The Worldbuilding Rabbit Hole

I know I’m not the only one who’s fallen down the worldbuilding rabbit hole. I mean, there are only 2 months left before nano begins! If you want to really worldbuild hard and get it all out of the way before you start writing, you have to worldbuild NOW! Come commiserate/celebrate going way too deep with the worldbuilding.

Whoever came up with the “base your fictional location on a real location” method is an evil genius. I located a town that fits what I know about my fictional town. Then I started digging through census data–from 1980, because I wouldn’t want to use information from the wrong year, right? And the local school’s website. I’ve barely even started worldbuilding, and I’m combing through census records. This is going to get obsessive before I’m done.

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Oh yeah. I mean I’ve been working on this world for a year now? I have so much about the magic and such fleshed out! I still am working on some things, like how in the world weather works and how that relates to geography- It’s fun though!

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Oh, the weather and geography connection–someday I need to learn more about it. It’s not relevant to this year’s project, since that’s set in Kansas, but lately I’ve come to appreciate how much geography influences the type of weather you get, so I want to learn more about it before I write any high fantasy.

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Worldbuilding is so hard! I just have like a million little and big ideas and they don’t all work correctly together. Figuring out how one thing affects another is so complicated. It’s fun, but it’s hard work. And then making it propel the plot, it’s a lot! I’m glad there are still a couple months left, but it feels like time keeps speeding up.

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I’m imagining someone picks your novel up.

“hey this is set in my hometown”

“wow, the high school is pretty accurate to the 80s”

How do they know where my locker was and what my stupid haircut was!? How am I in this novel!?

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Hey, they won’t know that guy with the stupid haircut is them–all the names (including the town’s) are different. They might get a weird feeling of deja vu, though.

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I tend to spend September ruminating on the general concept of the novel and then spend October worldbuilding so I have a solid base to pants from come November 1st.

This year… the planning bug has bitten me a bit early! :rofl:

I’m busy looking over biomes right now, I have the feeling that I’d like a sort of mangrove swamp, like a Mississippi River delta only more overgrown. :thinking:

For me, once I have a biome then I can invent upwards from there. I rarely do worldbuilding much further out that the story needs, just because I love having room to pants in some details! :grin: :rabbit2:

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I wasn’t building, I was researching (currently using the real world), but in recent weeks I learned way more than anybody needs to know about neurosurgery and brain anatomy, Chinese religion, the chemical and physical properties of steel knives, common slang in the US Marines, the CIA’s extremely questionable experiments with hallucinogens, a variety of swearwords in Spanish, and the habits of the Chilean condor.

god bless the internet.

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I always joke about knowing about the plumbing when worldbuilding, since most of the time it’s completely irrelevant to the story, but the 1990 census has information on both plumbing and heating sources. My jokes are hitting a bit too close to home. :grimacing:

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I had to focus on other things because at 20,000 words of worldbuilding and not even half done with it I just… figured I’d have to take a break from it, readjust my thought processes, and take a look at it with “a new set of eyes”.

I’m glad to be able to use Finland as a jumping-off point for my fantasy world, having the majority of my nano take place “where I live”, so I don’t really need to, you know, make maps and calculate distances. I can just say “It’s a day’s walk from Maalahti to Laihia and a day’s ride from Laihia to Alajärvi and a week’s ride from Alajärvi to Lieksa and then you’ve crossed the entire country” (of course using the village/town names of the nano) and be done with it. Somehow I still managed to get to 20,000 words…

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Ah yes this is where I need to be. I’m using World Anvil templates to start me out and then transcribing and expanding the e articles over to my tiddlywiki on my desktop. It’s harder than it needs to be since my desktop doesn’t have internet though…

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I love worldbuilding so much.

How do y’all keep track of the worlds you create? Do you have a spread sheet, a BuJo, a wiki, sticky notes, a white board, index cards, something ele I haven’t imagined?

I use a BuJo and a wiki, because I don’t always have access to the internet to get to the wiki, and a BuJo can be configured to work like a wiki with go-tos, washi tape side tabs, indices, Dutch doors, trackers, sketches, maps, lexicon pages, genealogy pages, time lines, colored ink page edges for categories, sticky notes, fold-outs, pocket holders, pop-ups, sliders, spin wheels, and print-outs pasted in.

The wiki does pretty much the same thing, but instead of turning pages, you just add external links and copy/pate and create pages that you tuck into folders or create internal links to.

I’d never heard of World Anvil before! That is a great resource!

It’s so nice to see another wiki user!

I use pbworks as my wiki, because it allows me to create shared wikis with my writing group and people with whom I am co-writing stories while keeping my personal wiki private.

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Buncha things.

I have a wiki, I have a 95-page semi-organized Google Doc, I have some other (lesser) Google docs, I have a variety of One Note pages, I have some random notebooks… and a lot of it is just in my head.

The Google Doc (innovatively titled “Dalar Stuffs”) is technically the primary record, or at least it’s the most-complete, but it’s not particularly… accessible to anyone but me. Many of the sections are written in a stream-of-consciousness way that freely mixes wildly out-of-date info with “canon”, and it’s not organized with the intent of anyone reading straight through it. (the first section is on government-funded scientific research, which is not typically the first thing you’d choose to read about a conworld… especially given that it’s irrelevant to any story I’ve ever written in this world…)

I also do conlanging, and that stuff is stored in a mixture of more Google docs and on ConWorkShop.

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I love worldbuilding. In fact, I just started gathering information for building the galaxies/ solar systems and so on I’ll need for the epic I’m working and have been for nine years. I can’t wait to see how far I can get on it this year.

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I have Zim for my personal wiki. It’s offline, so there are no issues with access. I don’t use it for worldbuilding, though.I do store my personal rules of writing and list of things to consider when worldbuilding in it, though.It’s probably not the best wiki in existence, but meh, it does what I need it to do.

For worldbuilding I use FreeMind (mindmapping) and Scrivener–Scrivener for more longform notes, and FreeMind for shorter notes that aren’t complete yet.

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As long as it does what you need it to do, that’s the important thing, eh?

I should have clarified that if I don’t have internet, I don’t have a computer. I don’t use tablets or cell phones (because I’m too cheap to pay $100 a month for cell phone service, and to pay more for a phone than I paid for my desktop computer, not because I don’t know how or am a Luddite), so paper is my portable.

I try to only dig into worldbuilding when I desperately need to… I usually start with a few scenes/characters, and go from there until I hit a writer’s block and need to start drawing a map of the “known world.” But then, I [usually] have a typical medieval fantasy world, which may or may not be true to “medieval” (if that makes sense), but I do try to do my research for certain details… Really, I do.

And then I might hit another block because “I have no idea what the history on this is,” and then have to descend into writing deep explanations of “why” in notes I will forever keep on the side, leaving the reader wondering the same question. Even if they don’t know, I need to know…

But I digress. The world I’ve worked with the most has the most development, and I’ve been decidedly lazy with my other worlds. I have a map hand drawn in fountain pen ink (because ink is the best for map drawing), which I update as needed and take a picture/scan of now and then to add into my files on my computer. I also have a breakdown of the kingdoms, provinces, and notable landmarks with setting profiles for each one, as well as full profiles of each and every character (yes, even the super minor ones). There’s also several handwritten notes to go along with the maps. This is all in one humongous Scrivener file, along with the multiple stories written in that world during different eras within that world. There’s also notes on different topics –– the history of the world, dragons, and even a glossary for one of the languages –– most of which started with handwritten notes that I later typed up.

But all this has come about over the course of the last… ummm… Maybe ten years? I’ve lost track of when I started into this world.

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I do a mix of things but this year I’m working on having a portable version with the important bits in a BuJo for when I don’t have access to the internet (or just my phone screen) and a wiki to organize all of my weird little notes that I collect.

Unfortunately I can’t seem to break the habit of writing down factoids on whatever’s available at the time and keeping them organized can be a nightmare. The wiki has really helped me keep track of all the odd rabbit holes my head likes to go down.

I have a completely separate set of journal/sketchbooks that I use for “primary source” documents written from the perspective of scientists/researchers/citizens of my worlds. Sometimes it helps me think things through even if the document in question is just referred to in a story as “Jim’s List of Things Not to Eat”.

There is also a small stack of sketchbooks filled with maps of all kinds from worlds and continents to cities and important buildings. I use them to do rough sketches of scenes that stick with me as well.

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Me either! I’m off to check it out. Thanks @GeataRionnag and @TinyFist!

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