Time is probably not what you think about when it comes to designing your fantasy world. However, time determines a whole lot in the world and it’s something worth thinking about.
How do we measure time?
This was something that hadn’t occurred to me when I set out to build a world. It was from reading another blog on world building that I suddenly realised that time might be different in my fantasy world.
With this there is quite a lot of room to be creative. You need to think about how time works on your world, how it is measured. We have hours, days, weeks, months, years, does your world have the same or is something completely different?
If you have a large world, you might think about how different parts of the world measure time. If everyone has a different religion, then days of the week might be called something else. They might not even be named after gods, particularly if you have a monotheistic religion.
I personally wanted to keep time in my world roughly the same as in this one because time isn’t a huge feature. However, I wanted to rename the days/months and so on.
In my world I want to make a point that most people are very religious, and religion dictates a lot of how people run their daily lives. So I used religion to measure time. I have named days and months after gods, and change lengths of weeks to fit around how many days are in a month. It’s the same idea that we had in this world pretty much so I had a good outline. Not very original of course, but time isn’t my focus.
Where I messed up
This is where it gets confusing. If you have two empires with different lengths for weeks because one has more gods, then how does that affect months, years and international communication?
Maybe you have to change the lengths of weeks to fit around the month and then the amount of months in a year.
I personally ended up with a mess where one country had about 100 extra days than the other…
This led to me eventually deciding that as time is not of any special significance in my story, I would simplify it as best as I could. I had not realised what a headache this could cause so I think it’s something worth bearing in mind. Time in a fantasy world is a massive subject after all.
For a story where time is a huge feature of the narrative, you might want to be a bit more creative with it and give it more thinking time. I’m sure you could design a system of time that’s a lot more original and realisitic than mine.
Space and time in a fantasy world
If you wanted to change the length of months you might want to think about how your planet fits into the universe. If you’re on a planet at all, that is.
Is it a globe like ours? Does it orbit a moon? Is there a sun?
You can go as mad as you want with that, as long as it makes sense in the context of your world. For example, if you want a huge moon, you will probably have to think about tides, if you want a small sun, you will have to think about daylight and how that affects everyone’s life on your planet.
That kind of stuff may not be your priority if space isn’t really mentioned in your world but it’s nice to know it as background information. I think space stuff would work better if you had a futuristic-style fantasy/science fiction story where the characters are aware of space and time and so on. That way you could insert those details a bit more organically into your writing.
Whatever you choose to do, time is an often overlooked element of fantasy world building. But like anything, it’s always worth a thought when you’re designing a fantasy world. You can’t be too detailed after all – even if the details don’t make it into your novel.
Have you experimented with space or time in a fantasy world? Did it cause you an equally large headache? If not, share your secrets with us!