Welcome to Part 6-2 of my World Building blog series 😀 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 🙂
So as I was writing the previous post I realized that there’s a lot more to this particular facet of world building that needed to be addressed. In this post we’ll be discussing how geography and weather can influence your plot and characters.
Geography and weather are great opportunities to build history in your world. Our entire history is influenced so heavily by these two things and it’s honestly a lot more than humanity would like. There’s this concept that empires and rulers have conquered lands for glory, etc. but in actuality a lot of it was for resources. Groups of people that are in resource-poor areas are going to be trying to travel to areas with more so they can survive. Poor weather can bring famines and famines tend to bring war. Droughts can cause entire civilizations to up and abandon where they’ve been settled for a thousand plus years. You can use these factors to build your whole plot if you want to. If you need a conflict that’s not dependent on your characters, look no further!
We can also use geography and weather to develop cultures. Things like clothing, food, relation to other groups, etc. are going to be defined by the climate and geography the people live. Are they isolated by mountain ranges or on an island? Do they have easy access to other cultural groups? Are they ravaged by terrible storms or earthquakes that push back their technological level? Are they a thriving and prosperous civilization that gets smacked with a drought or other natural disaster that spirals things into famine and war to survive?
Geography and weather is a tool that is at your complete disposal. If you want to make your characters suffer without making other characters be directly at fault, throw a blizzard at them mid-journey or have a lightning strike burn down their home. The possibilities are endless. Create roadblocks to inhibit character progress, put them on the opposite side of a mountain range from where they have to get to or give them an ocean to cross.
The hero’s journey has been a story-telling archetype for thousands of years and it can be a great option for your story too. Two of the best examples in modern stories I can think of that utilize geography as part of the plot is the Lord of the Rings with the journey to Mordor and Game of Thrones having Daenerys stuck in Essos. Any story with a journey is going to rely on your having set up the geography and weather properly to aid, inhibit and enrich the plot.