Fantasy Writing Course

Empower Your Words Today

Fantasy World Building

‘I like reading a book where I have the sense that the author knows everything.'

~ J. K. Rowling

"With Harry Potter, I believe that there are three fundamental aspects that drove these fans to share with their friends from the very beginning--characterization, world building, and mystery." S.P. Sipal, Writer's Guide to Harry Potter

An Author Should Know Everything

‘The fantasy writer's job is to conduct the willing reader from mundanity to magic. This is a feat of which only a superior imagination is capable, and Rowling possesses such equipment.’ Stephen King, Author

‘Rowling's books...bulge with the sort of playful details of which only British fantasists seem capable: there's the Whomping Willow, which will smash hell out of your car (and you) if you get too close to it, snack foods like Cauldron Cakes and Licorice Wands and the satisfyingly evil Lord Voldemort (so evil, in fact, that most of Rowling's characters will only call him ‘You-know-who').’ Stephen King, Author

That’s not too shabby, coming from one of the most amazing fiction and fantasy writers of the 20th and 21st centuries!

‘This mass of material was generated…partly for my own pleasure and partly because I like reading a book where I have the sense that the author knows everything, they might not be telling me everything, but you have that confidence that the author really knows everything.’

J. K. Rowling on how she created Harry Potter.

So, in short, know everything about your ‘world’.  If your world is real to you, then you will convey that onto the page.  Hogwarts and Harry were so real to Jo and her readers that thousands of fans continued spending time with them in their own fan fiction stories long after the series had come to a close.

Creating a Secondary World

"What really happens is that the story-maker proves a successful 'sub-creator'. He makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is 'true': it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are, as it were, inside. The moment disbelief arises, the spell is broken; the magic, or rather art, has failed. You are then out in the Primary World again, looking at the little abortive Secondary World from outside." J.R.R. Tolkien

"There is real danger among beginning science fiction and fantasy writers to think that just because they are dealing with speculative fiction anything goes. This is one large reason for a vast amount of rejections from agents and editors. You can't simply throw a world on the page because it sounds cool and suits your storytelling purposes. It has to make sense on some level with the laws of the known universe. Your world has to seem to the reader as if it truly does exist, that it all belongs together and has been in existence for whatever timeline your story calls for." S.P. Sipal, Writers Guide to Harry Potter

"If you're going to have a complicated story you must work to a map; otherwise you'll never make a map of it afterwards."
J.R.R. Tolkien

World Building - Character Exercise

Characters are intrinsically linked to the world's they inhabit.  For instance, you wouldn't have a hobbit living in a towerblock or an executive living in a hole in the ground.

For this practical activity you will need:

  • A chessboard or a picture of one


    1. In this task you will assign character names to pieces on a chessboard.  (This is a good visualization technique.) 
      1. Assign character names from Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings using white as side of good and black as the side of evil. 
      2. Assign characters from your story.
    2. Now answer the following questions:  What does the chessboard represent in your story? 
    3. A small region?  A country?  A world?  Several worlds? 
    4. Can you go there?  Take photos?  Visualize it? 

    Can you find a way to explore this setting to that you can explain it to your reader?