The Art of Worldbuilding, Part II

by Stephen Nelson

A world for your characters to inhabit is a daunting task to build. Doing the research to make your world believable to your readers might take as much time as writing your novel.

You probably have compiled a Story Bible or electronic folders and files containing the aspects of geography, society, fashion, language, inventions, nature and weather. The collected information is important when writing the novel, especially if there are differences from the world we live in. 

If dragons, elves or aliens exist in the world of the novel, maybe their lifecycle and powers can be noted in the documentation for easy access when you write the novel. 

Cheat Sheets

Cheat sheets can be helpful for reference when you write. A double-sided page for each character, location, geography, weather conditions, flora and fauna (nature), inventions, society, language(s) and fashion.

Map and Illustrations

Some readers love seeing a map of the imaginary world in which the novel is set. A map and illustrations dispersed through the book can pique a prospective buyer’s interest when they take the book off a bookstore shelf and thumb through the pages. Illustrations can be simple or complex in nature.

List of Characters

I find it useful sometimes to read a list of characters in the back of a novel. Their name, relationship to others and maybe their occupation, if relevant can be written.


Historical and any sub-genre, science fiction and fantasy novels can have terms or words which the reader might not know. Some names of creatures or the alien lifeforms for example can be described in a glossary at the end of the book.

Guide Book or Encyclopedia

Why let the hard work of research, developing and writing a new world go to waste? Something to consider is writing an encyclopedia which is the source material you used to build the world where your novel is set.

Anything you have written as source material for the novel can be incorporated in a guide book or an encyclopedia. Many readers love to know more about their favourite novels. An example is, J.K. Rowlings, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a guide book.


These ideas might trigger your own creativity to develop the material you were ready to purge. Remember that fabric scraps in the right hands can make a beautiful quilt. The same goes for scraps of information can be recycled and reused. After all, it is your material to use in another work in progress.

© Stephen Nelson 2020