Welcome to Part 6-1 of my World Building blog series :D I’ll be covering just about every topic I can think of that goes into world crafting. If you have any topics you’d like me to write about, please let me know :)
This topic comes as a two-parter. This one will cover the basics in how to choose believable geography and weather for your world. You don’t have to be a meteorologist or a geographer to create believability in this subject. You just need to understand some key factors about how they work. If your fantasy world is drastically different, (ie. an ice planet, binary solar system, etc.) then it’s going to be a little different. We’re going to stick to worlds that are earth-like for the purposes of this post. This is slightly more applicable if you’re going to have a map with your story because then your readers can see how you’ve set things up. You want them to look at the map and agree that it makes sense based on their knowledge. If you don’t have a map you can get away with a little more because your geographical choices aren’t staring people in the face, but I personally love maps and enjoy when they’re included with fantasy stories.
You can easily look at a geographical map of the planet and based on what you envision for your world, choose an area that has it. Check it out. What features surround it to create that unique environment? Where on the planet is it located and how do ocean currents affect the temperature, weather, etc. It doesn’t have to be exact, of course, but this will give you an excellent starting point.
Don’t ignore transition points between climates. You’re not going to have a forest that stops along a perfect line and becomes a desert, or an area that stops being tropical at a single point and is suddenly arctic or temperate. There are going to be the areas between that are mixes, that have unique weather patterns and geographical features. Consider forests in this manner, from north to south you’re usually going to move from primarily coniferous to mixed to primarily deciduous and progress into tropical.
If you’re going to have a desert, be sure that it makes sense where you’ve put it. Is there a mountain range to create a rainshadow effect or are you going to have it be the result of consistent pressure systems removing moisture from the area? If you’re having a jungle, make sure the weather patterns of your world make sense, or save yourself a headache and pop it at the equator. Look into how water works. You don’t want rivers flowing uphill (unless that’s a magical thing in your world).
You don’t have to get crazy indepth, because most people reading your book are probably not going to have a professional level knowledge of how these things work. However, you do have to be accurate enough that you’re not prompting people to wonder what the heck is going on. If things in your world are weird, mention it. A brief line of “oh, the binary suns make the seasons really long and unpredictable” or “this area was cursed by magic to have perpetual storms” solves a lot of your believability issues. You can get away with a lot in a fantasy as long as you set it up properly.