Ever since reading Lord of the Rings as a child I have always wanted to create my own special fantasy world with my own races and monsters.
Recently with my Winter series I’ve been doing just that. Making a fantasy world involves lot sof different aspects to make it believable and I’ve got spreadsheets and documents on all sorts of things to make sure my brain can remember the land, races, animals and all sorts of other things. There’s a lot of areas that need thinking about before the books can even be decided.
Most fantasy books have humans in them somewhere but often a fantasy writer has to decide what other races they want in there.
Elves are the next most common race in fantasy but you don’t just have to decide whether they are in the world or not but other things like, how pointed their ears are? Do they have any benefits over being human? How long do they live?
Common fantasy traits for elves are long living, even sometimes immortal, pale and fair, wise and mostly keeping themselves ot themselves. They value beauty and learning over many other things and try to be one with their surroundings.
The next common race is dwarves. These can be handled in several ways as well. More commonly these are offspring of humans and often shunned by society. The most famous of these is probably Tyrion Lannister from the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series. There are also the Tolkien style dwarves, however, where they are a complete race of their own. In the Lord of the Rings films Gimli the dwarf jokes that the dwarf women look so alike the dwarf men that it makes people think they spring up out of nowhere.
There are of course many other races you could invent. In my fantasy so far I have a race of flying humans called Nepharil and Tolkien also has Ents. Game of Thrones has Others, a type of possesing demon.
Finally the relationships between these races needs to be decided. Is anyone at war at the start of the series. Are there old rivalries and tensions. Which leads us nicely into the next area that needs to be thought about.
Every land has some history to it. How long have the elves lived where they do. What old grudges do families have.
Family trees can need working out and sometimes books in a series can span hundreds, even thousands of years. It doesn’t all have to be worked out right away but it helps to include little bits of information here and there. Readers like to feel like it’s a complete world they are being immersed into.
This is another one that features in a lot of fantasy. There’s usually some kind of God or gods and Tolkien even went so far as a whole creation myth, belief system, a heaven and angels. You don’t have to have any type of God if you don’t want to but people tend to believe in something and it helps make them relatable to readers if this involves religion for at least a few characters. Praying can be a great way to put a characters deepest worries into dialogue as well and helps give the reader some inside knowledge into the thoughts. It can also lead into great things like answered prayers, miracles and gives our good guys an extra weapon in their arsenal.
These aren’t quite as common but for fantasy that travels a good distance maps can be very important. They help the reader visualise the kind of terrain and the enormity of the journies travelled as well as helping make the whole thing feel real. I also personally find as an author they help with knowing what’s coming next.
I map out the areas and mark on where the big events happen, where the characters start and where they are going to travel too. At the least it provides me with an idea of how long it’s going to take to travel between A and B.
This is more Tolkien’s thing than anyone else. He made up four languages for Lord of the Rings and it can really add to the feel of the races if they occasionally talk in their own tongues. It set’s some mystique to a race and also ties in well with the mythology and history.
On top of that it adds well to the dynamics between the races if you can have occasions where they don’t understand each other because they speak separate languages.
I’m sure there are also many other areas of the fantasy world that need creating. It’s really quite an undertaking but can ber very rewarding.