ConDFW Report Part III: World Building

This panel discussion on building the worlds that your characters will inhabit was a powerhouse.  The authors covered a wide variety of styles and genres and were just very knowledgeable and gracious.



Where do you start?

  • Start with the world…can reflect the psychology of characters
  • Start with character…they build the environment
  • Start with a place where things can happen…relationship to people important…clashes are good
  • Start with people, especially the central character.  Then build the world to torture them (Butcher)


  • Fill in characters based on facets of the world
  • Research…draw upon the real world.  The more grounded in the real world it is, the more fun it is to fill holes with “weird stuff”.  This is also the best way to avoid clichés.
  • Build characters with social issues and life stories.  Give them real life issues.
  • Build a history

How much do you put in or leave out?

  • You don’t always find a place for things you’ve developed…set it aside.  Don’t force it in.
  • Don’t do an “info dump”.
  • You want to immerse without bogging down.
  • Be disciplined about POV…if your character doesn’t know, then it is easy to play it close to the vest.

Recommended authors

Where do you learn this stuff (Influences)

  • Anthropology/archaeology
  • Historical novels/plays
  • Bardic tradition
  • College courses
  • DM-ing


  • Can be helpful for spatial reference
  • Googlemaps has been really helpful for getting formation
  • Networking with fans sometimes helps…will send pictures of sites you can’t get to

Introducing rules of magic

  • Do it in action…no info dumps
  • Reader may not need to know how it works so long as it is consistent

Information organization

  • Notebooks
  • Bookmark websites
  • Wikipedia
  • Readers as a resource (fan sites, etc.)

Final thoughts

  • Have fun with it.  If it feels real to you, it will feel real to the reader. (Wells)
  • Have passion about character, concept, and conflict. (Douglas)
  • Don’t use other novels as reference points. (Swendson)
  • Steal from history.  Start with books in the juvenile section of the library. (Butcher)
  • Do what you want…it is your story. (Martindale)

About Shedrick

I am a professional librarian and a part-time writer that's working to do that the other way around. I currently live in North Texas in the lovely city of Denton (“The Home of Happiness“) with my lovely wife and the obligatory demon-spawn cats. When not writing, gaming, or watching cheezy kung-fu flicks, I can sometimes be found in a pub (or the American equivalent) enjoying a fine brew.
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