I love fantasy, I love reading it, I love writing it, I love obsessing about it. I love it so much that my town librarian noticed that every time I come in, which is often, I head straight for the fantasy section and I know it's layout better than many that work there. The librarian asked me why I loved fantasy so much he didn't understand what was so appealing about reading fantasy novels. As I thought about it I found several things that I loved about fantasy, all of which boil down the worlds.
All fantasy novels have elements to their worlds that are all their own, whether it's a completely new world with it's only laws, people, magic, creatures, cultures, etc, or it's based on our world with fantasy elements woven in. As a fantasy writing I'm learning that while it is fun to create a world it is no easy task. I'm also learning that the more detailed it is the better it is for the reader. I've often joked with my husband that I need white boards for walls so I can keep track and map out my worlds.
Here are some things to remember when building you worlds, be they intricate and completely your own or based in this world with elements that are your own:
The world itself; is it earth or like earth, or is it completely different?
If it isn't like earth what's the geography, the weather patterns, seasons, natural resources?
What's the history of the place both political and social?
How are people divided? Countries, states, regions? Is it political, racial, or religious?
Are there supernatural elements? What are the laws?
Whats the social structure? Political Structure? Religious structure?
Who are the people? What are the customs? Rites of passage, holidays, greeting, eating, ethics, values, language, education, etc.
What's the monetary and trade system?
What are the social organizations? How do people relate? From governments all the way down to families.
What's the law and legal systems?
What's the day to day? Fashion, diet, work, etc.
Those are just a few things to think of when world building. What experiences can you share? What are things you've learned from world building?