Geography & Land

Making people is all fine and good, but you can’t have a complete story world without a place for them to live! Making the literal planet or country that your story takes place in is a lot of fun, and this is the way I do it.

I used to balk at creating entire new countries and worlds for my stories, and as such, a lot of my stories took place in a slightly modified Earth. This is definitely a valid setting to use for a fantasy or science fiction story as well, and I’ll cover some of the ways to do that, but first, we’re going to talk about creating a planet or country from scratch.

Like creating an entire race (or more than once race!) of people, this can seem like an immense task, and not one you might want to spend time on. However, if you are writing a story in a world completely of your own creation, fleshing out the land and geography is a very important thing to do. And as with creating a race of people, start small and vague.

First, think about the immediate setting of the story, if you have one (and if you don’t have a vague idea of a setting yet, definitely think of one before you begin worldbuilding!). Is it in somewhere tropical? A desert? A city? A suburb? Somewhere very dangerous? It’s this first flicker of an idea that can lead to the expansion of the land you’re working with. For instance, the current storyworld I’m writing in now began as just a snowy region in the north. Now it’s a full-fledged continent with many different terrains and cultures.

Once you have that idea, expand on it. Where is it located, exactly? Is this part of a continent? Is it an island on its own? North, south, east, west? It’s a good idea to at least start with a large landmass, whether that be an island that contains only your country, or a continent that has many countries. Mine in particular is a large, planet-spanning continent with eight countries, and it is sort of like Pangaea in that it is the only continent on the planet. In another story of mine, though, the planet contains many countries, and each of them is an island. They are all connected to each other by either manufactured bridges or land bridges. You can create a lot of variety with the landmass alone.

Climate is another important thing to consider. The climate will definitely have an effect on the lifestyles of your characters, and you should make it apparent in your story. For instance, if a character lives in a desert area, they might have water problems or heat problems. There won’t be the type of animal that lives in a tropical rainforest, for instance. Climate can differ in each part of the land, too, depending on how big your land mass is!

Here are some general things to remember when you’re thinking about climate:

Once you’ve got the climate and land mass taken care of, you can begin to map. You can either draw the map in a program such as GIMP or Paint, or you can use a mapping program, like AutoRealm. I draw them because I find it easier, but I’ve used AutoRealm in the past and it’s a pretty nice program (and free!).

When you are mapping, you can put all sorts of things on the map. Obviously, you will be drawing how the main land mass looks, as well as the water around it. Aside from that, however, here are some ideas for what you can add to your map:

Designing the land of a particular world can take a long time, but hopefully these pointers can get you started in the right direction. If you spend a lot of time building your world, your story will be the better for it, and will be more lush with detail. The most interesting stories often have some of the most memorable worlds. Good luck!