Writing fantasy can be a bit overwhelming, especially since you have to create an entire world (in most sub genres) when you’re already trying to create characters and plots. Here’s a guide and some questions to get you started to inspire.
Geography: Make a map of your world. Start with an outline of the country, kingdom, or nation you’re making. Is it an island? Is it landlocked? Does it share borders with other countries or regions? Once you have your basic shape, you can add more borders within for states, provinces, kingdoms, and more smaller regions. Now place it somewhere on a globe. This will affect the geography and the climate of your world. Look up the ecosystems and geography of lands similar to yours.
- Local Setting: Where is the general area that your story takes place? What does it look like? What does it feel like? Is there not enough sun because of all the trees? Are there mountains? Is there a tide? What does it smell like? Is the air polluted in one area more than another? How does that affect breathing, smell, and daily life? Those who lived near the Chicago Stockyards when it was open breathed bad air their entire lives. Going to a place with cleaner air was quite an odd experience for them.
Ecosystem: What animals are most common? Have your characters hunted any species to the point of extinction? Which animals have been domesticated? What plants and herbs grow there? Rural characters should have knowledge of the nature around them and the uses of certain plants and animals.
Climate: Climate depends on the geographical location and other environmental factors. This will affect your characters’ lives significantly.
Regions: Does your story take place in one country? Or many? Either way, these places are going to have small regions within whether they are called states, provinces, kingdoms, or whatever you want. Or maybe there are no regions. Your characters may just ambiguously refer to places as “the east” or “the lakes” if there is a place heavily ridden with bodies of water. A fictional island in one my stories has a place that many refer to as “the southern branch” because it is the southern most part of the island and it juts out from the rest. If you have regions, make up their borders. Are there border laws? Are people allowed to pass freely? Are criminals allowed to pass freely? Are there no set borders, but a general idea of where one region starts and another ends? Are there physical borders (such as a wall or a fence)? Do customs vary from region to region?
Astronomy: Consider how many moons your world has and constellations. Does your world notice stars? Have they given names to stars and constellations?
Villages, Towns, and Cities: When creating a city, town, or village, draw a map and consider who lives there. Draw the geography first. Is there a river that runs through it? Are there hills and forests? Or a swamp? Draw the major roads and note where there may be bridges or tunnels. Add the minor roads next and draw in buildings and homes. Your town could even follow a certain shape, like a circle that has a major building in the center. Maybe, for a smaller village, there is only one road and homes spread out on either side. Or perhaps there are no roads at all.
Population: How many people live in certain areas? Is the population high or low? Consider the average family size and life expectancy. If your characters live for a long time and have a low infant mortality rate, they may have a high population. Or maybe they live long enough to realize high population can be a problem, and thus limit the amount of children they have. The population will affect available jobs, amount of towns and cities, and the environment. Think of the diversity in the population. Are there more men than women? More children than adults? What about the percentages of race?
Foreign Lands: What are the foreign lands? Are they as advanced as the place your story takes place? More advanced? Less advanced? Do they have a bad or good history with your land? What is the relationship between these lands? How do their cultures differ? Are the borders controlled? What do these places look like? Have borders ever changed? Do mountains or rivers make up the borders?