I remember the first time I put my ideas to paper as I tried to come up with different kingdoms. Sitting in a restaurant called Burgerville in a little red and white booth, I pulled out my pencil and notepad. Wanting to illustrate the different races through their architecture wasn't an easy feat though. Coming up with original ideas in today's age after so many brilliant authors, can at some point, be difficult. Balancing functionality and their cultures though, I realized the easiest method was drawing.
I started with first the land, where was their kingdom? This then gave me the landscape for which the kingdom was to be crafted, next came the castle or central location. In really any book or historical location kingdoms always centered around the 'castle'. I presume this because of a couple reasons, first, it's the central location for jobs and money, and secondly it makes the 'castle' more secure. Once I had these two items down I went to my next question, what makes this kingdom unique?
Each of my villages or kingdoms has to be unique, other wise readers are just going to start getting confused with names. If I reference the name of a village or kingdom, I found out that it's best to tag along why that town is important. For instance in 'Book of Secrets' whenever I mention Iolnk, I mention it's where the scribes where taught or the crooked 'X' that makes up the town. If also they'd been there before I'l mention that as well.
When I made the dwarves kingdom one of the things that I wanted to highlight was their paranoia when regarding their treasure. To enhance this character trait I made endless tunnels, secret passageways and doors that blended into the walls. Creating these different homes was something that I found was a great way to demonstrate different races, without listing the character traits verbatim.