How to keep track of your fantasy world – create a style sheet!

There’s a lot to remember when writing a fantasy novel. You created the world, the magic system, the place-names, languages and religions – but that vast store of information can easily become a difficult beast to manage.

A professional editor handed one of my manuscripts back to me with a handy style sheet/character list at the end of his notes. He’d filled it in as he line-edited the book – but it occurred to me that I could have done with a style sheet during the writing process as well!

Why creating a style sheet/character list is a great idea for fantasy writers

It means you have everything about your world and characters – plus any style rules – at your fingertips. No more starting the novel with your main character having blue eyes and ending with green! No more having to painstakingly change details after you’ve written the manuscript because you created a rule for your world and then didn’t stick to it!

You might have a great memory, but since epic fantasy novels are usually huge in scope and size, it’s nearly impossible to remember everything.

Not only does a style sheet streamline the writing process it also helps you create a detailed world that’s both believable and original. Having everything laid out on a document will make any flaws in your world-building much easier to spot!

I use this sheet to keep track of the following during the writing process:

  • The spelling of characters’ names and their physical appearance
  • The names of the towns, villages, rivers, forests etc. in my world
  • The names of gods and mythological figures – plus their distinguishing features
  • Names of any invented animals, monsters or demons
  • Any stylistic features I want to repeat throughout – i.e. using italics for thoughts.

I’ve pasted in an example of a style sheet (still work in progress as I’m only 25,000 words into the manuscript) to give you an idea about how this sheet works. I’ve also created a blank template you can use for your own writing.

Download a template to create your own Style Sheet and character list.

 


Style Sheet/Character List

Title:  Ruled by Shadows           Author: Jayne Castel (my pen name for anything romance!)

Key: Proper names = characters, place names, etc.

A

 

B

Blood Letting – ritual on Winter Blood, sacrifices of animals to the gods at dusk.

C

cunning woman – healer

common room

A proper names

Ailin – Perrin’s father. Innkeeper. Physically, an older version of his son. Small, lightly built, bright blue eyes, shaggy hair and boyish manner.

Altar of Umbra – obelisk in Port Square, homage to the Shadow Gods

Anthor – a kingdom in the south of Karth.

B proper names

Balin – Lilia’s brother who died 10 years’ earlier, carried off by a servant of the Shadow Gods.

Bearn – old carpenter in Port Needle.

Black Fire – strong liqueur made out of blackcurrants.

C proper names

 

D

 

E

 

F

 

D proper names

Derian – young ironsmith in Port Needle.

E proper names

Elder Council – rules Orin.

F proper names

 

G

 

H

hag stones – rustic stones with holes in the middle, traditional used to keep away evil spirits. Popular in Orin, people hang them over their doors.

I

 

G proper names

Gerthun – miller at Port Needle, stocky, balding and square-jawed man.

Gregor – big, white male goat (wether – castrated male) – Robana’s familiar.

Grey Ravage – a plague that results in grey, scaly skin, swollen glands and death.

H proper names

Harbour Way – main road in Port Needle

High Road – a road that runs from east to west across the Isle of Orin.

I proper names

Isle of Orin – small island off the west coast of the continent

J

 

K

 

L

 

J proper names

 

K proper names

Karth – the main continent

L proper names

Lilia – young cook at The Grey Anchor. Small, curvaceous with long, curly auburn hair, pale skin, freckles and green eyes. Nervous, fearful disposition.

Loughlin – farmer, Muriela’s husband.

Lord of the Sky and his kin – old religion, before the Shadow Gods.

M

 

N

 

O

 

M proper names

Moon Cakes – sweets made with oranges, eaten at Winter Blood.

Muriela – pretty blonde girl, married to a local farmer, who has a market stall at the Port Market.

Mosshollow – small village in north-west Orin

N proper names

Neasa – Perrin’s mother. Short, plump, blond, blue-eyed with round face.

Nightgenga – a creature of the Shadow Gods, comes out only at night. Long limbs sweathed in shadow, knuckles grazing the ground, eyes like glowing coals, slow labored breathing – sweet smell stench of decay: hunch-backed gangly creature with long lank hair and glowing eyes.

O proper names

Orin Folk – the people of Orin.

Order of Light and Darkness – a order of mages residing on the mainland.

P

 

Q

 

R

 

P proper names

Perrin – young man, short, intense blue eyes, shaggy light brown hair. Irreverent, lazy.

Port Needle – capital of Orin

Port Square – main square of Port Needle

Prefect Redlin – head of Orin’s Elder Council: obese with ruddy face and booming voice.

Q proper names

 

R proper names

Reoul – King of Anthor

Robana – cunning woman of Mosshollow, was once a mage in the Order of Light and Darkness. Her specialty is darkness. Tall, broad-shouldered and strongly bbuilt, around forty with messy blonde hair threaded with grey and cool grey-blue eyes. Once pretty, now bitter-looking.

Rithmar – capital of a kingdom in central Karth, where the Order of Light and Darkness resides.

S

 

T

 

U

 

S proper names

Shadow Gods – the main religion of this world.

Saul of Anthor – mysterious stranger from the south. Tall, dark and olive-skinned with dark eyes. Dressed in black leather.

T proper names

The Grey Anchor – an inn in Port Needle

The Wash – channel separating Orin from the mainland

Talia – wife of slain carpenter, Bearn.

U proper names

 

V

 

W

 

X

 

V proper names

 

W proper names

Winter Blood – festival on the longest night of the year.

Woody End – pretty hamlet in north-west Orin.

X proper names

 

Y

 

Z

 

Y proper names

 

Z proper names

 

 

 

PUNCTUATION

·         Follow The Chicago Manual of Style (CMoS)

 

STYLE

·         Thoughts are italicized

·         Non-English words are italicized

·         Addresses such as milord and milady are not capitalized

·         Kinship addresses such are capitalized

·

NUMBERS AND DATES

·         Follow The Chicago Manual of Style (CMoS)

 

 

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES


Happy writing!

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