I would consider any creature who is not humanoid and has less than human intelligence to be an animal. Of course there are some exceptions to this. There are some mythical creatures with human intelligence (at least most of the time) which are often called beasts or animals. I will not be writing about these creatures in this post. The only creatures I’ll be writing about are creatures that rely a lot on instinct, have no culture of their own, and have no cohesive language that you can translate.
The interesting thing about writing animals as the monster in a story is the fact that they can often not be reasoned with. You can’t talk a raging bull out of chasing after people, all you can do is run. Another thing to remember is that you can make your audience feel empathy toward the creature if something was done to them to make them go crazy such as abuse. Of course you could just make your creature a natural predator of people which will make your audience feel happy when it dies instead of sad.
For this I’ll be focusing on two websites you can use to help you build your world. There are many more out there, and there are even more cellphone apps with the sole purpose of helping you build your worlds. Search world building in your app store to find some of these. I actually used one in the past and it worked pretty well, it was just on my phone which I didn’t like much. You can also just google world building apps.
The first website I’ll be writing about is Inkarnate. You can use this website to make maps for your world. It is really easy to use though if you want a realistic looking world you will need some practise. The maps made on Inkarnate look really good and there is now a commercial license you can get if you want to use inkarnate maps in books and games. Just a quick warning, don’t make a map and leave it without finishing it. There are occasionally changes which can make it so you can never finish your maps. These changes are related to the format of maps.
The other website is Notebook.ai. This is a website you can use to organize all your worldbuilding. It gives you a bunch of things you can add to your world such as characters, locations, items, magic, and religion. You can make a universe and connect all these things to that universe. When you click on a universe it brings you to a page with everything you have created for that universe. It’s really easy to use and you can use it’s Premium version for free all through October, but it’s online so you may not want to keep all your world building on it. Also I wish you could change the pictures used to differentiate between each category.
I would count faeries, angels, demons, yokai, and any other spiritual creature as otherworldly creatures. Otherworldly creatures tend to not understand a lot of things that go on in human society because in their own worlds those things either didn’t happen at all or were done in a completely different way. An example of this is the exchange of this is money. An otherworldly creature may not know what it is at first and will probably continue not understanding it even after they’ve learned what it is because there was no such thing in their own world.
They don’t have to literally be from an entirely different world, they can be otherworldly in a more metaphorical sense. For instance a moose with human intelligence could technically be classified as otherworldly because it would understand nothing about human society.
One thing to remember when writing otherworldly creatures into your world is that you should be respectful of the cultures of other people while you do it. Also do your research if you’re using creatures that already exist because it may give you inspiration.
Undead are any creatures created after a living creature has died. This group includes ghosts, zombies, liches, and more. Spirits don’t really fit in this group because quite often they were never alive to begin with, or they are connected to living creatures. Undead creatures are important in world building because they can be used to explain what happens after people die in your world, and how magic works if the magic in your world is connected to life. How are ghosts created? What turns people into zombies? What exactly is a liche? You can either answer these questions or not. It’s your choice. You don’t need to explain anything about undead creatures because usually when they are used in a story they are otherworldly and creepy. To explain how they function or how they were created may take away from this.
Of course you could also have undead in your world just to add a horror aspect. Ghosts don’t always have to be scary. It’s possible to write a story where a ghost is warm and comforting rather than cold and scary. You can use them to write a heartwarming story where a character overcomes grief. You can do the same with zombies which have been proven to work in comedies. Liches however will always be creepy, but I’m sure you can make them less creepy if you really try. Don’t restrict yourself with one perspective if you are going to put the undead in your world.
There are many different forms of transportation that people can utilize in order to get from one place to another. In our own world you can take a plane, a bus, a boat, or a car to get from one city to the next (of course this depends on the location of these cities). In fictional worlds there tend to be many modes of transportation. This is of course important to think about because knowing how people travel in your world can help you decide on how much time your story actually covers and can lead to some interesting scenes.
The original mode of transport was by foot. Usually you can see people walking in cities and towns, as well as between two places that are close together. Sometimes you can find lower class people walking between two places that are further apart because they can’t afford the more convenient mode of transportation (which is usually by horseback). You may or may not know this, but walking is usually the slowest way you can get someplace unless your destination is so close that preparing another mode of transportation like a horse or a car would take longer than just walking.
Another popular mode of transportation is the use of animals. In a more realistic fictional world with a medieval European-esque setting, people would use horses. Horses would pull carriages, wagons, or carts, or they would have saddle bags to put things in. People would either sit on the horses backs or sit in a wagon, cart, or carriage. Horses aren’t the only type of animal used for transportation however. Dog sleds are found in places with a lot of snow and ice. Camels are found in deserts. You can also use fantastical creatures such as dragons, phoenixes, unicorns, or giant stone pigs for transportation. It doesn’t really matter. Be creative.
The final popular mode of transportation that I’m going to talk about is the usage of technology. This includes cars, planes, boats, and any other technologically advanced devices that you can think of. This of course doesn’t only include sci-fi type devices like hoverboards or transporters, a simple wooden sailing ship is included in this category. Even magical methods of transportation can be included in this category (though only because I don’t want to write another paragraph just for magic).
The most important thing to remember when deciding on what modes of transportation people use in your world is that you should be creative about while also being intelligent. You need at least a simple exclamation as to how your mode works. You can’t just say that your hoverboards just float for seemingly no reason. Why do people use one mode of transportation over another? Is there a cultural connection? Ask questions such as these when building your world.
Classes are important in worldbuilding because they help with character creation and development. If someone was born into a lower class family for instance they may find it difficult to reach a higher class. I am not talking about your generic RPG classes either (i.e mage, warrior, rogue). I am talking about the differences people have that aren’t directly related to other differences such as appearance, place of origin, or intelligence.
Since a lot of fantasy worlds are set in a medieval setting there is often a stratified class system with peasants, military people, priests, and nobility where it is unlikely anyone will move to a different class but it can possibly happen. Class systems can either get more or less extreme than this. In our modern world it is less extreme at least most of the time because anyone can move to a different class if they try hard enough because classes are divided by wealth.
Decide to what degree your world will have a class system, if people can change classes, if there is discrimination between classes, and how it affects your characters if you have created them already.
I know that I already wrote a post on this topic in my Amateur Writing Tips series, but this is different. This is how to find inspiration for a world specifically. The other post is about how to get inspiration for a story. While you can often get inspiration for these two things from the same place, this isn’t always the case. Maybe you were inspired to create a world to fit a story, but you want your world to be unique. A lot of people who build worlds build their worlds around stories that they’ve already plotted out. The world needs to fit the story in these cases. This is why you need to be careful where you’re finding inspiration.
Start by thinking of the type of world you want. Look at mythology, watch nature documentaries, read up on ancient civilizations. Research anything that you think will be relevant to you and the story. This is where you will get your inspiration. Caution must be heeded with getting inspiration from different civilizations and historical groups. While there are some cases where combining aspects of different cultures to make a new culture for your world works well, there is a good chance it won’t unless you give a good reason for this combination in the lore of your world (something that only works in contemporary fantasy).
If you want to find some good documentaries browse the Netflix library. There are some documentaries and educational videos on Youtube if you want a freer option. Go to your local library, use google, or buy books yourself to get information that you think will be relevant to you when you build your world. One thing you should remember though, is that sometimes it is best to expose yourself to a wide variety of possible inspiration for your world because there is always the chance that you didn’t think of everything.