top of page
  • Shereen Vedam

A Spell for World-Building - the Theory

(For the Advanced Witch/Warlock) by Shereen Vedam Part I of II

“The magic of Faerie is not an end in itself, its virtue is in its operations:  among these are the satisfaction of certain primordial human desires.”

J.R. Tolkien, On Fairy Stories (a)

World-building is not just for fairy stories.  Readers demand a credible world in

Wikipedia (b) describes world building as follows: “World building often involves the creation of maps, a back story, and people for the world.”

For this article, we’ll put aside the maps and backdrop, the pageantry and history, and focus solely on the people in our imaginary world – be they human, or creatures with wings – and their desires.

Now, no matter with whom a fictional world is populated, understand that these fictitious beings are bound to reflect some of what an author perceives in his or her ordinary world, as well as that author’s beliefs and biases.  So, share your author preconceptions, weave them into the themes of your book in a way that will intimately connect story to reader.

To accomplish this feat, you need to cast a spell that will awaken those human “primordial” desires, both in your characters and in your readers.  Let’s begin.


Step 1. Gather the ingredients

Solid world-building, or advanced spell work, if you will, may be done either during the pre-planning or plotting stages.

  1. Choose 3 ABSTRACT concepts that fit your story, or story idea.

American Psychologist, Abraham Maslow(c), postulated a theory that we all have five hierarchical levels of human needs.  Master one level and we are emboldened to reach for the next.

  1. Level 1 – Physiological (air, water, food, sleep, sex)

  2. Level 2 – Safety (of our body, loved ones, job, resources, property)

  3. Level 3 – Love and belonging (family, friendship, sexual intimacy)

  4. Level 4 – Esteem (self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect for others/by others)

  5. Level 5 – Self-actualization (mortality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts).

Understand that each concept you choose will likely be flavored by your views about life.  That’s fine.  Those biases are part of your authorial voice.

(ii) Decide how your 3 concepts will be represented in your story world.

Deciding on your 3 concepts will outline the overview, the broad strokes, the main ingredients of your fictional world.

Step 2.  Stir

This step integrates your main ingredients into your plot, makes them cohesive and thematically multi layered.

(i) Integrate your 3 concepts into your story line.

Weave your concepts into your major plots.

(ii) Ensure your 3 concepts are central to the lives of your secondary characters.

Secondary characters can add depth by reflecting the concepts in contrast to what the main characters portray.

Step 3.  Add a pinch of magic

“Double, double, toil and trouble Fire burn and cauldron bubble” (d)

Literary magic happens when a reader becomes anxious.  As authors, we can encourage this state of reader concern by obstructing our main characters’ goals at every turn.

Make the 3 concepts personal CHALLENGES for your main characters. 

This means your main characters cannot easily overcome the issue you have presented them with, either because of the situation they are in, or because of the character’s personality.  Answer this, for each concept:

  1. What is his/her personal challenge regarding this concept?

That’s it.  That’s the spell!

Coming up next…Spell for World Building, Part II – a practical example (For the Advanced Witch/Warlock), where we will see this spell in action.


References: (a) “On Fairy Stories” by J.R.R. Tolkien (b) Worldbuilding from Wikipedia (c) An Introduction to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (YouTube – good video…9min 51sec) (dAnnotations for the Witches’ Chants (Shakespeare, Macbeth)

Read fantasy books by Shereen Vedam

Related Posts

See All


bottom of page