One of my favourite things about fantasy books is their ability to transport me to a completely different world. A world with magic, ne...

     One of my favourite things about fantasy books is their ability to transport me to a completely different world. A world with magic, new cultures, and intriguing types of fauna.

     Most fantasy books have the basics of world-building, or go above and beyond to make the world feel real, but a couple miss a few aspects of world building I consider important.

1) Myths/Legends: Our world has been around for a very long time. Every continent, every country, has its own myths and legendary figures that existed in the past (or not), and did some pretty unbelievable things. Myths and legends play directly into our culture today. An example: dragons are in the Chinese Zodiac, drawn on flags, and used in modern stories. 
     Myths would influence a fantasy world, from magical creatures to powerful figures. And not like Some-Dead-Evil-Wizard-Who-Almost-Conquered-World-And-Now-Has-A-Child-Who-Wants-Revenge. I mean figures such as explorers who founded the capital, or a legendary warrior who was said to capture a city with rare magic but never admitted to having it.
     These slight mentions, just dropped in as a reference or as a glimpse of the world's past, give depth to the world.

2) Food: Let's be honest here. Not every single fantasy world would be eating bread, cheese, and some type of meat stew on a daily basis. I understand if it's a Medieval fantasy based in Europe, but there are many other places to base your worlds off of. Since I live in Thailand, traditionally bread is desert, and rice is considered a staple for most meals. Most books overlook the idea of changing the meal of bread and cheese to something more true to the world. (And it would be nice to have descriptions of unique cakes to satisfy my mind's appetite)

Beautiful Thai rice fields
3) Clothing: I talked a bit about why your character's appearance matters here, but what about the style of clothing itself? One style might be more in fashion to one culture at the time of the story, and they might have a negative or positive association with certain colours. Or it could be an association with a certain rank. (Example: colours in Thailand, such as yellow or blue, are associated with certain members of the royal family.) Adding small details such as the style of clothes, what colours and fabrics are used, all give a nod to good world-building.

4) Entertainment: Not every character spends all their time slashing people with swords and kicking peoples' butts. Unless they're in a war in the middle of an epic fantasy. But if they're not, the types of games and sports people play always seem to be skipped over. I love scenes where characters chat over a country's unique card game, or play some strange sport. Fantasy worlds aren't carbon copies of our own, after all. We both enjoy having fun, but it's unlikely we do it in the same way.
     Example from my editing WIP, Draped in Deception: emberball is a common sport where a burning ball is lit, and players rub non-burning oil from a special type of tree on their skin. They pass the ball around with their feet, and the goal-keeper can only use their elbows to catch it. Emberball is the major sport in the Empire.

Do you wish these elements of world-building were included more in books? How many of these do you put in your stories? Do you have an interesting element of your story world's cultures? Feel free to share in the comments; I'd love to hear from you!

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  1. YESSS I SO AGREE WITH THIS POST I SHALL SHRIEK!! *shrieks happily* Ahem. It's just I often find books lack world building. :/ I think I'm getting fussier the more books I read?! But agh, just a little bit more culture would do SO much...even just adding in food culture is a grand start *nods* Plus it makes the books drool-worthy and delicious and who can be opposed to that?!? ;D

    1. I definitely think I'm becoming more fussy the more I read/write. I guess because we read such great books we then expect all the rest to be as good? Yes, more world-building would be amazing! I certainly wouldn't mind long descriptions of food ;D Thanks so much for commenting, Cait! :D

  2. YES TO THIS POST. I agree-- I get so sick of fantasy worlds being medieval European. I live in India and I would love to see more India-inspired fantasy worlds. In general I love it when there are a mix of cultures in fantasy-- Six of Crows, The Magicians Guild and Seraphina do this so well. I thinks we need to see more of all of these elements in fantasy. Well, currently I'm editing my (terrible) novel Entreaty which is set in the future in the melting pot of Dehli. But the world is really globalised by 2057, though Indian culture is sort of dominant, so the culture is less unique. I do have lots of hindi dialogue though, so there's that...
    Shanti @Virtually Read

    1. Yes, Seraphina is a really good example of variety in world-building. Your novel sounds like a great one too; I love places that are mixtures of different cultures (my own personal one is a mix of Thai, Australian, American, and English due to the places I've grown up in). The bits of hindu dialogue will definitely add a unique flavour to Entreaty. Thanks for dropping by, Shanti! :D

  3. OH my goodness. Yes. I would love to see what food they eat! I mean, if I knew, I would make that food (or attempt to make it) so I can eat it while reading, and completely immerse myself in the culture and cuisine! The fashion too! If I really loved a book, I would love to know what clothes the people wore so I could transform myself into a person from the book without disrespecting their culture and wearing something totally inappropriate. Nobody wants to anger the book gods. I love this post <3

    Rekha @ Million Book Mill

    1. Thank you, I'm glad you like it! :) I would love to be able to eat along with characters in the books! That would be super cool. Yes, knowing their outfits would be great for roleplays or really helping you connect to the character. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Rekha! :D