Writing About Writing: Worldbuilding (AKA Discussing Brandon Sanderson Books)

Hullo, my friends! As you may have noticed, it is not Tuesday, but since I’ve missed a few weeks of posting, I thought I owed you guys an extra post. That, plus I had some post inspiration this week, and I wanted to share some thoughts with you guys! I want to thank everyone who signed up for the cover reveal for Forcefield. If you haven’t gotten an e-mail from me with the post information, let me know, since I’ve been having some internet issues. If you didn’t sign up, and you’d still like to participate, the form is still open here, as long as you sign up before the reveal happens on August 4th. Now, on to the post!


I’ve been fortunate enough over the past year or so to read a LOT of Brandon Sanderson books. If you’re not familiar with his books, he writes fantasy books that are well-known for having a ton of foreshadowing and plot twists–and also for the in-depth worldbuilding in each book or series. I’ve gotten to read Elantris, the Mistborn series, and I’m currently making my way through his Stormlight Archives.

One other book of Sanderson’s that’s important to mention for this post is Sanderson’s Arcanum Unbounded, which is a collection of short stories and novellas, some of which are related to other books and series he’s written. It’s a little complicated, but the one I’ll be mentioning the most in this post is The Emperor’s Soul, which is a (mostly) standalone novella.

And, in fact, I was mostly inspired by Brandon Sanderson’s comments after the novella, where he discussed his inspiration for the story. The quote that really caught my attention was this: “You can’t always write what you know–not exactly what you know. You can, however, write what you see.” 

This quote came after Sanderson explained that he got the idea for the magic system in The Emperor’s Soul from a trip to Taiwan and the National Palace Museum. To simplify things a lot, he was inspired to make the magic system in this novella based on historical stamps he saw at the museum. Basically, he asked himself the question, “What if stamps could be used to rewrite the history of an object?” This led to the development of the magic system in this novella.

Recently, I’ve been working on an idea for a fantasy story (which I won’t be starting any time soon), and I’ve found myself looking closer at Sanderson’s worldbuilding techniques since I keep being blown away by them. A lot of worldbuilding in his stories seem to be answers to “What if?” questions. One of the most memorable bits of worldbuilding for me is a group of people in The Stormlight Archives whose eyebrows never stop growing. This tiny aspect of the larger worldbuilding just asks: “What if people had eyebrows that never stopped growing, just like hair?” That question adds a distinctive feature to a people group and helps the world feel more developed and diverse. Asking these questions develops a vibrant story world that feels deep and realistic–as realistic as a fantasy story can feel, that is!

So ask those crazy what-if questions! Maybe you’ll find a story there.


This turned out to be more of a ramble than a cohesive post, but I hope you found something helpful here! Have you read any of Brandon Sanderson’s books? What books have impressed you with their worldbuilding? Let me know in the comments below!

10 thoughts on “Writing About Writing: Worldbuilding (AKA Discussing Brandon Sanderson Books)

  1. This is GREAT! I feel like worldbuilding is not my strong suit when it comes to writing–too often my worlds feel flat or cliche.
    I’m ALWAYS looking for tips on how to do it better, so thank you for this! That is such a great point that all we have to really do is keep our eyes open. To let the world around us inspire us and to constantly ask those “what if” questions.

    Thank you so much for sharing! This already has me brainstorming! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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