A Whole World in a Card File—World Building for Pantsers, guest post by @saoirseomara #fantasy

By Saoirse O’Mara

So…maybe you’ve heard the word “pantser” before, but do you know what it means?

A pantser is someone who just sits down on his pants and writes, without necessarily knowing his characters or even the general plot of his story.

I am such a pantser. Now, I write fantasy. In my own world. How did I go about the world building?

First of all, I got a card file for my series. I listened to my muse and started making notes: the first character names, the name of the city and some of the deities, some info about politics (yes, there is a guard, no, there is no king, that sort of stuff).

Pirates, Pirates!

(A Rogue's Tale)

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With my few cards neatly filed away under the right letter, I jumped right in and started writing the first story. Every time a new character showed up (and they often show up without any warning, just popping up in the story and demanding to be written in), I took a new card, noted down the character’s name and whatever other pieces of information he or she felt inclined in sharing with me at that point, and filed it away.

Whenever I find out something new about an existing character, I add it to his or her card.

The same applies to other aspects of my world. Need a new deity? Grab a new card and write the information down. Find out something important about the world’s politics, trade, or geography? Write a new card or extend an existing card accordingly.

My world grows with the stories, and my kind of world-building allows me to stay flexible enough to please my muse (she hates boundaries and always changes my plot whenever I bother making one), yet the card file helps me to stay consistent.

Another plus: When I write in a café, the old-fashioned way with pen and notebook, I don’t need my laptop since I can just grad the card file and take it with me. No paper chaos with lots of charts and notes, no endless Excel sheets or mind maps on my laptop. Everything I need to know is either stored in my head, or neatly filed away on a 3” x 5” index card.

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