Worldbuilding for fantasy fiction

Having plunged about 30,000 words into writing a new fantasy story, I am starting to build the foundations of my fictional world. My fascination with the diverse Australian landscape strongly influences my settings, and it’s a lot of fun cherry-picking bits and pieces to colour my stories.

One of the subplots in this particular story inverts the ‘mail-order bride’ scenario. Women from a wealthy, matriarchal nation buy themselves husbands from a neighbouring wartorn continent. Their interracial marriages cause resentment and hostility in both nations, fuelled by conflict caused by the differences in culture and beliefs.

The wealthy nation strictly defends its borders, so needed a landscape that would naturally repel anyone trying to come ashore without authorisation. Yesterday, I read a newspaper article about the amazing dolerite stacks on Tasmania’s Three Capes Track, and my imagination began to fire.

I’ve lived in Tasmania, and have strong family ties and ancestry there, so it’s already one of my favourite sources of inspiration for plotlines and settings. The photos below were taken at the Devil’s Kitchen on the Tasman Peninsula. These siltstone rock formations are estimated to have formed 270 million years ago. It’s assumed that the Devil’s Kitchen itself (centre) is what now remains after the roof of a sea cave collapsed and fell into the water 60 metres below.

So, the sheer, tall cliffs shearing into deep oceans were perfect for my story. Now, with the south-eastern border of my fictional nation clearer in my mind and on the page, my protagonist and her newly purchased husband travel north, to her family estate. A horse and cattle stud with pastures extending to pristine white beaches, where the cattle eat bull kelp that’s washed up on the sand. That plotline, incidentally, is based on cattle from the north-west of Tasmania, but that’s perhaps a story for another day.

Where do you find inspiration for your fictional settings? Which parts of the world would you like to see or write about in fiction, particularly fantasy fiction?

Please feel free to share your comments below.

13 thoughts on “Worldbuilding for fantasy fiction

  • The Tasmanian wilderness is a powerful source of inspiration, and those dolerite stacks offer a rich bounty for what you are doing with your story. It sounds intriguing. You have 30,000 words under your belt: that’s a great feeling. My novel WILDLIGHT also draws on a far-flung corner of Tasmania: Maatsuyker Island.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Robyn, thanks so much for your comment.

      Yes Tassie does provide a huge amount of inspiration. I’ve just finished another fantasy that is heavily inspired by the convict history Port Arthur, so had initially intended to use a different setting for this particular country, but it didn’t quite work out that way.

      It’s a good feeling to be getting words down on the page, I agree. I’ve been writing frenetically so hopefully can keep up the momentum til the end.

      Wildlight (and your other books) sound fascinating, and of a part of Tasmania that I’m not familiar with. Looking at your blog, you obviously have a wealth of incredible and unique experiences to draw from. I find the idea of working in Antarctica fascinating, although I think I’d find it too cold to do anything more than a visit.

      All the best with your writing, I’ll definitely look for your books.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Even more everyday locales can inspire. Just imagine that quartz ourcropping in your garden stretching out for acres, with clear, hard crystals that dwarf humans. That’s the thing about writing – we have an unlimited special effects budget.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for commenting Mike. Yes I agree about the unlimited special effects. I think that’s what appeals to me so much about speculative fiction – the boundaries are so vast.


  • I’ve been torn from my writing for some time now what with a new home purchase and all the “nesting” that goes into that. The Book lies fallow, but I desperately want to finish it. The new home environment is just begging to be used for story and blog fodder.

    I have always felt utterly absorbed into the land in which I live (or perhaps I absorb it into me) and places I frequent. My part of the U.S. appears, to some, flat and bland. There is no Three Capes Track, no Grand Canyon, no White Cliffs of Dover. Still, I find inspiration in the quiet bayous and creeks, the stately oaks and pines, the hundreds of bird species that live in and travel through my area each year. The new home is on the coast and I’m anxious to draw from that well. I’m getting a bit antsy about it, but all I can do is wait out my other responsibilities.

    As far as what I would want to read, I’m open to any landscape. The most seemingly-mundane landscape can be made into a rich, fascinating world with good writing. My only requirement is that I not be forced to suspend disbelief so greatly that the thread is fraying and about to break.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep I can relate to the challenge of writing when other major life events are going on.

      I agree there is beauty in all types of scenery. Another setting for this story of mine will be based on the outback, which some people consider harsh and ‘boring’, but has a different sort of beauty and colour, not to mention the sounds, animals and immenseness of it all.

      I agree that any setting can work well if the writing is good. Thanks for sharing your thoughts K.C. and all the best with your writing – I’m interested to read about your world.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Your novel sounds awesome! I love the idea of a “mail-order husband” and it sounds like you have great ideas and inspirations for a vivid setting.

    I have to admit that setting is one of my lesser skills with writing and something I definitely need to improve on. But mainly I either pull from my own experience or my imagination, and I’m working on improving. Despite that, world building is one of my favorite parts of writing! I just love learning and creating all sorts of different cultures.

    Good luck with your writing! I hope it’s going well so far. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lana,

      Yes, setting is one of the things I struggle with too, in being able to express in writing what I am picturing in my mind. I find looking at real places helps, and as you said; drawing on real life experiences.

      World building is lots of fun though. I’m currently reading Glenda Larke’s Mirage Makers trilogy, and I think she’s brilliant at creating interesting, vivid and unique fantasy worlds.

      Thanks for stopping by to comment, and all the best with your writing, too.


      • Ooh, looking at real places is a good idea to work on describing setting. I’ll have to try that sometime and see if I get a better feel for the description with that.

        I’ve never heard of that series; is it any good? Fantasy’s one of my favorite genres, so it sounds great.

        Thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I found my worldbuilding much easier when I looked at history etc instead of trying to make it all up.
        I finished the Glenda Larke trilogy today, I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to you as a fellow fantasy reader. She has great characters and her worlds are very different from the medieval type settings that lots of fantasies are set in. Those can be good too, but I find it really interesting to read about worlds inspired by non-medieval settings.
        Happy reading!


      • Ooh, history is a great resource to draw on. I’m starting to learn a little bit about Roman and medieval cultures and they’re really interesting.

        Ah, that’s cool! I love fantasy books that aren’t set in the typical medieval setting. I’ll have to read them sometime.

        Liked by 1 person

  • I love to take a walk downtown and imagine myself in others shoes. How does that homeless man on the corner live his life? What kind of struggles would he face in different situations? I like that you build the world around your story rather than the other way around. Its refreshing

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that approach is really reflected in your writing too, Jacob, looking at the stories on your blog. I find people watching really fascinating and it’s such a great way to come up with story ideas. Thanks for following my blog and for commenting on this post – I appreciate your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

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