If you’re wondering how to start worldbuilding, whether it’s starting a new world setting, or just trying to refocus an old novel or campaign setting, the Worldbuilding Meta is an invaluable tool! This article, part of the Getting Started on World Anvil series, takes you through how to fill it in, and where to go next!
What is a Worldbuilding Meta Document?
The Worldbuilding Meta Document is a worldbuilding guide that creates a vision for your world to guide how to start your worldbuilding efforts, and it’s super simple to use! Essentially, Meta is the big stuff – the most critical DNA of your world setting. And it’s an ideal way to start worldbuilding! The Meta is formatted as a series of questions on World Anvil that will help you:
- Define the big-picture elements of your fictional world
- Design a setting with maximum impact, yet still create cohesion with a strong internal logic
- Stay project-focused and not get lost in the details (Worldbuilder’s Disease!)
Regardless of genre, or what you’re building for, filling in the Worldbuilding Meta will stop you from getting lost in the worldbuilding! It’ll help you get on with your story, game, book, comic, or whatever else you’re building for.
Where do you find the Worldbuilding Meta on World Anvil?
You can find the Meta section on the left-hand menu bar. Every world on World Anvil has a meta section by default, and although you don’t have to fill it in, we definitely recommend it! It’s a great worldbuilding guide for new creators, and will help organize the thoughts of even the most seasoned professional.
Find the Worldbuilding Meta section on World Anvil in the left-hand menu bar
Once you arrive at the Worldbuilding Meta section, you’ll see a series of tabs at the top: Introduction, Scope, Theme, Focus, Drama, Scene, People, and Inspiration. On the top right, you can make your world meta public or private. Remember to save changes as you edit!
The sections of the Meta Document
- The Introduction explains in detail how to fill in the meta.
- Scope: Deciding why you’re building your setting, and what it’s for, is often the foundation for all your other choices!
- Theme: Genres, mood, and tone, as well as the recurring themes and motifs you use to reinforce them, are excellent ways to start defining your setting.
- Focus: You can’t build EVERYTHING in your setting, or you’ll never write that novel, campaign, or comic! Focus helps you pick which areas you want to build in more detail. There’s a comprehensive list in the tab.
- Drama sets your world in motion, creating a dynamic setting through current affairs. Use this random current affairs generator if you need ideas!
- The scene gets specific, nailing down the physical properties of your world (especially if different from our own earth). Magic, flying islands, ice worlds, extra-long winters, etc. can all be mentioned here.
- The People section helps you describe the inhabitants in broad strokes, and also sows more seeds of conflict in your world. Discovering their needs gives them a dynamic relationship and you some great threads for your plot and story!
- Inspiration allows you to detail your setting’s influences. These touchstones might be music, art, books, movies, or games. They’ll be valuable if you’re returning to the project after time away, or looking to get re-inspired.
How to start worldbuilding your Meta?
To start worldbuilding, just answer the Worldbuilding Meta questions in each section! Each question has an explanation, expansion and even examples underneath to help you do this!
Remember these two important things about writing your worldbuilding meta:
- Only write single sentences or short paragraphs! This is just the overview, and the longer you make it, the harder it will be to parse through later. Every idea can be expanded as much (or as little) as you want in worldbuilding templates later, interconnected and completely searchable.
- You don’t have to fill it in order! The Meta’s flow helps you expand your world by drawing on previous answers. But sometimes, the idea for your People (cultures/species and their history) comes before the idea for your Scene (geography/natural laws). If you’re stuck, skip ahead, and then go back to fill in the rest.
Stumped? Check out examples of completed Meta sections:
Maybe you’re still stumped for answers? Then check out the World Meta sections of some awesome worlds on World Anvil! The answers there will guide and inspire you for your own world.
- Lyra’s worldbuilding meta, an age-of-sail world setting full of sky-ships, and will-power so strong it can change the world
- Wizard’s Peak’s worldbuilding meta: a Napoleonic-era fantasy setting for novels and RPGs, with inter-planar invasions
- Clarkwoods Literary Universe meta: a setting rich with magical realism and hints of time travel
- Vazdimet’s worldbuilding meta: an awe-inspiring, futuristic Science Fantasy setting
- Melior’s worldbuilding meta: a disturbing, dark fantasy setting pitting chaos against order
- Isekai’s worldbuilding meta: a dark, high fantasy world inspired by ancient Greek mythology and Tolkein
OK, I’ve filled out the Worldbuilding Meta. How do I start worldbuilding more of my setting?
Great question! Start by reading back over the Scene and People sections of your meta. This is where the major building blocks of your world will lie: the people, places, and things that will make it into your RPG campaign, your novel, comic, or whatever you’re creating for.
Now, choose one of these, and open the corresponding worldbuilding template (pictured below) on World Anvil, and start writing. Here are a few hints:
- Individuals, like Gods, heroes, and even named pets, use the Character template.
- Peoples (sapient species, often called “races” in DnD) use the Species template.
- Magic and magic systems in your world use a (super)natural law template – after all, it’s natural for your world!
You’ll quickly find that these articles spawn other ideas for articles. For example:
- A Deity might prompt you to create a Religion, other Deities, Angel species, or Traditions.
- A People (sapient species/”race”) article might prompt you to create Ethnicities/Cultures, Settlements, Professions, Languages, and Characters!
- A Geography article might prompt you to create plants and animals (Species), Landmarks and settlements, and Countries.
Soon, you’ll have a significant chunk of a world, all from that worldbuilding meta document! And because you thought about it in advance, it’ll make sense and be cohesive.
Once you’re comfortable creating articles on World Anvil, why not check out how to worldbuild faster and easier with World Anvil, and also to search and view articles from the edit interface! Or, get on with the next part of our Get Started series!
How to start worldbuilding: What shall I do next?
This article is part of the Get Started on World Anvil series. If you’ve already filled in your meta, why not get started organizing your world with Categories? Or check out the others in the series:
Going back to the Worldbuilding Meta?
So you’ve finished your meta, and created the beginning of your series bible. Congratulations! But your meta will still help you. Whenever you’re looking for new ideas, or expanding a new section of your setting, reference your meta. It’ll give you inspiration. You can check out the full video on the Agile Worldbuilding method here or watch it below!
Not yet on World Anvil? Create your free account here! And if you’re looking for more help, check out the full written help guides, the Discord community, and the Youtube channel.
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