Is there a good way to store worldbuilding information so that I can get a quick reference and overview without having to go through an entire doc? I don't need to store it, I can store it in a word document, but I would like to organize the information so that everything or a lot of the major ideas can be seen at a glance so that I can quickly access the missing information or the information I forgot quickly.

  • If you're already using Word, what is it about Word's outline function that isn't working for you? Aug 24, 2022 at 6:56

2 Answers 2


Store it in Word, but teach yourself to use Tags. AKA keywords, labels, all the same thing.

Use pairings. So at first your document contains the name Marjorie, your main character's childhood friend, died of cancer at age 11. While she is in your mind, add a line of keywords after Marjorie, put a "+" before each: "+childhood +friend +cancer +died +neighbor +best friend"

Later, when you cannot remember her name, think of the association, some tag, and in Word, search for it (with the "+" attached). If that doesn't get you to Marjorie, then be sure when you finally do find her, you add that Tag to Marjorie's keyword list. Say all you could come up with for the tag was "little girl", well just add "+little girl" to the list, so next time you will find that tag. It's okay if you have spaces in your keywords, Word can find those. And it's okay to use the same tag on several items; "+best friend" may be attached to multiple names in your main character's life, from childhood, to high school, college, various jobs. So you'll find five of them, That is still faster than reading a history of everything.

The same goes for towns, road names, world names, magic terms, etc. I don't try to organize in a table or hierarchy, I just keep a searchable note file.

The only other thing I keep, drawn by hand on either blank or grid paper, is maps and layouts. Of the world, of the town, of a castle, etc. But I never draw these in great detail; I seldom spend more than an hour. I do not want to get distracted by worldbuilding. I like to write stories, not invent maps. (But that is a personal preference, I know many people love mapmaking and putting in all the tiny details.)

So my maps and layouts are often mostly blank, they are just to make sure my spatial and distance references don't conflict in different parts of the story. And if I need a new town, river, lake or a room in the castle, I just add them as I need them, both on the map and as text in my searchable Word doc. Usually I write with my story and my searchable doc both open, so I can click on the searchable one, find something, and click back to the story.

It is primitive, but for me it works. When I am writing I am immersed in my story, and doing a long lookup will break that.

The other thing I do, to avoid breaking immersion, is just put the keywords in my document! If I tried to look up "+little girl" and failed to find it, I just leave it in my document and move on, in square brackets, as "[+little girl]". Then later, when I can search my story for "[+" and go figure out who that was supposed to be, fix it and update my searchable doc for the next time.

I don't use those characters in writing, "+[]", but you can use other symbols if you prefer them.

Just remember when you search, if you don't find your detail with your first keyword attempt, whenever you do find it, add that first keyword attempt to the list. That first attempt is one of your subconscious associations for that detail.


Create a Wiki. Download something like Wiki-on-a-Stick, load it on a spare USB drive so you can take it anywhere and start building your instant reference.

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