World Building: Inventing a History for a Nation

Some people say that writing fantasy is a cop-out because they think it’s easy. Well, as we fantasy writers know, this is far from true.

World building can be one of the most fun and also the most time-consuming parts of the story creation process. When it comes to fantasy, you’re building a universe from the ground up. And if you don’t have a firm foundation upon which to tell your story, then you’re either going to have a story that’s full of holes, or you’re going to have a lot of back tracking to do.

Right now, and you probably know this if you’ve been following along, I’m in the middle of writing the first draft of NightWind. This story is a bit inspired by my 2016 trip to Japan and also comes from a dream I had in which I saw Rina, the title character, wings stretched wide, a storm brewing behind her.

But, before I could start writing, I had a lot of world building to do! With this project, I not only invented new characters, but an entirely new nation and fictional world. There’s nothing I love more. But, as I state above, there was lots of work to do and holes to fill in before I could begin the writing process.

For the purpose of this post, I’d like to talk about my experience developing the history of Mantinea. I knew some details about a significant war that was fought and how the city-states govern themselves and attempt to maintain peace with each other. Today, I’d like to share some ideas of things to consider when you’re inventing a history for your nation.

  1. Names and basic premise of wars or other iconic nation-defining incidents
    For my new story, a significant war not only left an impassable physical rift between nations, but it also depleted their magical system to the point that they had to completely alter their way of life.
  2. Current and past relationships with surrounding countries/cities
    Beyond the rift lies the mysterious Northlands which have not been seen or heard from in centuries. This is a primary motivator for the city-state that eventually becomes the villain of the story.
  3. Iconic locations
    Burga is an interesting place where mountains and flatlands and water all meet. They are the only city-state with more than one mystic left and others aren’t happy about it. The most important location in this story is the mysterious Mt. Yama where the Mystics live and the initiates into the Burgan Aviators must make their first jump to solidify their place in the battalion.
  4. Leadership inner-workings both on a local and national scale
    Each city-state has a leader called a Regent and they meet regularly in a neutral location (A city-state called Delos).
  5. Military
    My focus here has mostly been on the Aviators to which Rina belongs.
  6. Commerce (what can they grow, sell, etc. What do they have that others don’t.)
    On the to-do list. So far in my writing, I’ve found that this hasn’t been very important, so I’m tabling it for now. If in the future I feel like it needs to be addressed, then I will return to it.

One thing that always surprises me is how much ancient Greek and Roman and other ancient cultural terms, names and stories get recycled in the fantasy genre. This can be names of places, people, wars and more. I guess we’re all researching in a similar way 🙂

For NightWind, I’ve adopted the Greek city-state concept for my nation. The whole story takes place within one country (Mantinea). There are seven city-states, though one is a neutral region where all of the other city-state rulers meet. You can check out my very rudimentary map below. (I’m a writer, not an artist :P).

I’ll keep you updated as things progress with this new project. Also, what tips do you have for world building successfully? Please share in the comments!


More World Building Tips
5 Tips for World Building
Weapons Research

4 thoughts on “World Building: Inventing a History for a Nation

  1. Very interesting. Thank you for sharing your insights into the process of creating a history for a fictitious nation.

  2. Ah, worldbuilding. One of my favorite things about writing~
    Super neat seeing your process and what order of importance things are given! In my main fantasy setting, I actually haven’t figured out historical bits like wars, but I’ve paid more attention to the economics of my main setting, with details like what kind of food and materials could be harvested on a giant tree-city and what would need to be imported.

    1. Thank you for sharing! I think the oimportance of things depends on the writer him/herself and the story being told! I love your tree-city use a! So creative!

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