📁 How to organise your worldbuilding

A deep dive on methods to organise your worldbuilding so that your lore is sorted, searchable, and easy to explore!

📁 How to organise your worldbuilding
A screenshot of how category folders and a web of connections can be used to organise a world.

In this deep dive I'll be showing you different methods of organising your worldbuilding so that your lore is sorted, searchable, and easy to explore! 🌎

I've outlined the pros/cons of each, pitfalls to watch out for, and of course some inspiration and further reading to check out later.

Table of Contents

📚 8 steps to organise your worldbuilding:

  1. Decide who you're organising is for - is it just for you to keep things tidy or is it for readers to easily explore your world? Or is it for both? What function does it need to serve?
  2. Write a list of what works for you and what doesn't - are there any aspects of your current setup that you want to keep? For any messy areas, how did they become disorganised, and what parts (if any) are confusing to use?
  3. Review what you've got - take a look at your worldbuilding (or think about what you're planning to make) and see if there are any emerging patterns on how things are clustered together, use this to inform your organising.
  4. Get inspired - check out worlds and settings that inspire you or that are in similar genres. How do they display their lore? Check things like video game wikis and guide books, TTRPG campaign books table of contents, official websites of popular film/series/game franchises, or the world wikis of other worldbuilders!
  5. Make a plan - list out a rough draft of how you're going to sort your world. If you're making folder structures, write out a list and use indents or nested lists for sub-folders. For planning what tags to use, you could use a list, a table, or a spreadsheet to plan things out.
  6. Future-proof it - think about how your system will work for you as you continue worldbuilding: will it accommodate the needs of your project? How will it grow with your world so you don't end up with a mess?
  7. Make a backup - just in case you change your mind, make a backup of any existing structure you have so you know how to put it back if things don't work out :D
  8. Sort it! - make use of simple organising methods like folder structures, tags, and links to put your worldbuilding in an order that works for you and your project. It might take a while for big or messy worlds, so break it down into chunks!

🗃️ Storage vs access considerations

Depending on what your worldbuilding project is for, you might need to organise things behind the scenes differently than how you show it off to other people. For example, a GM running a TTRPG campaign may want easy access to lists of NPCs, creature statblocks, and loot tables, but for player handouts or a wiki then things may be structured a little differently to make it fun to explore (and without spoilers).

For folks who just enjoy worldbuilding privately for fun - you can just organise things in whichever way you like! If it's just for you, you can have a "messy bedroom" approach - as long as you know where things are, that's all that matters, right? But if later down the line you want to invite your friends over to come and check out your amazing world, they're going to be completely overwhelmed 😅

Some folks might enjoy setting up a framework of folders to help inform their worldbuilding and keep it from sprawling out but others may find that too limiting.

I'll be going over some different approaches to organising your worldbuilding and the benefits and drawbacks of each so you can try them out and see what works well for you! 😁

Ready for a deep dive?
Grab a beverage and let's get things sorted ☕

Before deciding on how you want to organise your worldbuilding, consider:
- Is the structure for me, or for my audience?
- How does the information need to be used and interacted with?
- What methods of organising am I using right now? Which aspects work well and what parts don't?
- Do I need to use one method, or a combination?

file cabinet
Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi / Unsplash

📁 Categories & folder structure

Having a folder structure is probably the most common and easy way of organising your worldbuilding (or if you're using one single document, then replace "folders" with "headings"). Simply put, you organise parts of your worldbuilding into areas that make sense for what you're making so that it's easy to find similar and related things.

How to use categories / folders (the basics):

  • Take a good look at your worldbuilding and think about how you would like to divide it up. What do you have most of? What are the connections between certain things? Are there any patterns that emerge that you can use as a way to categorise the aspects of your world? Essentially, if your worldbuilding project was a book - what would the table of contents (ToC) look like?
  • Set up folders for the broadest areas first (such as Locations or Species).
  • Then add folders for more specific areas inside of those as you need them (you can call them sub folders, nested folders, or child folders - or call them categories instead of folders)!
  • Organise your worldbuilding content within the folders and adjust things as necessary.
Don't forget to make a backup of any existing folder structure in case you want to revert your changes!

Benefits of using a categorised folder structure:

  • It's quick and easy to set up, and easy to move things around later and expand into more folders when needed.
  • It looks tidy and it's easy for you (and your audience) to understand what's inside each category.
  • Each folder is like a signpost telling you where to go to find things, which can make it fun and intuitive to explore your world!
  • For wikis, websites, and book table of contents (ToC) you can add narrative flair that emphasizes the recurring themes or genre of the world. Consider the tone difference in these alternative names for a "Creatures" folder: Species, Bizarre Bestiary, Cute Critters, Monsters, Things that go bump in the night, Fantastical Fauna, Whimsical Wildlife, Interstellar Entities.
  • You can also use this method for physical notes! Store them in labelled folders, notebooks, binders, or boxes.

Drawbacks of using a folder structure:

  • A thing can only go in one folder, and it's generally not a great idea to make duplicates to get around this because of the bloat and also because it's hard to keep track of any updates to the copies.

    At some point you may come across a situation where you have multiple choices as to which folder something belongs in. Choose the one that makes the most sense right now or (if relevant) make a new folder for it. You can always change it later if you find a better place for it!

    This problem can be alleviated when combined with the use of links and tags such as the use of index pages (read on for details). You could also have an Uncategorised or Miscellaneous folder for things that don't have a home yet.

Pitfalls to look out for:

  • Nested folders that go several levels deep (folders within folders within folders within folders) can get confusing to navigate and tricky to remember where things are. I'd recommend keeping your categories only 1-3 levels deep - as an added benefit to this, when you use it on a wiki or website as an expandable list it's much easier to browse!
  • If you mix different kinds of classifications it's going to get messy and you'll run into overlaps, so try to keep things consistent!
    Here's an example of mixed classifications that might seem okay at a glance, can you spot the problem with these?:
    • Trees, Plants, Flowers, Crops, Medicinal Herbs
      The problem here is that a tree is a type of plant, flowers are part of a plant, crops are specific to cultures that farm them, and medicinal herbs are based on their use.
    • Land Creatures, Sea Creatures, Flying Creatures, Insects, Domestic Animals
      Insects are a biological classification, but land and sea creatures are based on their habitat. Flying creatures are classified based on how they move but could also live on land or at sea, and domestic animals are classified based on their relation to sapient species. Also, sea creatures excludes all freshwater creatures!
  • It can be easy to fall into the trap of adding too many folders, especially for things you haven't even created yet. The pitfalls to watch out for here are that if you make a bunch of categories first then you'll not only end up with a lot of empty or partially filled folders (making it feel like the world is empty or incomplete) but you'll also be tempted to fill all of those categories, regardless of whether or not they add value to the lore of your worldbuilding.

    My general rule of thumb is: if there are more than five of the same thing, then they can have their own folder. For example if I'm writing a bunch of different creatures in my Species folder and notice that six of them are birds, two are reptiles, three are mammals, and one is a fish, then the six birds can get their own subcategory Birds.
    This way I'm not writing to fill the folders and the structure is growing with my worldbuilding 😀

    The same method can be used when writing notes/articles! You can start with a broad topic like a country and fill out that article with details about it. When a section gets way too long, then you can take parts of it and move it into its own article (or child article) and link them together, leaving a small summary behind in the parent article.
  • Plan early on where to put your characters. There's lots of options to choose from, but pick early and stick to it or they'll end up all over the place! 😂
    Here are some options of where to put characters:
    • In their own category of all characters with subcategories to classify them further.
    • Within a family, guild, organization, or group's category
    • Within their most associated place, birthplace, or location category
    • Within a category of the chapter, scene, book, game, film, or media they first appeared in
    • Alternatively, you could have a category page or single note that uses tags to list characters (examples could be: an index of characters by name A-Z, characters by faction, characters by species, characters by ethnicity, characters by profession).
TJ's Top tips for categories & folders:
- Write out your folder structure as a bullet point list first and use indented lists for the subcategories. It's much easier to see what you're missing and to cut & paste things into a new order!
- Only make folders as you need them. If you end up with more than 5-10 of the same thing in one folder, then consider making a new folder for those things.

Things to consider:

  • If your worldbuilding is being seen by other people, consider which things need to be visible and which things need to stay hidden (or can be discovered through further browsing). Having a limited choice of categories can reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed by choice on where to begin.
  • Sometimes you don't need an entire folder for something and you can use a category page or index article - this could be for something like a list of countries by region or maybe weapons by type.

Take a look at popular franchises present their world's content! Check out the official websites for your favourite films, shows, and games to see how they structure their menus and links. Compare how different TTRPG campaign books from different publishers set out their Table of Contents, and see how fan-made wikis of titles in similar genres to yours break down their content.

Also explore things outside of the obvious! Invent your own way of sorting things based on how your world works. Maybe all of your creatures are sorted by the number of legs they have, or perhaps your plants are all classified by taste. Could there be a way of sorting things that emphasizes the tone and recurring themes of your world?

If your world is expansive and covers a broad range of topics, check out some old encyclopedias too like the figurative system of human knowledge. Or maybe take some inspiration from different library classification systems.

selective focus photography of Link vinyl figures
Photo by Ryan Quintal / Unsplash

Using links in your worldbuilding is ideal for folks who want to organise their lore through a website or personal wiki, and many organisation apps include this as a core feature for you to make connections between your content.

Ways to use links:

  • Within your lore to emphasize and connect to other pieces of noteworthy content.
  • As breadcrumb navigation (combined with categories) to browse other folders for related topics. Most apps have a built in feature for this but you could manually add a sequence of links to follow.
  • As previous/next buttons to help direct readers on where to explore next.
  • On navigation pages that have lots of links to other notes and articles (these are sometimes called category pages, index pages, or maps of content/MOCs).

Benefits of using a linking structure:

  • They're easy to follow and they let you travel through the lore.
  • Whilst a note can only belong in one category, links allow multiple connections to other areas of the worldbuilding project.
  • The act of adding links encourages you to revisit your existing lore and reinforce the connections to multiple areas of your world, making it feel lived in and rich with interconnected lore.
  • Apps like Obsidian (more on tools later in this post) let you view the connections between notes based on the links in interactive graphs:
A zoomed out view of Melior's articles in Obsidian's graph view.
A zoomed out view of Melior's articles in Obsidian's graph view.

Drawbacks of using links:

  • They're not usable with physical notes.
  • It can be difficult to find things to link to if they are named poorly (more on naming later in this post).
  • You may need to find and update broken links if things change.

Pitfalls to look out for:

  • It can look messy and visually overwhelming if you add LOTS of links everywhere (overlinking), and it can be tempting to link to absolutely everything that gets mentioned in a note or article.

TJ's Top Tips:

  • Only link to something once on the first time it's mentioned in a major section, and only if it's a relevant area to explore in relation to the current note.

Check out Wikipedia's principles of linking in their manual of style for excellent notes on underlinking and overlinking, what links should take priority, and how to make them clear and specific.

Examples of 3 size-based tags based on article length: bite (1min read), snack (2-5min), and feast (5+min)
An example of some size-based tags that I use in my bright fantasy world: "bite" for small snippets that take 1-2 mins to read, "snack" for 2-5min reads, and "feast" for lore heavy articles that are jam-packed with content!

🏷️ Tags

Tags are a way of adding metadata to your notes to be able to organise and search for them easily and (depending on the app) create lists based on tags.

Some apps also support nested tags e.g. #creature/undead vs #creature #undead that can behave in a similar way to categories.

Benefits of using tags:

  • They're quick and easy to add.
  • They are often hidden out of view which keeps things clean and tidy.
  • Unlike categories, a note or article can have multiple tags.
  • Most apps will let you filter search results by tags to find things easily, and some will let you make lists of articles/notes based on a tag.

Drawbacks of using tags:

  • If you're using lots of different tags (or just aren't in the habit of using them) it can be easy to forget what you've used before. This can lead to using different tags or spellings for things you're trying to find.

Pitfalls to look out for:

  • It can be tempting to add alllllllllllll of the tags, or add tags that aren't actually going to be useful. If you search your tags for #species and 300 different creatures show up, will that be useful to you? Or would it be more useful to be more specific?
  • Think about how you (or your audience) need to use tagged content. If you're adding tags for the sake of it, there's not much point! 😅

TJ's Top Tips:

  • Tags can be used for out-of-universe context, for example I like to use tags for things like: the year I wrote it, the size of the article, and if I wrote the article for part of a challenge or community event. Here's how I'm using them in my bright fantasy world!
  • You can also use tags for the status of your worldbuilding notes to make it easy to find articles based on progress e.g.: #first-draft, #second-draft, #stub, #WIP, #rework, #done.
  • If your app doesn't have a built in tag manager, consider making use of a reference document (or spreadsheet, if you have many) to keep track of your tags and what you intend to use them for.


Photo of a book showing a register of members
Photo by Mick Haupt / Unsplash

🔍 Naming things

Now, this section is not going to be a tutorial on things like "how to name your world", what I mean here is to consider how you name your content so it makes sense, is memorable, and is easy to find! 😄

When naming notes or articles, which is going to give more context and be easier to find: "Kastra" or "Queen Kastra of Farnest"?

Adding some extra flair to the name of your articles not only reinforces the genre, tone, and recurring themes of your world but it also adds interest for your audience and helps them to navigate through the lore and remember things easier.

In my dark fantasy world of Melior, I decided to rename the overview articles for each broad region so that they give a little more context to what's going on there. Jolundria as a name by itself tells me nothing - combined in a list of the other names, would you know where you wanted to click when presented with this list?: Jolundria, Kuldar, Arklend, Anvil, Porosa, Xendria, Gallotia, Rengia, Orubia, Melopia, Selith.

For some of those names I've taken inspiration from similar regions on Earth to give subtle context to their climates, such as Melopia sounding similar to Ethiopia, but other than that you'd know nothing about it.

By adding a hint of extra context such as Rengia, the ancient wildlands, your readers know what they're about to explore and can choose based on their interests. They'll also start to associate those places with these titles when they see them linked in other articles, so instead of it registering as FantasyCity of FantasyLand, they will recognise it and feel more invested in the lore.

If you like this idea, don't forget that when linking to notes or articles with longer titles you can change the name of the link so it's nice and short - it doesn't need to show up mid-sentence as a long title! 😄

An example of category and article names in Melior providing extra context
An example of category and article names in Melior providing extra context

As mentioned earlier, you can also add some flair to reflect your world's genre, mood, and recurring themes in your categories or folder names!
Instead of Places I went with Directory of Territories and Locales, and I renamed Creatures to The Boundless Bestiary. It's giving 18th-19th Century vibes and by saying that the bestiary is boundless implies that it's a world full of creatures and monsters. Observed Traditions and Culture gives the sense that people are being watched or judged - if I had called it Cultural Festivities & Celebrations it would have a different tone entirely!

Pitfalls to look out for when naming things:

  • Avoid adding "The " to the start of names unless it's absolutely necessary or you'll end up with lots of notes/articles beginning with The which can cause issues when searching for and linking to things in some apps.
    It can also be time consuming to rename links to remove the The each time!
  • Watch out for duplicate names - it can be really confusing to search for or link to the right thing, and you also can't have an identically named note within a folder in many apps.
  • Also be wary of similar sounding or similarly spelt names as those can be confusing to readers.


  • Similar to the inspirations listed under categories in the earlier section of this post, also check out different thesaurus tools to come up with a variety of synonyms that suit your world.

📝 Templates

Using templates is another way that you can keep your worldbuilding organised if you want certain parts of your world to be presented in similar ways or contain a pattern of information. They can be really useful to serve as a reminder to flesh out parts of your world that you might have otherwise overlooked.

You can set up your own templates to fill in, or use premade ones in your app of choice. A simple way of doing this would be just to make a blank note and write out some headings of sections you want to fill in for that element of worldbuilding, then when you need to use it you can either make a copy of the note or just copy & paste its contents into a new note and start writing.

If your template supports the use of a sidebar section, you can use this as a way to organise the data and informational parts of your worldbuilding to one side where it's easy to find and is more statistical rather than lore heavy (like Wikipedia's typical layout).

It's generally a good idea to keep a good information hierarchy in your templates so that the most important and relevant parts of the article are listed first, and the more specific parts into adjacent areas are further into the article.

Pitfalls to look out for:

  • It can be tempting to fill in all areas of a template to completion and it might not be relevant for your world. Just because it's there, doesn't mean you have to fill it in!
  • Using templates can sometimes lead to notes/articles feeling too similar or repetitive.
  • If you're using another app's template system, try to stay consistent with your choices and avoid making duplicate notes/articles just to suit the system (for example: having two identical or similarly named articles for a country - one for the geographical territory and one for the geopolitical power). Do what works best for you! 😃

TJ's Top Tips:

  • If your templates encourage you to write long notes/articles, consider adding a table of contents near the top (or in the sidebar) and link to the headings of the note so it's easy to jump to different sections of the article. Most apps have a built in feature for this!

🧰 Organisation tools

This guide is already a bit of a chonker so I'll just stick to sharing the main tools I actively use for organising my worldbuilding right now - there are many more options out there, so use whichever tools work best for you! 😃

World Anvil
I use World Anvil to host my worlds online, they have a great collection of features (like maps, timelines, chronicles) alongside their core article templates and linking features. I love being able to customise the aesthetics of my world with my own CSS themes and I really enjoy taking part in community events and interacting with other worldbuilders 😀

Brigid (for World Anvil)
Speaking of amazing people in the community, Hanhula developed a companion tool that works using an API key that you generate from your World Anvil account - it shows you all kinds of detailed stats, has an advanced articles explorer, export tool and tagging tool.

A pie chart showing articles by template in the world of Melior (stats from Hanhula's Brigid tool)
Articles by template in the world of Melior(stats from Hanhula's Brigid tool)

Whilst World Anvil is my go-to choice for the front end and presentation of my worlds, I actually do all of the planning and writing for my worldbuilding in Obsidian because it's quicker, cleaner, and easier to use (and most importantly I can use it offline and sync it to the mobile app).

I particularly enjoy exploring the graph view to see all of the linked connections between articles in my world. The largest nodes have the most links pointing towards them, and outliers with no lines have no connections to anything else in the world (so I know I need to work on those)!
It's great to see clusters emerge and I enjoy finding gaps where I can tie my world's lore together a bit more. I've also coloured the nodes based on template tags!

A screenshot of how category folders and a web of connections can be used to organise a world.
World of Melior - front end table of contents showing categories in World Anvil for readers to explore vs the back end connections between articles in Obsidian's graph view

📄 How I organised my world's categories

When I ran into some issues with my world's categories, I documented my process of tidying them up. You can see the before and after here along with my thoughts as I sorted through things: https://vault.tjtrewin.com/Worldbuilding/Organisation/Fixing+Melior's+categories

Further reading

In addition to the things I've linked already, here are some further rabbit holes to explore when it comes to organising your worldbuilding. There are several resources from various sources on these, so look them up and see if it's something that might work for your worldbuilding project!

  • Personal Knowledge Management (PKMs), sometimes referred to as a Second Brain
  • Johnnny.Decimal system
  • Zettelkasten
  • Wikipedia's Manual of Style