Here on Earth, we can get some spectacular sunsets. Just look at this.
That’s Mt. Fuji behind the Tanzawa Mountains. I can see this view often. Nice, isn’t it?
But with all the work I’ve been doing on Ariadne recently, I’ve been thinking about what it would really look like on another planet. Check out some of this art here. And here, too. There’s some great looking art there. I wish I could do that. I’ll be doing sketches, but nothing like that.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m going to be writing the country profiles for the countries on Ariadne. This is all part of my worldbuilding process, and will mainly involve physical geography for the time being. I will be doing the entire planet, which may seem like a lot. Well, it is a lot.
In the beginning, I will go through the countries in alphabetic order, and I’ll be giving the following information:
Basic stats, including country area, latitude, longitude, length of the coastline, and extreme points (highest and lowest altitude).
Describe the topographic regions.
Describe the Koppen climate classifications and general habitats.
I will not be including any political, demographic, or historical information at this time. The story hasn’t even begun on the planet, so that’ll come in the future as I publish the books. Eventually coming will be maps of the countries.
All profiles will be posted in the Ariadne Encyclopedia on my author blog.
The next step in making a world map is to move away from the science and look more at the human side of things. Countries can make the world come alive. But how do we map out the countries? The simplest way is to just draw the borders and make big, medium, and small countries. But doing it arbitrarily may not be the best way, and certainly not realistic. Countries form for many reasons, and the boundary locations are also chosen for a reason.
Looking at the world map of our world, you can see a large variety of countries. There are many large ones, but not all of them formed that way. China used to be many smaller kingdoms at one time, for example. There are also many small countries. Europe is filled with countries, but many of them used to be one larger empire. Countries change over time, the borders shift, disappear, and then appear. In recent years, we’ve seen the formation of countries such as South Sudan, Timor L’est, and the breakup of former Yugoslavia. Studying the map of the real world can help with the creation of your fictional world.
However, our world has a long history in some parts, but a much shorter recorded history in others. So, we’ll take a couple of different approaches to this, the Old World and the New World.
New World Approach
The New World is the simpler method, so we’ll look at that first. On our world, the Americas make up the New World, and have had a relatively short European history. There is a very long aboriginal history, though. But the nations that existed then have been obliterated by the European settlers bearing gifts such as disease and devastating war. So, because of this, we can start from scratch. This method is best for use with previously undiscovered land or colonisation of a planet.
We begin with the initial landing point, or the first settlement. It’s best to choose a place that has a good climate or conditions for growing food. From there, you can draw the proposed boundaries for the first country. Remember, this can change as you go along. After that, choose a logical location for the next country. It’s a good idea to keep track of the order and date for each country’s founding. This will come in useful later for when we talk about history. It’s most likely that you’ll follow coastlines, major rivers, and fill up land that’s got plenty of space for farming and building.
Naming countries is not the easiest thing to do. If it’s a colony on another planet, you’re most likely going to use names that are English or whichever language the colonists speak. If it’s undiscovered land in a fantasy world, you can be more creative with your own created languages. In either case, have some fun with the names. Consistency is the important thing, though.
One thing to remember is that the borders can change. So if you work on this along with a general history involving wars, you can keep track of the changes and draw new countries. Record keeping is very valuable here.
Old World Approach
Over time, the New World can become an Old World. But if you start with a world with a very long history, you may have to look at things in a different way. The biggest differences between New and Old Worlds is culture and language. The cultures are more established with long histories. Languages change over time, so several countries may have the same roots, but have developed into different languages. Neighbouring countries are more likely to share common histories in language and culture. So rather than basing your countries on expansion, base them on culture.
For this, you need to figure out where your cultures are. Place them around your map, keeping in mind that older cultures were often restricted by physical landmarks such as mountains. For ancient cultures, they most likely didn’t cross major mountain ranges unless necessary. They also provided a good defense from neighbouring cultures that may be aggressive. But even for New World countries, mountains are a good place to put boundaries.
Another natural boundary is the river. Major rivers (and sometimes lakes) are sometimes used for borders, and have been used on Earth by many countries, including Canada and the United States (Great Lakes, Niagara River) in the New World and the two Congos (Congo River) in the Old World.
In some cases, these natural boundaries will separate cultures, but not always. Sometimes the separation is convenient for political reasons, or it could be strategic. There are many reasons that boundaries are placed there.
It’s important to remember that for Old World countries, working with cultures and languages are a good idea. Knowing the history is very useful, as well. And of course, regions with fertile land are great for strong, well-fed nations.
When you’ve divided the map into cultural regions, you can further create smaller countries or kingdoms in those regions. Or you can make the entire cultural region a large empire. Through war or conquest, they can even be expanded into other regions, which would create a very interesting dynamic within the empire. But that’s a topic for another time.
Country names will definitely be based on the country’s language and culture. Try to keep that in mind, but for a fantasy world, you can be very creative.
Things to Remember
Creating countries can be as simple as drawing the lines. You’re welcome to do that. However, if you want it to be more realistic, take history, culture, language, and physical geography into account. You may want to work on all of these at the same time. They’ll be covered in other articles.
Boundary lines should also not be straight lines, unless it’s a New World. But in most cases, this isn’t practical. Use the land to guide you in these cases.
What I Did
For Ariadne, I initially did the simple approach. I just drew border lines on my small map. I already had the physical map, and I chose the locations of the first and second colony sites. There was a lot of land between them, so while expanding the countries along the coastlines, I also created new ones bridging the span between the original colonies. Luckily, there was a major river. I was more concerned with encompassing areas of fertile land, since the people of the colony needed to be able to grow their food. Access to transportation (rivers are extremely useful, as is the ocean) also dictated where I put the initial countries.
After the early days of Ariadne, the countries expanded outward to cover the continents. The mountainous regions were natural barriers to expansion, but they were crossed, which led to massive expansion on the other side of the range. The tropical and sub-tropical regions were filled up the fastest, with temperate regions gaining quickly afterward. The more arctic climate areas were among the last to be colonised, along with the islands in the oceans.
I kept track of the order of country foundations, as well as the years and major events. I didn’t change the borders much at all, but I will do some changes when I work on the history.
As for country names, the colonies were based on Earth names, words from common languages, or people’s names. As time went on, the names tended to get more unusual. Language shifts can result in this, but also just what sounded good. Some were based on nothing but my own imagination.
This entire process can be simple or as complicated as you like. Just have fun with it. Please check out the Worldbuilding main page for more posts on this topic.
Now that I’m getting back into writing worldbuilding posts, I’ve been thinking about the direction I’ll be taking them. There are a lot of topics to cover, and I’ve only barely scratched the surface of the topic. It’s a very complex task. Creating a world isn’t a simple thing.
Here is what I’ve already done:
Choosing a Star – What kind of star is best for life? I go through the spectral types and which would be most suitable.
The Planet – I go into a lot of detail about creating a planet that could be habitable. Plenty of science here.
Mapmaking – I discuss how to create the world map. This is a general overview of physical maps.
Climate and Weather – Here we take a look at various climate types and the kind of environments they create.
As you can see, it’s been pretty scientific so far. Things are about to change, though. I’ll be going into topics related to humanity, including culture, food, religion, language, and so on. I’ll also step back into science and discuss the native life. Here’s a general idea of what I’ll be writing about in upcoming posts.
Countries – This is a continuation of mapmaking. I’ll be discussing where you put the borders, especially if you want it to be realistic. This is a general overview, though.
Cities, Towns, and Other Settlements – I’ll discuss where to place cities and towns.
Political Subdivisions – Countries are often broken down into states, provinces, counties, and so on. I’ll talk about them here.
Plants – I’ll go into how to create plants for your world.
Animals – Similar to the plants topic, but based on animals. How do you create animals? This will likely be quite in-depth.
Other Life – This will involve microbes and other possible life.
Culture – This will be a general overview of the culture topic, which is extensive.
Food – Looking at food from both a cultural point of view as well as for survival.
Religion – I’ll go over religion types and how they affect cultures.
Language – I’ll discuss the creation of languages and how they can evolve and link different cultures.
Traditions – This is likely to involve food, religion, and history. I’ll discuss various aspects of traditions, including holidays, rituals, and other events.
Clothing – I’ll discuss what you can do to create clothing for your cultures.
History – This is a very complex topic, as is culture. There are various aspects I’d like to go into further, but I’ll talk about it generally first.
Government – I’ll talk about the different government types and how you can choose them for your countries.
War – This has a major impact on a world’s history, as well as governments, traditions, religion, and culture. It can change the map, too.
Natural Disasters – History can change because of the world itself. I’ll talk about various natural disasters here.
Technology – From the most basic to the advanced, I’ll go over how you can create new technologies and have them evolve over time.
Notable People – There will always be famous and important people in history. I’ll discuss that here.
Magic – This is especially for fantasy. I’ll talk about that here.
Races – This is for both fantasy and science fiction. In the case of science fiction, I’ll discuss alien species.
City Design – I’ll be going through how to design a city and make it realistic, and why it’s important to know the layout for your novel.
Industry – I’ll talk about industries, and what’s appropriate for various levels of technology.
Architecture – This can involve technology, industry, and culture. How can you design a building?
That looks like a lot, and it definitely will be a lot of work. This is not a complete list, though. And I won’t necessarily do it in this order.
If you have any suggestions about worldbuilding topics, I’d love to hear about it. Please leave a comment below.
In my most recent update on my official author website, I mentioned that I’ll be writing country profiles for Ariadne. I would like to expand on this.
I’ll be doing this in conjunction with the next Worldbuilding post, which will be about making political maps. This will be good timing to start on the country profiles. For now, this is what will be involved in the profiles:
Description of the landscape and regions of each country.
Major rivers and lakes.
Major mountains, mountain ranges, hills, volcanoes.
Geological activity (seismic and volcanic risk).
Shared borders with neighbouring countries.
Types of habitats.
Country maps, though this will come at a later time.
I will later be updating the country profiles with the following information, as I’m writing the books:
Political subdivisions (states, provinces, etc).
Highlights in the country’s history.
Possibly some information about culture.
Sketches of the landscape, cities, and famous buildings.
It looks like a big undertaking, but this is the kind of thing I really love doing. I’ll have fun with it.
Anything else you’d like to see in the country profiles? Let me know in the comments below.
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about geography, as well as watching videos about it. My focus has been on physical geography, and it’s got me thinking about a few things.
One thing I want to do is write about each country in the world, looking at physical geography, going into what the different geological regions are like, looking at the tallest mountain, major rivers, lakes, and so on. I would also look a bit at the human side of things, major cities, agriculture, industry, and culture.
Moving on to the fictional, I would also like to do the same for each country on Ariadne. But in this case, I would have to draw each country’s map, indicate the physical characteristics, such as hills, mountains, valleys, rivers, lakes, and other physical features. I’d also look at the vegetation and climate. As I’m currently in the discovery phase of Journey to Ariadne, there are no human settlements, so just the physical natural aspects of the world would be looked at. For each country, I’d write a page on my author’s page, as well as a blog post here. Sound ambitious? Well, at least it’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing. It’ll also be useful in the future, as I’ll have the world set up, and it’ll be real in my mind.
Have you ever developed a world so extensively for a story?
Back in my school days, I would spend hours looking at maps in encyclopedias and atlases. I loved geography so much, I knew the location of every country, their shapes, and their capital cities. That was back in the 1980s. Geography is still a love of mine, and I was very happy to discover a YouTube channel called Geography Now. The host is going through every country in the world alphabetically, and is currently on Australia. See the video below:
I love this channel! It’s a lot of fun and very educational.
As you know, I created the world Ariadne for my science fiction series, and I’ve drawn out the maps and created many countries. Of course, you can discover my world in the Worldbuilding series I’m writing. In the posts about physical geography and climate, I got to be scientific about Ariadne. But I’ll be having a lot of fun with my next worldbuilding post about the political geography. I’ve developed each country already to a minimal degree, but I really want to have fun with this and create individual pages that describe each country. This includes physical geography, climate, cities, and so on. I’m looking forward to that.
So, keep an eye out on here for my next worldbuilding post coming soon!
The official blog of Jay Dee Archer. Exploring new worlds, real and fictional.