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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Guest Post: Top Five Worldbuilding Books For New Authors by M. D. Presley

 


Deciding what is best in life is only easy if you’re Conan. The rest of us have to consider loads of other factors, especially when you’re making a top-five list. Ask me my top-five movies or albums, and I’d immediately be at a loss. After a few flustered moments I’d then ask if I could drill down a bit, perhaps by making it my top-five movies about prison romances, or maybe top-five songs with “it’ll be alright” in the chorus.
 
I ran into this problem again when trying to pick out my top-five worldbuilding books, such that I eventually had to quantify my top-five. Overall, I probably gleaned more worldbuilding info from Mark J. P. Wolf’s textbook Building Imaginary Worlds than anything else, but would definitely not foist this upon anyone except expert worldbuilders who already have all the basics down pat. Same with Tolkien’s lectures or Le Guin’s essays on the subject. These were more books dealing with the theory of worldbuilding, which was the focus of my first book: Worldbuilding for Fantasy Fans and Authors.
 


Fantasy Worldbuilding Workbook (Forging Fantasy Realms 2)
 
It was as I was working on my second book in the series, Fantasy Worldbuilding Workbook, which contains a host of how-to strategies, tricks, and over 750 writing prompts, that I refined my top-five worldbuilding books to similar worldbuilding books that were aimed at actually making a world rather than assessing them. And after spending quite a few pennies researching worldbuilding for a few years now, I thought I’d keep this list on the cheap side since most fantasy authors starting out are on a budget.
 
So, without further ado, here are my top-five worldbuilding books for new authors:
 


On Writing and Worldbuilding, by Timothy Hickson
 
Hickson has a very popular worldbuilding and fantasy YouTube channel called hellofutureme, and this book is an adaptation of his scripts. He’s got some wonderful insights into fantasy worldbuilding, including how soft magic and character development are tied, how hidden worlds function, and how to scale powers. Because this is a collection of scripts, it can be a bit scattered at times, but this probably has the most amount of quality worldbuilding info available for the price.
 

World Builder’s Guidebook, by Richard Baker
 
This is an old (’96 is old now?!) AD&D sourcebook, but is an incredible resource for thinking about your worlds, and included all sorts of actionable theories, approaches, and more randomized tables than you can shake a stick at. Just pick a page at random and see if you don’t find inspiration from one of those tables. It’s also the source of one of my favorite infographics of all time, which I swore I learned about in college. So I sent my friend who teaches philosophy and religion scouring through her textbooks to find this understanding of deity interaction, only to realize much later that it came from this book.
 
It’s out of print, but is worth getting the pdf for at DriveThruPRG.
 


A Magical Society: Guide to Mapping   
 
This is the best value on the list because it’s a free pamphlet that shows you the basic ins-and-outs of designing a continental map. Down to the continental drift and how this can affect your fantasy races and even language drift. It’s intuitive and not overwhelming, which is hard to believe since it deals with the world on such a massive scale.
 


A-Zs of Worldbuilding: Building a Fictional World From Scratch, by Rebekah Loper
 
There are nearly a dozen worldbuilding prompt books out there, but if I had to recommend one other, it would be this one. It’s adapted from a blog challenge she did years ago where she compiled a A-Z list of writing prompts, and it’s one of the most well-thought-out and exhaustive collections I’ve seen. However, this alphabetization is also a curse since it’s counterintuitive (at least to me) when I’m trying to look up a subject and don’t remember what letter it’s listed under. That said, it’s the best bargain when it comes to good questions for the price.
 


Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond
 
Chances are you’ve already heard about this book even though it’s not fantasy in the least. It won the Pulitzer Prize and has a blurb quote from Bill Gates himself. The premise is how world geography has affected human civilizations throughout time and caused much of the inequality that we know today. It’s an absolutely fascinating read, and brings up some great points about how continent orientation affects domestication of plants and animals, which affects the human civilizations in turn. There’s also a certain degree of backlash against it in the social sciences for being too simplistic; which is a valid argument in those fields. However, we deal in fantasy worlds where everything has to make sense to the author and audience, which means his conclusions can be a godsend when designing your worlds.
 
So there you go. Like all top-five lists, it was difficult to whittle this down, and there were so many that were cut for either not being books (Sanderson’s Writing Excuses Podcast), not being structured for new authors (Marie Brennan’s New Worlds series), or just not enough value in terms of questions per dollar spent (won’t list those here). But there are gobs more books and resources out there for burgeoning worldbuilders, including my own series, Forging Fantasy Realm
s, which I hope you’ll give a gander, either:
- at Amazon

where I demonstrate worldbuilding techniques by designing a new world on the fly each week.     



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Official Author Information: Never passing up the opportunity to speak about himself in the third person, M.D. Presley is not nearly as clever as he thinks he is. Born and raised in Texas, he spent several years on the East Coast and now waits for the West Coast to shake him loose. His favorite words include defenestrate, callipygian, and Algonquin. The fact that monosyllabic is such a long word keeps him up at night.

His flintlock fantasy series Sol’s Harvest can be found on Amazon and should (hopefully) conclude by next year. 


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