World building is something of a hobby of mine, and my general approach to it is to start out with a couple of simple axioms to establish the rules of the world, and then explore the concept as much as I can. I do this through asking myself a lot of “what if” questions and attempting to take common tropes and ideas from other canons and viewing it through the lens of my world. This doesn’t always end up with an original or interesting idea but it can inspire me to think of other ways the idea can be applied.
For instance, in this lore that I’ve been working on, everything is extended from the rule that life is composed of VIM (life energy, so to speak), KEN (memories), and the GOLEM (the body), and that when something dies, the VIM and KEN can be left behind, turning into further creatures and life. I then take this axiom and try to explain natural phenomena (such as fires being the vim being released and exploding from wood) and then start asking questions like what if you make a person entirely out of the ken of other people, could you effectively resurrect a dead person like that? Since I work forward with this axiom as a base, I feel like the world I create is more likely to be consistent and follow its own rules. There are some things I work backwards with, like how could I fit in a werewolf-like thing into this world? How does it fit in with the rules I’ve set up? As long as I follow the axiom, the consistency should remain.
Once I have the base axioms that define how the world works, and some core concepts, I begin to flesh out the history surrounding the core concept. Using the people made of memories, you can do all sorts of stuff like who was the first person to figure out that you could do this? What was the process of creating a person out of memories? How do these people fit in with the greater society? Are there any notable memory-based people? Has the process for creating them changed over time? Once you have that history line fleshed out, then you can begin connecting with other history lines you’ve established to weave a more believable world. In real history, major events and people have connections with other events and people, so you definitely want to weave your own threads together to make your own history more interesting and rich. This can be the most difficult part of the entire process, as it relies on trying to keep in mind the timeline of a history that never happened, but establishing key events as milestones can make it a lot easier.
As far as organizing all of this, I have a two step process. The first step is “sketching” where I jot down the idea in a google document so I have access to it from anywhere I have internet access. These are usually very short sentences just so I have the idea saved somewhere. I have some examples from the document below:
Once I have these, I usually ruminate on them during downtime at work, when I’m in the shower, etc. Rolling them around in my head, trying to fit them into the larger puzzle of the world. Once I’m satisfied I have enough to work with, I commit them to a wiki I’ve been building. The wiki isn’t for anyone else to read but myself, as wiki software does a great job of organizing and, more importantly, linking ideas through the hyperlinking to other wiki pages. I can establish that X is connected with Y by linking to X on Y’s page, thus allowing me to defined my core concepts and weave their history together as I mentioned above. Wiki software also allows me to tag pages so that I can easily pull up, for instance, a list of races, items, locations, etc. in my world by searching for a given tag. Furthermore, most wiki software has version control for articles, allowing me to go back if I’ve decided I didn’t like where I took an idea or if I want to recycle some part of an older concept. As someone who does it as a hobby, its been a major help in organizing my thoughts on the lore.
So yeah, taken all together, these are my suggestions: define the ruleset of your world first, and then define the core concepts that extend from that ruleset by taking your rules to their logic extremes and even taking idea from other stories/worlds and see how the fit in your world. Once you have these core concepts, define their history in terms of major events, impacts, characters, items, etc. Once you have this history thread, weave it into the rest of your historical threads, using major world events to organize when each event, etc. happens in relation to one another. To organize it all, have a sketchpad that’s easily accessible for writing notes on quick ideas so you don’t forget, and then have something like a wiki for your “official” account of the lore so you can easily organize all of your lore.
Obviously, that’s the approach that works best for me, so no idea how it would mesh with you . Best of luck with your endeavors!