is World Building Necessary?
If you’re writing a sci fi or fantasy novel that’s set in a place distinct from our own world, there’s a good chance that world building is going to be necessary.
In order to ground the reader in the story they need to be aware of the setting. And it’s your job as the writer to immerse them in that world so much that they never want to leave.
It’s important to remember, however, that different types of stories require different levels of worldbuilding. For example, an epic fantasy novel is more likely to require more worldbuilding than a low fantasy novel set in our own world.
To help you better understand how much time you need to invest in your worldbuilding process, I recommend checking out my guide, link below. It provides an overview on what I coin the spectrum of worldbuilding, which is dictated by your genre and sub-genre and what’s necessary for your story.
How Do You Build A Fantasy World?
The process of building a fantasy world is tough. There are many different elements to consider, from the climate, the geographical layout and the colour of the grass and sky, to how people talk and what they like to eat for breakfast.
When you start to get down into the nuts and bolts of a new fantasy world, you realise the extent of the challenge before you. It’s easy for writers to get lost or distracted. It’s also possible for writers to procrastinate so much that all they do is world build and never actually get round to writing the story.
There are solutions, however. In my detailed guide, the link to which you can find below, you can find lots of useful methods on how to build a fantasy world, including worldbuilding advice from Brandon Sanderson himself.
I also give guidance on how to reveal a world in a way that’s engrossing and exciting for readers.
Below, you can also download a free worldbuilding template which can help you get off to a great start.
Click Here To Learn How To Build A Fantasy World
How Much Worldbuilding Is Too Much?
One of the biggest difficulties for fantasy writers when it comes to worldbuilding is finding the balance between too little and too much.
You may have heard the phrase “info dumping” before. Chances are you’ve come across a book that’s a tad too info-dumpy too. This simply means that too much detail of a world has been crammed into the story. Usually, the detail is unnecessary or it’s revealed in a forced and dull way. For example, the history behind the traditions of ogre names, or the way in which farmland is cultivated—unless they’re relevant to your story of course.
The reason these incidents of info-dumpery happen is usually because a writer has created so much of the world, they feel the need to get it all in there. Like packing a pair of jeans into an already overflowing washing machine.
I honestly don’t blame writers for doing this. I’ve done it myself. When I interviewed Adrian Tchaikovsky for the Fantasy Writers’ Toolshed podcast, he said his early drafts are also full of info dumps. It’s a natural part of the process.
There are a few ways to avoid doing too much worldbuilding. A template is a great tool. It keeps you focused on the key elements of the world.
You could also try employing my “natural” method of worldbuilding, which you can read via the link below. It’s simply a three-tiered filtration process that prevents unnecessary details from being included and helps ensure that what is included is delivered in the most natural and unjarring way possible.
Click Here To Learn More About Creating Fantasy Worlds
Download A Free World Building Template
To help you with this sometimes chaotic process, I’ve created a world building template that you can download for free.
Allowing you to be more organised, this template breaks up your process into two key considerations: the physical world, and the cultural world.
It then offers prompts for the most fundamental aspects of your world, such as:
- Are there mountains?
- Are there any landmarks?
- What’s the current fashion trend?
- What’s the position on civil rights?
- What kind of jobs do people do?
Complete this and you’ll have everything you need to begin writing your novel.
Click Here To View And Download The Worldbuilding Template
World Building Template – What Does It Cover?
My world building template is designed to provide structure to a process that can be quite crazy. With so much to think about, it’s important to narrow your focus on the things that genuinely matter.
I’ve spent hundreds of hours creating fantasy worlds and I know what’s important. I also know the steps that you have to follow to build a world from the ground up.
So that’s why this worldbuilding template first prompts you to create the physical landscape—the forests, rivers, mountains and seas, amongst others.
Once you have a solid understanding of how your world works, it’s easy to then place your cities, towns and villages and begin to think about the characters who could inhabit them.
The template will then prompt you to delve into the cultural side of your fantasy world, asking you to define the likes of the political landscape, religious beliefs, the food people eat and the clothes they like to wear, amongst many other things.
How Do I Use A World Building Template?
This world building template serves as a mini questionnaire. You’ll be asked to define a range of different physical and cultural settings, with each one helping you grow and develop your fantasy world.
Let’s take a look at what it offers:
As you can see, it gives you an aspect of your society’s culture, such as technology or folklore, and asks you to add details to it.
The best thing about this worldbuilding template is that it’s a document that remains very much alive as you write your story. It’s something you’ll keep going back to, adding new stuff or tweaking ideas you’ve already jotted down.
And there’s nothing better than having this document at your side when it comes to editing. With everything codified in one place, you don’t need to scramble through pages to find the name of a character or place; it’s all there, saving you precious time and causing fewer distractions.
What Are The Benefits Of Using A World Building Template?
Creating a fantasy world is tough, which I’m sure you’ve learned even after just a couple of hours of trying. While it’s immensely fun and rewarding, it’s easy to become lost in the labyrinthine task.
As well as the sheer amount of building required, another hiccup is knowing what’s worth focusing on and what exactly you need for your story.
This is where a world building template, such as the free one above, comes into play. Offering a range of simple prompts, it brings order to a chaotic process.
It focuses your mind on the foundations of what you need while giving you scope to expand. It is just a template after all and you can adjust and tweak it to fit your own needs.
And you don’t need to just limit this world building template to the fantasy genre. You can use it for sci fi worlds or even stories set in our own world.
Click Here For More Worldbuilding Resources
Is It Helpful To Start With A Fantasy Worldbuilding Template?
As a creator of fictional worlds, you may already be aware of the challenges you face, some of which we’ve discussed in this guide. A question I often get asked is whether or not it’s helpful to begin with a fantasy worldbuilding template before you even start jotting ideas down. The answer is yes and no.
First, let’s look at the positive side. If you decide to use a template or checklist then chances are you’re going to contain all of that key information in one document. In not having a point of organisation you risk noting something down and losing it or failing to remember it accurately (it happens all the time).
The flip side is that you may find yourself fettered creatively. In working from a series of prompts, there’s a chance you’ll fall into the trap of following that world building template rigidly. You may not stray far from the questions posed and that could impact your ability to come up with something new and original.
With that said, if you’re aware of this risk before you begin creating and keep it in your conscious mind, you can use these worldbuilding prompts as a foundation that you can then play around with and change.
Can I Use This As A Sci Fi World Building Template?
The answer to this is yes! Both genres are similar and require a certain amount of worldbuilding but the process is very much the same. There may, however, be more scientific considerations when using a sci fi world building template. For example, you may need to explain in greater detail technological advancements or how evolution has progressed.
Fantasy does have a scientific consideration too, but tends to lean more heavily to the magical side of things so it isn’t always necessary to explain everything in detail.
So in short, you can download the template above and use it for your sci fi worlds too without any issue or changes required.
Can This Be Used As A General Novel World Building Template?
The short answer is yes. Every story needs a setting and that means you need to do some level of world building. On one end of the spectrum is the fantasy genre, which is closely associated with the creation of fictional worlds.
Historical fiction will also fit around this end of the spectrum—even though the world is our own, if we’re delving thousands of years into the past it’s up to the author to create that ancient world again, they just have a few more reference points.
So, whether you’re writing a horror or a thriller, developing the setting in a novel is about creating an immersive experience for readers. A well-developed world can transport readers to another place and time, allowing them to escape reality and become fully engrossed in the story. By using a world building template, authors can ensure that their fictional worlds are consistent, engaging, and unforgettable.
How Can I Make My Own Worldbuilding Template?
Creating your own worldbuilding template is a great way to organize your ideas and keep track of the details of your world. Here are a few steps you can take to make your own template:
- Decide on the format for your template. You can create a template in a word processing program, such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs, or use a spreadsheet program like Excel. You could also use a specialized worldbuilding software or apps like World Anvil, World-Maker, or Realm Works.
- Determine the categories of information that you want to include in your template. Some common categories include geography, history, cultures, races, languages, religions, politics, economy, magic, technology and more.
- Create a table or spreadsheet with the categories as columns and rows for each individual entry.
- Add subcategories within the main categories, if necessary. For example, under the “geography” category, you might include subcategories for climate, terrain, and natural resources.
- Create a key or legend for your template, to explain any abbreviations or symbols you use.
- Once you have completed your template, you can start adding information to it. As you come up with new ideas or details for your world, be sure to add them to your template so that you can keep track of everything in one place.
- Customize the template to your needs. You could add images, videos, audio, or links to external resources to make it more interactive and engaging.
- Review and update your template regularly to keep it current and accurate.
Remember that a world building template is just a tool to help you organize your ideas. You don’t need to stick to it strictly so feel free to change and adapt it as you go along with your worldbuilding process.
What Software Should I Use For My Worldbuilding Template?
I mentioned in the previous section to think about the format for your template. To expand upon that, it’s necessary to think about the efficiencies of actually using it.
For example, if you use a spreadsheet you may find that all of the information is presented in a neat, easy-to-use table. On the other hand, if you compile all of your data into a Google Doc for example, you may find it more time-consuming to navigate.
In terms of software for worldbuilding, I always recommend Google Docs and Sheets. The main reason for this is the files are saved in the cloud. If your computer suddenly stops working mid-sentence, fear not. You can simply log back in and your work will be there.
Using Google Docs is also great for collaborative writing. You can share a link with other people and add details in which update in real-time.
How Do You Find Inspiration For Fantasy Worldbuilding?
Finding inspiration for the fantasy worldbuilding process can be tough. With so many elements to create, there’s a lot of research to carry out. We may not have an awful lot of time on our hands to do that research, and that’s why I created a bunch of guides that provide all the key information that you need. You can find these guides at the end of this section.
Something else you can do to get inspiration for your worldbuilding process is to read a wide range of fantasy books. You can see how authors like Adrian Tchaikovsky utilise insects to inspire his world in the Shadows of the Apt series, or how I used a dependency on magic to shape how people appear in my novel, Pariah’s Lament.
I also recommend getting out and exploring the world around you. Nature can be awe-inspiring and may give you great ideas for your settings. You could stumble upon castles or explore the sites of famous battles. Going to your local museums can provoke ideas for stories and fantasy worlds.
Worldbuilding Ideas And Guides
Below you can find links to some guides that may give you more worldbuilding ideas:
- Head here to learn about the writing community, r/worldbuilding
- A guide to medieval weapons – if you want to learn more about weaponry, this guide will help
- Medieval armor and the fantasy genre – find inspiration for your fantasy armor in this useful guide
- The lives of medieval lords – aristocratic characters like kings and knights often feature in fantasy stories. Find inspiration here.
- How were women treated in the Middle Ages? – this guide provides an interesting insight into how women have been treated throughout history, which can help inspire your story.
- The lives of peasants in the medieval period – similarly, peasants had a tough time and this guide explores that to help inspire your fantasy stories.
- A guide to medieval castles – these formidable structures dominate the fantasy genre as much as they do landscapes. Learn all about them here
- A complete guide to medieval cannons – cannons were a fierce weapon that could take out the walls of a castle. This guide explores them in-depth
- Learn more about worldbuilding in writing here – if you want to learn more about creating worlds, take a look at this in-depth guide
- Siege warfare – sieges play a big part in fantasy books, like Helms Deep. This guide explores them all here
- Roman battle tactics – the Romans were one of the most well-drilled armies of all time. Learn about it here to help inspire your tales.
What About Using A Worldbuilding Website?
There are several websites that can help you with worldbuilding. Some popular options include:
- World Anvil – This is a website that provides a set of tools to help you create and organize your world, including templates, a world map maker, and a calendar creator. It also has a community aspect where you can share your world and get feedback from other worldbuilders.
- World-Maker – This worldbuilding website provides a variety of tools including a map maker, a name generator, and a world history generator. It also has a community feature that allows you to share your world with other users.
- Realm Works – This is a digital tool designed for roleplaying games. It allows you to create a world, document NPCs, plotlines, locations, and more. It also allows you to share your world with players and your Gamemaster, with a feature to keep track of players’ choices.
- Worldbuilding Magazine – This website provides articles, tutorials, and resources on worldbuilding for writers, game designers, and other creators.
- The Worldbuilding School – This site provides a wide range of resources, including tutorials, articles, and a forum to help you with all aspects of worldbuilding.
- Reddit’s r/worldbuilding – This subreddit is a community of worldbuilders that share their work, ask questions, and give feedback to others.
These are just a few examples of the many websites that can help you with worldbuilding. Keep in mind that some of these websites may require a subscription or membership to access certain features.
Learn More About Writing Fantasy
Here are some more guides on the process of writing fantasy that you may find useful:
- How to write fight scenes and battles
- Creating names for fantasy characters
- Some fundamental tips on writing fantasy
- A list of the best world building classes
- The best books on worldbuilding
- Head here to learn about worldbuilding culture
- Tips on how to make a fantasy knight
- What is a boring book and how to avoid writing one?
- Head here to find a big list of world building prompts, including ones for characters and societies
- Worldbuilding and religion
- How much worldbuilding should you do before you start writing?
- Download a free worldbuilding checklist here
- Head here to learn how to write fantasy short stories
- Magic in fantasy
- Learn more about fantasy novel writing classes online
To learn more about worldbuilding, why not check out this master’s degree? And if you have any feedback about this world building template, please get in touch!
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