World building rules

World Building 101: Rules

Have you ever been in the middle of reading a fantasy book and wondered how any of it made sense or wondered why some of the basic rules of that universe didn’t make any sense? That’s because the rules of the world weren’t properly established — something that could cause a good concept to become just an okay one. 

Whether your book is rooted in this reality or not, it’s important to ask yourself an important question.

What Are The Rules?

When writing To Astera, With Love I had to decide on the rules of both the magic and the vampires. Especially because this book is also heavily influenced by politics, I had a lot to account for. The vampires in my book follow only some of the traditional lore about vampires — they have an insatiable blood lust and they don’t eat or drink. However, vampires can be made and vampires can be born, and they can be out in the sunlight with precautions.

One of the best book series about vampires is Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. She is consistent with the vampires’ abilities, weaknesses, and strengths throughout. We know they cannot be in the light, that they generally always sleep in coffins, that they never age, and that they are wholly disinterested in sexual relationships. We also find out the story of how vampires in Rice’s universe came into being in Queen of the Damned (read the book, don’t bother with the movie). 

What’s Are The Rules Of Your Magic System?

If your book features magic, you’ll want to think about whether you’re magic is based on existing magical structures like Santeria or Voodoo or Euro-centric magic. If you are using a type of magic from an established system, you need to do extensive research. That means reading books, attending ceremonies, and consulting with a practitioner of that system.

With Astera, I wanted to create my own system that was an amalgamation of all types of magic. There is no white magic or black magic, and spells, potions, and power are neither good nor bad. All magic is derived from one of the four elements and whether it is good or bad is contingent on the intent.

One of the best books that feature witches is The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco. Readers follow the journey of Tea, who has the power of necromancy as she journeys to understand her powers and become a witch capable of elemental magic, or an Asha. 

What About The Rules Of Non-Magic Fantasy Worlds?

You may be wondering if this applies to only books about vampires or witches. The answer is, no. Whether your book is about fairies (see The Wicked Lovely series), aliens (see Lilith’s Brood), or even monsters (A Blade So Black), knowing the capabilities of your world and minding them throughout your novel is essential. 

Once you’ve decided on the rules of your fictional universe, you’re ready to move on to the next step — what is happening in the world at large. 

I’ll cover this and more in the next blog of my world-building series. Find this tip useful? Sign up for my newsletter to get more tips.

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