A Must-Read Worldbuilding Resource for Authors
Worldbuilding has always been the least fun part of writing speculative fiction for me. I’d rather be brainstorming quirky characters and, to be quite honest, just writing the story. (I’m chronically impatient. Ask anyone in my family.)
But somewhat recently, I came across a book that actually got me exciting about this stage of pre-writing that I’ve usually despised and neglected.
Storyworld First, by Jill Williamson, is fantastic. Williamson is the author of many terrific speculative novels, including the Blood of Kings series, and I’m a big fan of the color and complexity of her story worlds. So when I first heard about Storyworld First being in the works, I was excited about the prospect of a veteran worldbuilder spilling some tasty trade secrets.
And I wasn’t disappointed. Below is the review I posted on Amazon:
Whether or not an author took the time to craft an original and compelling storyworld often decides if the novel soars or flops. With Storyworld First, speculative author Jill Williamson does a phenomenal job of walking you, the author, through the process of developing a world that soars right up there with Middle Earth and Hogwarts.
The worldbuilding process has always been a struggle for me as a speculative writer. I may have one or two exciting ideas about my fantasy or sci-fi world, but the overwhelming task of further developing those ideas into an entire world, and my own impatience to just write the dern book have usually resulted with me diving into a storyworld that is half-baked, vague in its description, and confusing to the reader.
After reading Storyworld First, I’m actually excited for the worldbuilding process of my upcoming project. Williamson takes a step-by-step approach through designing maps and terrain, developing civilizations and races of people, writing fictional histories, and inventing fantastical creatures, technologies, governments, and religions. She makes you think about how each facet of worldbuilding effects the others (if time travel has been invented, how would that effect government and economy?) and uses examples from many different popular speculative stories, as well as her own. There is even an excellent chapter on language building, although Williamson recommends that fantasy languages be handled sparingly.
There were places where Storyworld First was not quite as deep or in-depth on a subject as I might have liked, particularly in the chapter about magic development–but it’s a book about worldbuilding, not magic, politics, or linguistics. Overall I felt that it covered most topics extremely well.
If worldbuilding is something that frustrates and overwhelms you as a writer, I highly recommend this book. You could read the whole thing in one chunk before you begin, or you could use it as a workbook and work through each chapter, developing each facet of your world as you go. I greatly look forward to putting it to use in my next story!
Storyworld First is available both in ebook and print format on Amazon. Check it out, guys! And while you’re at it, nab some of Jill Williamson’s novels–The Blood Of Kings series and Replication are my personal favorites.