New worldbuilders often struggle with overwhelm. There are too many choices when writing lore for a game or novel setting! You can’t do everything. Focus is the name of the game, especially early on. Be deliberate about which areas of your world you flesh out with deep lore, after getting the basics down. These few expanded topics give your setting the illusion of more depth, realism and authenticity.

In this article, we’re going to cover (in broad strokes) some of the common focal points for writing lore in a fictional world. We’ll also look at examples from books, games and pop culture, and which World Anvil worldbuilding templates can help. So grab your magnifying glass, and let’s get focused!

Where to Find Ideas for Writing Lore

Look at different areas of focus and consider why you might choose to go deeper with them. For example, some ideas might better support your theme and purpose. And if you’ve already started playtesting, your players may provide some good ideas for writing lore. Or if you’ve drafted a few chapters in your novel, some aspects that could use more attention may arise naturally.

If you’re working on a world as a hobbyist, you might get ideas for areas to cover in more detail by checking out some worldbuilding prompts. Consider what resonates with you. Where does your own natural curiosity want to go? Follow that impulse!

Writing Lore Doesn’t Have to Be a Huge Task

The idea of writing lore intimidates many storytellers, because they think it requires excellent prose. However, depending on your goals, you might not even share most of the work you do! It’s more important that you as the creator know these details. As a result, you can create a rich, believable world by picking just 3 to 5 areas to go into greater detail.

And “greater detail” doesn’t necessarily mean lengthy prose descriptions. Bullet points work just fine. In fact, in some situations, a brief summary might serve your purposes better than lengthy descriptive paragraphs. The idea is to add weight and realism to your setting. Adding thoughtful connections and deliberate layers to different elements adds more weight than a mountain of minutia.

Choosing Your Areas of Focus

Here are a few common topics that storytellers often choose to explore more fully, even early in the process of worldbuilding. As you ask yourself the questions in the following sections, make note of which spark the strongest emotional response. Odds are, there are plenty of readers or players who also find those focus areas deeply fascinating!

Who Wields Power & Influence?

Consider the relationship between the government and ordinary people. For instance, ask yourself some of the following questions: How involved is the government in daily life? Is it a totalitarian surveillance state, or do the rulers keep out of the business of private citizens? How dependably is the rule of law observed? Is justice usually swift or do criminals act with impunity? What social services are available? Is there a safety net for people who are disabled or fall on hard times – or is it every person for themself?

What Resources Fuel Your World?

Think about money, resources, and materials in your setting. These questions might lead to some interesting topics: What is the economic strength of your initial setting? Who is their primary economic rival? How is wealth distributed in your initial setting? How does that compare to other countries? What is the basis for agriculture and trade in your world? What materials are rare and valuable? What unusual plants or minerals are people willing to fight to control?

How Do Groups Bond (And Why Do They Fight)?

The social fabric of your world is another rich storytelling vein to tap. For example, considering these questions could spark exciting avenues worth exploring: How do different groups of people get along in your world? Are there tensions and conflicts around race? How do the different classes of society interact with each other – is there class mobility, and if so, how does it work? What is the state of gender relations – is your world an egalitarian, patriarchal or matriarchal society? Do they perceive gender as a binary or more fluid? How openly is sexuality expressed in your world – what is considered acceptable or taboo, and are there social or legal consequences for openly expressing a taboo?

In addition, powerful organizations may shape your setting. Thinking through the following questions can help hone in on a compelling element. What is the military like in your world? Are they considered honorable warriors or grudging conscripts? Do the common folk view them as protectors or enforcers? Is there a secret police force? What about religion – does your society have a single official state religion or multiple faiths? Does one religion hold more sway over the culture or government? Are your religions monotheistic or polytheistic?

Read More>> 5 Amazing Tips for Worldbuilding Factions!

Writing Lore for Magic & Technology

There are likely extraordinary elements your world’s people take for granted, but readers or players would find fascinating. Ask yourself these questions: How technology influences your setting? What level of technological advancement have they reached – and is it consistent across the world? Is there one big technological leap – like FTL travel – that changed everything? Does magic exist in your world, and if so what is its relationship with technology? What about arts and culture in your world? Is music, visual art, or theater a major influence on your society? Is the cuisine of a particular country a defining element of its culture?

Building a (Focused) Foundation

In conclusion, by now your book or game setting possesses some deep roots to sustain it over time. You’ve created a simple action plan with your worldbuilding checklist, captured the worldbuilding inspiration that most excited you, and selected a few key areas to really go deep when crafting the lore of your setting.

After that, we’ll get into advice tailored more for specific elements of your world. This includes things like geography, culture, religion, and magic systems. We’ll also check in with some tips to stay organized as your world grows – so you can avoid getting overwhelmed. Be sure to subscribe, so you don’t miss it!