What follows is a list of essential resources – some of them free, some available for relatively cheap – that might help anyone willing to try their hand at the business of the gods…
This list was originally created for game designers, and is therefore biased towards a certain approach that might not be suitable for fiction authors. As I am adding more titles, I will list also more fiction-friendly resources.
Add your own: these are my resources, and we’d all be happy to learn about other tools and sources of information; so, if there’s some website, book or software you think might make this list better, please use the comments to let us know.
. 25 Things You Should Know about Worldbuilding, by Chuck Wendig
. Discovering Robert E. Howard: Jeff Shanks on The Worldbuilding of REH, from the Black Gate Blog
. Gaming, World Building, and Narrative: Using Role-playing Games to Teach Fiction Writing, by Trent Hergenrader
. The Spiral Method of World Building, from Roleplaying Tips
. Create Fictional Cultures, by J.S. Morin
. Worldbuilding Leviathan, from Kitty’s Writing Tools
Tools & Utilities
. Worldbuilding Leviathan explained and expanded, by Belinda Crawford, includes Scrivener templates
. Autorealm, fantasy mapping software
Organizing your notes
Depending on your preferences, maybe a simple notebook and a pencil – or a shoebox into which to throw random scraps of paper with notes on them – might be useful enough.
But otherwise, consider the following…
A note-taking app with cloud capabilities for Linux. Works basically like…
Probably the most popular note-taking utility out there, and well-worth its fame.
You can organize your web-references in pinboards, with visual cues.
You got a map and now you want to pinpoint story or world elements on it?
ThingLink allows you to create interactive maps with data-points plotted on them.
Books & Guides
. The Kobold’s Guide to Worldbuilding
Essential collection of monographic articles by the industry’s leading authors.
. Holly Lisle Create a Language Clinic
. Holly Lisle’s Create a Culture Clinic
. Holly Lisle’s Create a World Clinic
Aimed at fiction writers, but sound advice for game designers, too.
Lisle has equally useful books for Character and Plot creation.
. Terra Incognito: A Guide to Building the Worlds of Your Imagination, by Richard C. Wright
Good, thorough, handbook for (mainly) game designers, but useful to writers too.
. Building Imaginary Worlds: The Theory and History of Subcreation, by Mark J.P. Wolf
Expensive and terribly thorough, but well worth the time (and, sigh, money)
. Checking on Culture
Small but powerful checklist of all the building blocks of a world.
. Writing Vivid Settings
Part of the “Writer’s Craft” series, this is a good primer about putting the details on the page for maximum effect. The whole series is good, cheap on paperback, and highly recommended.
. Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction
A complete writing course with chapters and sections by popular writers. Beautiful to behold and highly recommended.
. Norman Davies – Vanished Kingdoms
Because history is always a great source of inspiration.
. What If?: The World’s Foremost Historians Imagine What Might Have Been, edited by Robert Cowley
Because history can be rewritten, as long as we are playing.
. Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals, by Niall Ferguson.
More alternate history, together with a full theory of counterfacual history.
Full disclosure: yes, some of these commercial links to Amazon, and I might make a buck out of your purchase – but the books won’t cost you a dime extra if you click the link.
Online worlds & communities worth exploring
. Orion’s Arm
Huge, vast and deep setting for a science-fictional universe.
. Worldbuilding Stack Exchange
A Questions & Answers community for writers, about worldbuilding.
More Online Resources and Articles via Pinterest
And again – if there’s something I’m missing (and surely there is!), please tell me and the readers in the comments.