The book I’m writing now is in the fantasy genre, and I’m struggling with my world-building. All of the landmark/town/country names I come up with sound dumb, and I have no idea how to create geography. Any tips or resources?
This is a huge question. But you’re in luck; I’m also a fantasy writer and LOVE worldbuilding. (Be prepared for an essay here!) So here we go…
First, this is the best resource I’ve found for naming towns, cities, countries, continents and whole worlds: www.squid.org/rpg-random-generator. Use the dropdown menu to select from a huge range of generators. I love this site and turn to it whenever I’m stuck.
So, to the second part of your question. This is a quick answer; I could write an entire book on the subject, but this will give you some solid basics for worldbuilding.
When you’re creating the map of your world, don’t just lay out a sheet of paper and throw counters on it for your towns. Towns and cities do not spring up randomly, they grow in strategic places for specific reasons.
One thing every civilisation needs is water. Unless there is a tapable source beneath the surface, you are unlikely to find towns springing up in deserts. Towns will be founded near sources of fresh water: rivers, streams, lakes. They will be built in the mountains at the sources of streams, all the way down to the ocean.
Towns are also founded on trade routes. If half the population of an area travels to a certain city every month for the market, there would be a lot of money to be made building inns and guest houses along the main route.
People also settle where there is fertile land for growing crops, or good grazing land for their animals. They settle where there are natural resources like wood, clay, stone, gold, oil.
Other towns may be built at places of religious or spiritual importance; at the crossing of ley lines or in the shadow of an ancient monument. Or they may be built in certain places for military strategy. They may serve as defence to the only passageway through the mountains, or the only crossing of a river.
And over time, the reason for a settlement may disappear; water may dry up, fertile land may turn to desert. As transport methods change over time, it may turn a thriving place into a ghost town. Military strategies change, and wars end. Religions are denounced, and natural resources run out. The very reason a town began, may be the reason it dies.
I wrote this as part of an A-Z of worldbuilding for my personal blog. You might find more of the posts useful. You can read them all here: angelinetrevena.blogspot.co.uk/2012_04_01_archive
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