Tips on WorldBuilding from Fantasy Author Terron James

Hey! Exciting day! My good friend Terron James’s book release for his first book INSIGHT is today! Woo hoo! You should see the cover of this baby. It’s truly beautiful and the writing inside is as well.

I just read INSIGHT this week. It’s a high fantasy, and it’s 400 pages of awesomeness, the first in a series, THE BEHOLDERS. I’ll give my review of INSIGHT next week, but for today I have the honor of having Terron James as a guest blogger here. I asked him to please talk about “World Building,” which is something all fantasy authors must do, and as a budding fantasy author myself, I needed advice on. So, take it away, Terron!



World Building

I’m honored that Jennifer is hosting this post on my release date for INSIGHT! Also, I must admit that I’m giddy and scatterbrained; it’s taken 5 years to get here, so I’m VERY excited!

Five years… a lot has happened since my father and I first developed the concept of True Sight (the magic in INSIGHT) in August of 2008. How appropriate that Jennifer asked me to share my thoughts on world building because high fantasy has to be the most difficult kind of world to build. Unlike other urban fantasy novels, like Harry Potter, I had zero basis to build upon. Everything, and I mean everything, had to be created from scratch.

First, I had to write the first page of INSIGHT (which I’ll share a sample of in just a sec). I did this first because I had to know that I was capable of writing something good. I finished it, showed it to my wife, and relief washed over me as I watched  a pleased smile emerge on her face. Whew!

Now, where to go from there? People, creatures, culture, clothing, places, fortifications, landscape, weather, politics, theology, history, maps, diagrams, illustrations, engineering, weapons — every one of these, and many more, are part of building a high fantasy world. And that’s just building the world. Don’t forget about the most crucial part of a story. TENSION! How was I going to create a world with driving tension that would pull the reader through a 4 book series? Luckily, I had some obsessed family members and friends who brainstormed, refined, designed, critiqued, chopped, and revised again with me (special shout out to Travis, Scott, and my dad for their undying help!). I went through this process for 4 months before I opened up the actual story again.

I’ve been asked many times for the most essential tool to accomplishing this.

My first answer? Passion! Like I said earlier, high fantasies are very difficult to write. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Never start writing high fantasy with the attitude, “I thought I’d try…”

My second answer? CDO! (It’s like OCD, but the letters are alphabetized like they should be.) You have to be obsessed with the intricate details. If you’re not, you’ll never make it through the story. How can you expect to write a story that you’re not even sure of yourself? Be careful, though. Only share the parts that readers want to hear. They’re not nearly as obsessed as you are! For an expounded explanation of this, see my post, The Iceberg Effect <>.

My third answer? REVISE; REPEAT! How many times have your teachers said, “Don’t type this essay the night before it’s due! I can tell whether or not it’s a final draft!” So it is with novel writing. Just like teachers, our readers are capable of telling whether they’re reading a final draft or not, often before they’re even finished with the first paragraph. First impressions are everything.

Now, with a cringe and a squirm, I’m going to share the openings of INSIGHT; first the original 2008 version, then the current 2013 version. Remember that tension is the most important part of a story.

INSIGHT – 2008 Opening
Fall had draped itself over the landscape in a warm blanket of oranges and reds, creating a surreal image of its celestial existence in a prior Age.  Upon a hill bordering the northern edge of small village sat a young woman enjoying the comfort offered by her favorite shade tree. Leaning back against the trunk she inhaled deeply, relishing in the smell of the previous night’s rain.  She lazily cast her eyes about the valley surrounding her.  To the north was an expanse of beautiful rolling hills as far as the eye could see.  A mild river tenderly weaved a path through the northern hills as it made its way toward her.  High grass danced with the breeze as it gently caressed the valley on its journey south into the village of Pree.  The young women shivered, gasping for air as the crisp northern wind struck her face.  She took a deep breath, determined not to allow the foreboding winter to dampen her mood.

As usual, her eyes strayed to the Taumadoras Mountains towering over the western horizon.  Forever capped with snow, they were well known for their extreme climate, dangerous wildlife and strange stories.  Few ventured there, and those that braved the task rarely returned.  She squinted into the setting sun as she followed the peaks to the south past Pree, shuddering as she tried to see beyond the horizon.  She knew that beyond her sight existed the Saap Valley, an endless wasteland void of life and hot as coals.  Although she had never seen it herself, she had heard enough stories of that death-ridden place to haunt her dreams.

Seeking a more peaceful vision, she returned her gaze north to the path of the river.  As it reached the northern end of Pree, the creek changed course and curved widely around the eastern edge of the village and continued south.  She smugly smiled at its
submissive path curving widely around her hill.  Yes, her hill. Mellai’s hill.  When her family moved into the village five years earlier, she had embraced the hill at first sight, falling in love with the large oak tree, the breathtaking view, and most importantly the quiet isolation.  Any local villager knew better than to seek the shade of her tree.  Too many had attempted in vain, only sentencing themselves to a ruthless tongue lashing.  A daughter of the local herbalist, she held no real authority in the village.  But rather than fight her seemingly unquenchable anger, most villagers steered clear of the hill.  In fact, most people, adults and children alike, avoided Mellai completely, which is exactly what she preferred.  Why waste time making friends that will not last?

INSIGHT – 2013 Opening
Shalán shielded her eyes with her free hand and peered over the river. “What’s happening over there?”

“I don’t know,” Theiss replied. He yanked his arm free from her grasp and fled across the stout wooden bridge. A gust of wind tore through their small village. Theiss stumbled and fell sideways, nearly toppling into the deep current of the West River.

“Be careful,” Shalán shouted, but her voice blew away only inches from her mouth.

Theiss regained his feet and, eight strides later, reached the safety of the opposite bank. He joined a large crowd of villagers
who had gathered at the edge of a clearing. Shalán followed after him, anxious to see what held their attention. Her linen dress whipped sideways in the wind, and her braids fell apart. Black clouds had darkened the sky over Roseiri, and tiny spheres of frozen raindrops stung her careworn face.

The closer Shalán drew, the more animated the villagers became. They huddled together as they watched the northern pasture. Some were speaking emphatically and pointing at the large oak tree, where Shalán’s children always played.

Shalán forced her way through the crowd, fearing a cyclone had carried her children away. What she saw instead was just as unnerving. Her ten-year-old twins were kneeling under the tree playing stick-stack. Despite the howling wind and torrential hailstorm, they had managed to stack a narrow column of twigs over two feet high. The long grass surrounding them stood straight, while the reeds across the rest of the pasture bowed flat against the ground.

As Shalán marveled over what she saw, stranger things caught her eye. Her children’s clothes hung loose on their bodies. Their hair didn’t even twitch. The falling leaves and branches from the trembling tree stopped a few feet above the twins’ heads and rolled away in different directions.

The villagers began questioning her. “What are they doing, Shalán? What sort of trick is this?”

Despite how long they had trusted the Marcs family, some of the villagers suspected sorcery or witchcraft. Others argued fell spirits and demons.

Shalán ignored them all, for at that moment the wind hoisted a large bale of hay off the ground farther up the pasture and sent it tumbling across the field.

“Lon! Mellai!” Shalán screamed, sprinting desperately toward her children, knowing she would be too late. “Get out of the way! Hide behind the tree!”

Although I’m proud of the imagery I created in the first draft, it contained very little, if any, tension. Now you tell me. Which version would you rather keep reading?


Thanks to Terron James for appearing here on this exciting day! Here’s where you can follow this author! Go ahead, follow the guy!


If you have had your interest in this book piqued, grab a copy! They are available now at online and brick and mortar booksellers. Find them here!




Annnnnd…..because Terron’s so cool, here’s a link to a rafflecopter contest where YOU can WIN a $25 Amazon Gift card! (I hope this works. I stink at techy stuff, as everyone knows.) If it just comes off ugly and code-y, go ahead and click it anyway and understand that I have to do things like eat Otter Pops today and not learn HTML embedding. Someday…but not today.

<a id=”rc-0486f57″ href=”” rel=”nofollow”>a Rafflecopter giveaway</a>
<script src=”//”></script>

4 Responses

  1. Rachel Griffith | Reply

    I don’t have anything on Facebook, Goodreads, or Twitter. I can’t enter. 🙁

  2. Jennifer Griffith | Reply

    Someday, Rachel! Meanwhile, I have a couple of ebooks I just ordered and will share with YOU! xoxox

    1. Rachel Griffith | Reply

      Thank you!:-)

  3. […] a link to the author’s guest post here on this blog a few weeks back. Follow him on Facebook and/or Twitter to get the latest on his books and […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *