Worldbuilder’s Workout – Distance

Worldbuilder's Workout

It’s Wednesday, it’s time for a brand new Champion Post! I figured I’d kick off the new Worldbuilder’s Workout feature with the topic of Distance.

When you’re creating a fantasy world, one of the most important things you need to work out is how big it is. It’s no good creating a smorgasbord of countries and regions if, when you start writing, it only takes a few minutes for your characters to traverse them. Similarly, you don’t want to get to the climax of your story and then realise your protagonist needs to travel for six months before they can take on the bad guy.

So, here’s the big question. How do you work out distances?

First, you should work out what sort of size you want your world to be. Is it roughly the size of Earth? Is it smaller? Larger? Here are some rough measurements for our own world:

Circumference = 24900 miles / 40000 km

USA coast to cost = 2500 miles / 4000 km

UK north to south = 420 miles / 680 km

Once you’ve decided what size the world/landmass is, you need to choose a unit/units of measurement to be used by the inhabitants of your world. For my own story, I currently use leagues for distances traveled and a unit of hands for height. It feels satisfyingly medieval/old world and yet it still gives an accurate impression of distance and movement.

Here’s a few simple conversions for changing our modern measurements into archaic ones. If we look at the unit of one mile, the other measurements are:

Miles = 1

Kilometers = 1.6

Yards = 1760

Feet = 5280

Leagues = 0.3

Furlongs = 8

Link = 8000

Chain = 80

If you want to be really original, you can always create your own units of measurement. It might be a good idea to keep the calculations the same as one of the above, though, to make it easier for you.

Now that you have your world measured out and you know roughly how long it takes to go from A to B, you can go ahead and plan out how your characters will move around their environment.

I hope you enjoyed reading today’s post – let me know what you thought. Next time we do a Worldbuilder’s Workout, I think I’ll talk about transport, whether it’s on land, at sea or otherwise.


5 thoughts on “Worldbuilder’s Workout – Distance

  1. claude dancourt 08-Aug-2012 / 12:19

    Thanks! In addition to distance, we also need to take transportation in consideration. For an example, a horse cannot go on full gallop all day long. Usually, endurance races are about 50 to 100 miles with an average speed of 8 – 10 miles/hour… For a standard carriage, count a speed of 5 to 6 miles per hour. And humans travelling on foot walk at more or less 3 to 4 miles/hour.
    Of course, no one knows how fast a dragon is.

  2. tmso 08-Aug-2012 / 15:37

    I have a nifty little program called ‘convert.exe’ that comes in handy for things like this. You can get it here: Under Options –> Custom, you can even come up with your own conversions. Thanks for the post!

  3. writingunderdog 08-Aug-2012 / 20:50

    Reblogged this on Writing Underdog and commented:
    This is an excellent topic. It’s something I’ve unconsciously worked on in my projects, but never thought to put into the front of my mind.

  4. Sophie E Tallis 08-Aug-2012 / 23:32

    I LOVE this! This is the sort of stuff that I pondered over for my novel. I adore worldbuilding and delving deeper in histories, cultures, geology, geography etc etc. Being a teacher of phonetics, I get particularly nerdy over linguistics and devised my own working language, based on the syntax of Maori, Old English, Old Norse and African Bantu dialects, complete with 24 character Dworllian alphabet! It’s just fascinating how you can get lost in all this stuff.

    Having said that though, there comes a time when research and worldbuilding have to step aside and let the big boys play, i.e. the storyand characters take precedence. Tbh, I didn’t even give my publisher an eighth of the material I had accumulated and created for the backstory…these things end up being ‘uncommercial’ I’m afraid, but damn they’re good fun! 😀

    Talking of fun, I have nominated your blog for the Sunshine Blogger Award. You’ve got a great balance of content on here. Well done mate!

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