Stuck with your worldbuilding ideas?
Here are some useful tips to help you find ideas from worldbuilding inspiration books hidden in plain sight! This article is part 1 of an inspiration series that will show you how to find inspiration from the world around you, so let’s get started with the first place many people look to: books!
You don’t have to own any specialist books to become a worldbuilding wizard, you can find inspiration everywhere! I won’t be reviewing the books shown in this example but I will be giving you some insight as to what you can look for on your shelf (or at your local library)!
1. Art Books
Pictured: The Art of Dishonored 2 and Dishonored: The Dunwall Archives
I’m very visually creative, so my first go to material is art books. These books are a fantastic way to absorb inspiration for your worldbuilding project in the forms of photography, painting, illutsrations, concept art and even typographic design. Many video games release art books for their series which can be great if you’re looking for inspiration in a particular genre of worldbuilding (such as The Art of Fallout 4 for a post apocalyptic setting). Photography books, on the other hand, can provide really immersive details for landscape, culture and wildlife for your world.
Pictured: National Trust Magazine, National Geographic Magazine, Ernest Magazine and Elbow Grease Magazine
Another source of visual inspiration is magazines. Whether you’re a loyal subscriber or just fancying something new, these are a great way to find ideas for concepts in your world. There are hundreds of different topics to choose from and most magazines will cover a multitude of articles that will have you reading cover-to-cover. If you like to get hands on with your inspiration, ask your friends & family if they have any old or unwanted magazines you can have. You can cut out inspiring snippets and images to keep in a folder of inspiration or stick on a visual moodboard to give you ideas for your worldbuilding!
3. Worldbuilding Books
Pictured: How To Draw Fantasy Art & RPG Maps, The Planet Construction Kit and Wonderbook : The Illustrated Guide To Creating Imaginative Fiction
I’m sure this is the bit you were most interested in – actual worldbuilding books! Needless to say, there are plenty out there and each have their own approaches to different aspects of worldbuilding. These books can be great if you feel stuck in a certain part of your world like mapmaking, making your own constructed language or trying to think up a magic system. Personally, I have found that I browse these books when I’m starting something new (like a conlang) but don’t need to come back to them once the creative ball is rolling. If you’re looking for some recommended reading, come and join us on the World Anvil Discord server and we’ll share our favourites with you!
4. History Books
Pictured: The Royal Mint : An Illustrated History
History books are an immense source of inspiration for your worldbuilding and can provide accurate information that you can use to add depth to your lore and detail to your writing. But what if you’re writing a futuristic sci-fi setting? You can still find inspiration in history! You could learn from past and current technologies and use them as a base to build upon for your laser-mounted, zero-G, FTL spaceships! For my fantasy world, I love looking into the history of technologies of that era – such as how the printing press developed and had an impact on sharing information, and a recent visit to The Royal Mint experience in Cardiff gave me a lot to think about on the history of coins and their anti-counterfeit design features.
5. Other Non Fiction Books
Pictured: The Walker’s Guide To Outdoor Clues & Signs
Continuing from history books, you can be inspired by pretty much any non fiction book (even by having a quick flick through in a bookshop)! EVEN COOKING BOOKS! Get ideas for cultures in your world by looking at food recipes or cocktail mixes! Or maybe pick up some survival skills for a character in your world! The book pictured is a guide to reading the landscape around you and would not only be great knowledge for a ranger type character, but it gives me some insight when creating the geography of my fantasy world.
6. Fictional Worlds
Pictured: The World Of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel Of Time
Not forgetting fiction, of course! My favourite way to get inspiration for my world is to read other books in similar genres (I’m currently re-reading The Wheel of Time series for the umpteenth time). Much like video games, many popular book series release additional material in the form of guides, compendiums and supplementary works – such as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them from the world of Harry Potter.
7. Myths & Legends
Pictured: Breverton’s Phantasmagoria
And last but certainly not least – Myths & Legends. Extravagant tales of old depicting giant many-headed creatures and dashing heroes who become gods. There are all sorts of stories out there to spark your imagination, but I expect you’re already familiar with tales of Icarus, Medusa, minotaurs, dragons and more – but what about some more localised lore? Tales tied to a specific location or ethnicity in your own worldbuilding can spark a multitude of ideas for history, traditions and more.
In summary, inspiration can be found in every book! Go and check what’s on your shelf, grab a magazine from your local shop or take something out at your nearest library!
Which is your favourite source of worldbuilding inspiration? Let me know in the comments!
I think this book should get an honorable mention as well. It has helped several people learn ways to write in the way they personally can write best. While it isn’t exactly a great source of “inspiration”, I know a few people lose their creative drive trying to present the information in their head on “paper”.