World Building: Tips from the Pros

The world fantasy characters inhabit is often as important as the players themselves. Saturday night, six pros shared their tips for memorable worlds. Dragon*Con institution Josepha Sherman joined Robert Asprin, Brad Strickland, Kathryn Sullivan, Chesya Burke and Wesley Lowe on Sunday night for an authors’ look at world-building in science fiction and fantasy.

“You need to think about your world and what makes sense,” author Josepha Sherman said. “If you take a Polynesian culture and put it in the middle of the desert, it isn’t going to work.”

Most of the authors said the world comes after they create their principle character.

“I tend to start with one character and then build the world around her,” Thieves’ world editor Robert Asprin said. “What do I need? What things do I need to have around them in order for the story to work?”

Look for things that enrich your world—smells, tastes, touches that give your world a unique flavor and feel for the reader. Also, the writers agreed, don’t spend too much time creating your world. Just start writing.

Sherman summed up the gist of the panel with a parting quip. “If you want to find out how to do it right, buy our books.”

Author of the article

Amy L. Herring (Louise Herring-Jones) writes speculative fiction, with a preference for historical fantasy and alternate mystery. Her stories, appearing in fourteen anthologies, include “The Poulterer’s Tale” in God Bless Us, Every One—Christmas Carols beyond Dickens (Voodoo Rumors Media, 2019). Amy is a NaNoWriMo co-municipal liaison. She also coordinates the Huntsville (Alabama) Literary Association’s writers’ group. Visit her online at

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