June 3, 2008

Thoughts on World Building: Considering Geology and Climate

In the first two posts in this series, I took a broad view of the world building process. I’m switching gears for the next few posts to take a look at several elements it’s needful to consider when constructing a fantasy or sci-fi world and how they interrelate.

While these elements are much the same for any genre, there are some elements you’d include for one genre you usually wouldn’t for another. I’ll be the first to admit that while I highly enjoy a good fantasy story, I’m much more of a sci-fi author. If you’re looking for something specifically geared toward world building for a fantasy novel or series, I highly recommend Kameron M. Franklin’s latest series over at Pens and Swords.

One of the first things to consider is the setting itself, and by this I mean the geography and climate. It may seem like a background element and therefore of little importance, but where we live and the environment in which our culture was born influences everything from native dishes and fashions to mythology to technology and architecture. How much different would the Greeks have been had they originated in the Nile River Valley? What about if they came out of Siberia?

This is one aspect of world building I recommend doing a bit of research on as you go. Geological features effect climate and vice versa, and these effects can produce different outcomes for flora, fauna, and the climate as a whole based on latitude, altitude, proximity to large bodies of water, and surrounding geological features.

Then again, the importance of scientific accuracy for this depends a lot on exactly how far the setting will feature into the story itself. If your story will be largely set in the same area and focused around the characters within a city or small country, it’s a relatively minor thing. However, if your characters will be traveling extensively or the setting and/or weather will play a large role in the story, a bit of research can go a long way toward making the setting feel natural. You wouldn’t expect to find lush jungles stretching for miles upon miles on either side of a mountain range for example.


  1. After my time in Bham, I couldn't imagine a setting with red soil that didn't include huge pine forests! :)

    In one of my recent stories, I had a city turning into a mountain range as a result of a shifting reality. It was interesting to imagine the geology forming but then I began to wonder if the buildings were tall enough to be mountains!

  2. Did you happen to catch The Tenth Kingdom when it came on ABC several years back, Jamie? The opening sequence for the miniseries had almost the same effect. New York morphed into one of the ten kingdoms, which were themselves the settings in the fairy tales told by the Brothers Grimm.

    And as a Bama girl, born and raised, it's difficult for me to imagine anywhere without red soil, period. ;)