Worldbuilding 101— Creating a New City or Town

Things to think about when creating a new city or town for a story.

  1. Do I need to know how the city is planned out? (Streets, shops, etc.)
  2. Is it near a real city so I can draw on it if need be as “going to the big city”?
  3. If I’m building a country– what area of the world is it in?
  4. Country– what is the culture? What are its major imports and exports? And is it part of the UN?
  5. What is the main purpose for having a created city or country?

Now, one thing you might want to do is make a city grid that lays out your streets and allows you to make placement of the major shops and houses in your town. Why? So you always have the character make a left on Grosgrove to get to the heroine’s house and not suddenly half way through have them taking a right.

City grids do not need to be complicated nor do they have to be in-depth. I hate unnecessary complications and having lived near Chicago, Boston, Orlando and Tampa….I can tell you…..they’re complicated, even though Chicago is really easy to negotiate once you learn which roads tell you that you’re north-south and which roads mean you’re going east-west.

Now, I cheat at city maps. I HATE making more work for myself. I’m a lazy writer and my goal is to create, not to spend time on stuff that takes away from writing.

Mapquest is your friend. So is Expedia. We’ll get into other map things as well. I love to RPG (role play games) and for me, I love automatic dungeon and map makers.

How do you use Expedia and Mapquest to make city grids? Easy. First think of a city in real life close to what you’re basing your city on. Most of us when we create a city have another city we want it to be similar to– usually one we’ve driven through or even lived. Then find it online. Then zoom it in, cut the area you want for your map, copy, paste… voila. Then you can go in and rename it, or leave it as many names do find themselves from town to town.

Combining pieces of what you loved of various places definitely gives a “real” touch to a city or country you create. The hardest part is keeping it all straight.

One of the things that gets to most readers is inconsistency. I’m a stickler for it. People have despised me when I crit a WIP or a book and go…”Um, you got some mapping issues.” Maps are important for knowing the basics of your town and world.

I should point out that when you create a city, country, alternate universe, or world– you will always know more than what you use. That’s the nature of the evil Worldbuilding beast. But that’s okay. You want to know more and just layer in the information to make things real to the reader. They won’t know everything and you don’t want them to. But you’re cultivating a bond between the reader and the place you’ve dropped them into. How many of us have never been to New York City, London, or Los Angeles, but because of great authors— we feel we kinda know the cities because of descriptions, use of the location, and the consistency of moving around the cities.

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