Mapping Out Your StoryWorld Part Two

Welcome back to Writerly Wednesday!

Today, we’re discussing ecology and it’s influence on the people groups and their cultures, part two of Mapping Out Your Story World. If you missed the previous one, you can read it by clicking on the link below.

Part One: Suspension of Disbelief

So let’s dig in!

As we brainstorm our story worlds, we’ll need to think about our characters. Some of us start with characters and build the world around them. Some start with plot. Others start with the world itself and then populate it with characters. Whichever comes first, we will eventually need to consider what our story will need from the world around it. Is this a quest where your characters travel through dangerous and unfamiliar lands? Or do the characters remain in one location? 

We’ll need to determine what types of land formations and water sources will be there. Are there mountains? Or flat plains as far as the eye can see? Will there be great canyons dividing your world or will it be soft rolling hills? Will your desert be hot and dry or cold and rocky? Does your story world involve a tropical rain forest? Or is it a land of ice and snow? Is the breadth of the story world a single island in the tropics or set in the arctic?

When we are building our story worlds, it’s important to think about how these landscapes and climates will influence the people groups and the creatures who live there. People (Or sentient beings) living in the mountains compared to those living in the desert or along a coastline or in a jungle will have different customs, different clothes, different crops, textiles, livestock, ways they make a living, a different way of life, different foods to eat. The list goes on!

And when these people meet?

Not only does this broaden your world, it gives the story conflict that arises naturally from the world itself. This can enhance and deepen your characters and their relationships. And conflict is what engages the reader and moves the story forward.

For Example...

Cold regions like the northern hemisphere in Europe with the shorter planting and harvesting seasons and the longer winters are more than likely going to be more aware of time. If they don’t get the seeds planted in time, they won’t have crops to harvest to feed themselves or their livestock through winter. They’ll starve and die.

Then you have the southern hemisphere and places like central, southern Africa where my husband is from. Here, you have longer planting and harvesting seasons. And in many places crops can grow all year. There isn’t such a demand on their time, so maybe they’re a little more relaxed than their northern counterparts, creating a very different lifestyle and customs. What do you think will happen when they cross paths? We can read about their interactions from history.

Building a world can be overwhelming and sometimes we can get a little too carried away with it, but just remember most of this will NOT make it into the novel, but it will influence our characters and their stories. Some authors do just enough world-building to give readers an illusion of a fully functioning ecosystem. Don’t let it overwhelm you! See what the story needs, and then address it.

Tell me about your story world!

Next week, we’re drawing maps! I’ll share some tips I’ve learned and some resources I’ve found helpful.

Have a great rest of the week!

7 thoughts on “Mapping Out Your StoryWorld Part Two

  1. Kessie says:

    That’s my favorite part of worldbuilding, is the geology and ecology of the region. I love climates and weather and the way cultures adapt to them. It’s one thing I love about Marc Secchia’s books: the different cultures on the islands, and what you might expect to find on each one.

    1. jlmbewe says:

      Yes!! So fascinating! I’be been meaning to read one of Marc Secchia’s books one of these days. Such awesome covers!
      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Jenelle Schmidt says:

    This was great! Climate is not something I start thinking about usually until later in my writing process, but I’m learning that it needs to come up in my considerations sooner. 🙂

    1. jlmbewe says:

      Thank you, Jenelle! When I sat down to create Nälu, it was one of the first things I thought about when I began constructing the world. But as I build my other worlds, I haven’t actually spent as much time as I did back then. Ha! I was overly concerned then. But I guess, since I usually sketch a map before I write the story, I am considering the land masses, water sources, and how close it would be to the equator in their world, which then produces the climate. More then comes to me as I write and it begins to solidify as I finish the story. Thank you for stopping by!

  3. DJ Edwardson says:

    Great post! The clash of cultures is not something I’ve given much thought to. I like to think of the cultures in my worlds as somewhat “isolationist” since travel was not easy in the medieval world (most people never traveled more than about 7 miles from their home), though adventurers would not necessarily fit into that characteristic. I got around that a little in my upcoming series by having one of the characters travel around the countryside selling his wares so he was more knowledgable about the larger world.

    That’s also a good point about the climate affecting behavior, values, and attitudes. So much of life for the average person in a (typical) fantasy world would probably revolve around just, where is my next meal coming from? And the climate and geography would have a great deal to do with that.

    Can’t wait to see the maps!

    1. jlmbewe says:

      Thank you, DJ! Good point about people in a medieval world setting. Most people would not travel so much, but they did travel. Like the Silk Road and pilgrimages, not to mention the golden age of sail. Of course, then we start moving from medieval to the Renaissance. But since a lot of fantasy involves merchants, bards, or characters embarking on quests, it gives moments of culture shock, which can enrich the story. Definitely concerned about food and protection from the elements, the wild, and other people. I just discovered a book on the day and life in Tudor England, I cannot wait to read it! thanks for stopping by!

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