Chapter 4: Creating World Figures
No book on world building would be complete without mention of those who live there, as they are arguably the whole point. That said, the creation of people will depend on our goals. If we’re world building for gaming, then our world needs characters for the gamers to interact with. If we’re a writer, then characters might be best suited to the stories we intend to tell.
Since this isn’t a book on writing, I won’t delve into the details of building memorable characters, because the goal of this chapter is to create well-known figures. Nonetheless, much of what follows can help us build characters. These are people we can reference at any time but which might not figure into a story. For example, on Earth we have Elvis, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Cruise, Tom Brady, Jesus Christ, Hitler, and the boy who cried wolf. In other words, a musician, television personality, actor, athlete, religious figure, dictator, and cautionary tale. In our world, we might replace them with wizard, knight, priest, and martyr. Or star fighter, bounty hunter, emperor, and Jedi knight.
Appendix 3 is a template for creating a world figure. It includes more comments and advice, and an editable Microsoft Word file can be downloaded for free by signing up for the newsletter at https://artofworldbuilding.com/newsletter/
Our world could benefit from heroes, villains, martyrs, and others who’ve become famous for whatever reason, such as physical traits, supernatural ones, or their role in world events. There isn’t much difference between one type and another when it comes to inventing them, aside for the reason they’re famous. Figure out what sorts of individuals are likely to be well remembered. This will give us a list of people to invent. Adding a touch of detail to the list will help inspire us. For example:
- A knight who turned the tide of war, maybe by sacrificing himself
- A knight who restored tarnished honor in the knighthood by doing something heroic
- A wizard who made people fear wizards
- An assassin who killed an emperor and triggered war (or stopped it)
- A passionate priest and good orator who inspired many to follow a god or way of life
- An influential leader who was assassinated/martyred, causing great social change
- A dictator who wanted to exterminate a race and caused large scale war
- A warrior known for incredible prowess but brought down by mundane health concerns
- A famous explorer whose ship vanished
If you’re wondering where I got some of those, here are some inspirations in no particular order: Martin Luther King, Bruce Lee, The Princess Bride, Dragonlance, and Hitler. By summing them up without their names, we start the process of making them our own and continue by creating details.