Friday, April 8, 2011

G - Geography and Climate in Fantasy

I'll admit I'm not very good at geography. I'm not talking about locating countries here. I'm talking about the consequences certain terrain will have on climate, fauna and flora. At most I can describe it for my region, but forget the rest of the world.

Yet geography, when you build a fantasy world, is an essential part of your work. You don't have to know the details of what's what, but it's important to understand that tall mountains can keep the humidity near the shore and create a dry climate on the other side. It's good to know where are earthquakes more frequent and why.

The type of climate a kingdom has to contend with influences who they are. It changes their clothing habits. It gives them a different set of rites and rituals. It'll put them in contact with another type of vegetation and animals.

If you build your fantasy world from scratch, get to know your geography. Make it as much a part of the world as the rest. Research the topic to create a plausible map. This might tell you what kingdom has what resources, which in turn hints at who they'll want to ally with.

And even if you're writing with an Earth city, do your research. There are slight differences from one city to the other, even when they're only a few hours apart. Climate influences every aspect of our lives. Don't forget it as you work on your setting.

Love your geography. Get acquainted with your climate. You'll have that many more details to make your world come alive.


  1. Good tip! I'm stopping by from the "A to Z" challenge and I look forward to reading more from you.

  2. I minored in Geography in college. And I must say it does help when trying to navigate the world of a novel. I have to have all those geographic details right when I'm writing. I'm actually a little obsessive about knowing what would grow where and what animals would inhabit the specific forest or whatever.

  3. Sylvia: Welcome around!

    L.G. : I actually have to give it conscious thought, otherwise it slips from my mind. On the other hand, I'll be obsessive about anything metabolical or genetic in a story. ;) Geography and climate are aspects I must research more thoroughly to get right.

  4. Very nice post, Claudie. The tip about resources is gold (haha). Resource issues can cause wars, facilitate diplomatic marriages, encourage espionage and sabotage, determine economic power, encourage polluting or dangerous industries, and even transform the terrain itself (in the name of harvesting that resource). So much possibility there!

  5. Great point! It's not enough to describe your fantasy city. You need to have an understanding about what influences the people, and this includes geography. If it's a major seaport, be prepared to deal with the influx of germs and disease that could wipe your population!

  6. This is so true. I typically only set my stories in the region I grew up just because I'm afraid to get the climate and plants wrong. Different areas are so specific, and those kinds of inconsistencies can ruin things for readers.

  7. Great post Claudie! Your post and Margo's G post really go together well today. They are great resources for world building.

    One of my biggest pet peeves is actually in dystopian fiction when it is clear the writer didn't think about their geography as she put her characters through it. Urban survival after a society collapse is hard if not impossible because water is scarce, and so is vegetation. Everything is concrete and plumbing. This seems to get forgotten too easily.

  8. Excellent tips. I'm actually doing a post on drawing maps on M-day where I will cover some of this. Probably not as well as your post, though.


  9. Misha: Ooh, maps. <3 I love them.

    Sommer: I remember your post about fighting for water. It was awesome. And climate does have an impact in a post-apo dystopian. Imagine urban survival in our northern winter. Not the same. AT ALL.

    Kendal: I have trouble doing this, because we have snow during six months every year, and it does have some huge (sometimes unwanted) impact on storyline. I've taken to following weather report on other regions as well as pictures. It's not perfect, but I try to wing something realistic.

    Margo, TL: One said resources and the other possible new diseases... and combined together, you shoved my brain in massive possibilities overdrive. XD