Guest Post: Donna Maree Hanson talks about World Building.


World building

Thank you Allan for hosting me today while I talk about world building.

My series Dragon Wine contains of lot of world building, by this I mean the story includes aspects of the world such as landscape, politics, astrophysics, history, culture and economics.

You might wonder why world building is important to a story and why in some cases, say fiction in a contemporary setting needs hardly any, unless there are some differences to the norm that needs to be explained, such as there are aliens, or vampires etc.

When I think back on when I studied history, I needed information, backstory, facts, etc… to understand a historical event. For example, to understand the Russian revolution, I needed to know concepts such as serfdom and have some idea of the economics, the landscape, the politics and the role of the church in society and also how the country was viewed by Europe. These were all factors that shaped what happened.

So world building is important in fiction for setting the context of the story and the boundaries of where the story is taking place and also for understanding the characters and their decisions and motivations. In the Dragon Wine series, what is happening in the world and what has happened in the past are important to the characters’ motivations and their current circumstances. It also explains in some measure why society is fractured and anarchic.

Before I started to write and while I was writing the Dragon Wine series, I thought long and hard about aspects of my work to date. One, I realised I was being too nice to my characters and so you will see a shift in me not being nice to my characters. Two, I thought about what I really loved about other fantasy books that I’d read in the past. For example, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, I loved the backstory, more than the front story so a world deep in history appealed to me. I loved Stephen Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, for its sweeping landscape and for the darkness in the hero/anti-hero. So I wanted to make sure that Dragon Wine has aspects like that. Also, note that I started writing the Dragon Wine series ten years ago, so I’ve had time to shape things since then.

I don’t have copious notes about the world written down. Nor is the story, I think bogged down with details. This was because I had a pretty clear concept for the world initially, long before I had the story. I also used the services of Phill Berrie to do a continuity edit and he pretty much flogged me about the physics, much to my relief. Any errors with the moons are totally mine though.

The world building is interwoven into the story, hopefully with some subtlety. My tip for world building is that it is important to a story but you don’t have to include it all in the narrative. I’ve heard it said that what’s in the story is the tip of the iceberg. Give the reader confidence you know what you are talking about and that what is laid out is logical and consistent with the story. It can take time to judge what the right amount is and where to add detail (a beta reader or editor can help here). A simple check is reading the work and if the exposition is holding up the flow of the story then it needs to go or be trimmed back.

Good luck with your writing all,


Thanks for the guest post Donna,

For those of you interested in finding out more of the world Donna has built, here is the blurb for Shatterwing:-

Dragon wine could save them. Or bring about their destruction.

Since the moon shattered, the once peaceful and plentiful world has become a desolate wasteland. Factions fight for ownership of the remaining resources as pieces of the broken moon rain down, bringing chaos, destruction and death.

The most precious of these resources is dragon wine a life-giving drink made from the essence of dragons. But the making of the wine is perilous and so is undertaken by prisoners. Perhaps even more dangerous than the wine production is the Inspector, the sadistic ruler of the prison vineyard who plans to use the precious drink to rule the world.

There are only two people that stand in his way. Brill, a young royal rebel who seeks to bring about revolution, and Salinda, the prison’s best vintner and possessor of a powerful and ancient gift that she is only beginning to understand. To stop the Inspector, Salinda must learn to harness her power so that she and Brill can escape, and stop the dragon wine from falling into the wrong hands.

dragon_wine_1_dev06    dragon_wine_2_dev02

Shatterwing and Skywatcher are available in ebook and print. See the link below for details

If you would like to find out more about Donna and her writing, you can visit her blog:


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