introducing a group, part ii

After my last post, about how to introduce several characters, and the distinctions between character and setting, I thought that I’d go visit Gav Thorp’s blog ‘Mechanical Hamster‘ and ask him if he would be willing to say a few words on the subject. I really love Gav’s advice– he writes some really excellent articles on writing tips and craft. Anyone interested in advanced creative writing should stop by and browse through the archives.

Much to my delight, Gav obliged me and wrote a long, detailed post on how to handle secondary characters that really addressed some of the problems I was having. You can find it here, and I think it’s well worth a read.

Thanks, Gav!

world building showcase, part ii

Here’s round two of the world-building showcase. We’ll have two more after this, on Monday if all goes according to schedule.


Eliza Wyatt found some pictures that resembled Vastii, and wrote a long post on her novel’s magic system (before getting ill last Thursday).


Merrilee Faber posted some maps she’d created.


RG Sanders has been posting on his project, Arbiture.


Nils has been posting on his world, Arnâron. Thus far he’s passed by most of the terrain-building and moved to people, animals, cultures, ect.


Nymeria posted pictures and maps for her project.


Cirellio has written more on divination, and the creatures in his world.


AC Gaughen has been posting about Shalia.


Natania Barron has been working on her story’s setting, the Aldersgate Cycle.


Agarithia has neatly collected each of her current posts (of which she has eight) into one page (here). We have three new topics this week.


Writer has added a post detailing the Beat Hotel.


SMD wrote about magic and geography.


Goldirocks wrote about government and religion.


JanVanHove is working on a sci fi setting.


M.C. Williams has written on Mythania, as well as an essay on magic in world building.


Jenniedee started with mythology.


Storytellingofravens has made two posts.


And that’s it for this week! I’ll post again next Monday with the third part of this series, and the final showcase will be displayed early September.

world building showcase, part i

Apologies for taking so long!

My original plan was to have this out on Saturday, after a full week since the start of August. That was moved to Sunday, and only then did I figure out the full extent of the sheer, vast quantities that people have been working on this project! I’ll have to start earlier next week. 😀


Eliza Wyatt has been spending the last week detailing the basics of her fantasy city Vastii, which is on a cold, inhospitable, lightless world.


Saint Know-All has been working on her dragon species, the Taal.


Kaya Alder began by introducing the Faercourt.


RG Sanders wrote about some of his ideas for his world Arbiture.


Nils has been posting on his world, Arnâron. The sheer volume of his work speaks to how much he’d put into this so far…


Nymeria wrote an article about epic versus simplistic worldbuilding.


Cirellio has been working on Lura (an old project– going further back in his archives will get several more months of world-building posts).


AC Gaughen has been posting about Shalia.


Natania Barron has been working on her story’s setting, the Aldersgate Cycle, focusing on religion.


Alex Moore wrote about the setting and creation of magic.


Ken Kiser wrote about his creation myth, the making of Kreggoria.


Aeronwy has started with a world called Tria.


Agarithia has neatly collected each of her current posts (of which she has five) into one page (here). The topics thus far are: Brief Intro, The Jaden Kingdom, The Yellow Nation, Map of Agarithia, and The Southern Green Noses.


Writer has written two world-building posts thus far, set in historical Paris.


Otempora has started her own list of world-building projects.


SMD posted about what he’d like to do for the month, and posted a map.


Goldirocks began with some research links, and a continent.


JanVanHove is working on a sci fi setting.


Selonus is working on a fantasy world, and has gone over his map, races, and feel that he wants to achieve.


M.C. Williams hasn’t written anything specific to World Building Month (yet), but has several articles on world building, with a focus on steampunk fantasy.


And that’s it, for this week!

Having gone over everyone’s projects, I want to say that I’m really, really impressed by the things that people have come up with! I’m looking forward to the rest of the month!

world building: sources of food

This is where the food comes from– it’s a big topic, so I’ll be touching on what meals would be like next.

Wild Fish
As opposed to domesticated fish. 🙂 Fish outside of mariculture (as well as other types of seafood– eel, crab, clams, shark, spoon worms, squid, ect.) are caught in the outlying lake, and is the farthest out that Vastii reaches away from the Pit; getting there from the center takes hours of walking. Still, as it is a source of food, many of the commoners live and work there, trying their luck and hoping for something large and expensive. The lake is over-fished, but it is also extraordinarily deep, and a majority of the water is not accessible by the air. Some experts believe that the lake accessible to them is less than a tenth of its true size.

Mariculture
There are various types of fish farms, but all of them must keep their water at a certain temperature, which is the most difficult part of the trade. Clams, eels, and certain fish are the easiest to farm, and for those that can afford to buy them they make up a significant portion of their diet. They also farm seaweed and other marine plants.

Livestock
Creatures large enough to provide decent meals require feeding, and the best tasting animals are herbivores, so livestock are expensive and the selection is limited. Farmed animals also provide fur and leather, and most good clothes come from these farms as well. Animals kept include goats (well, furry goat-like creatures prized for their milk), dogs (a principal source of labor, transportation, fur, and food), moles, and cave-hares (these are blind, with plenty of very long whiskers).

Vine Farms
With so much fish and meat in most people’s diets, vine farms are usually used for other things besides food: various types of wood, pitch, oil, medicines. Still, there are several plants also used as food; hardy root vegetables thrive in mixtures of volcanic soil, mixed in with goat and hare manurer, and some of the climbing vines produce waxy red fruits that drop down and would otherwise be eaten by hares (who would spread the seeds after exiting their digestive system). Plants are not regarded as a meal, however, and other than a flat bread is made from the easy-to-grow root vegetables, it is not consumed nearly so much as is fish except by those who work cultivating plants (who tend to be healthier than most).

Other
Ice worms are small, white creatures that are found on the surface between the earth and snow. They are particularly difficult to gather in any quantity, and eating them with a meal is a display of wealth and social status: they are regarded as a delicacy, despite their bitter flavor.

It should also be noted that almost everyone below the craftsman’s district will practice cannibalism at least once. Some communities within Vastii eat their own dead to commemorate them, to obtain their wisdom and experience. Some are just hungry, and see a frozen body as meat. And then there are a few that develop a taste for human flesh, who know that hunting men is easier than stealing livestock.

world building: introducing the black

I don’t like naming planets. Somewhere inside my head, I reject the idea. Our planet has a hundred different names, and none at all if you think about it. Earth. Terra. Dirt. Land. We’re too familiar with our world to give it a proper name, and the same must be true on any planet that a race lives on. I’ll start by noting the world’s most drastic geographic feature instead.

There is no sun.

This is not technically true, of course. Yes, it’s fantasy, but on the whole I prefer to write low fantasy, which tries to be very realistic. Unless it’s a planned side-effect of my supernatural elements, I try to make every effort not to bend the laws of physics and nature. There is a sun. But the inhabitants have never seen it.

There are stars in the sky, bright ones, and when the day is half over they are replaced by a wall of darkness that sweeps over everything, plunging the world into darkness (and is known by various names, most of which translate to simply ‘the black’). Their world is not a happy place, persay. The surface in uninhabitable for the most part, covered with dry snow that picks up easily in the howling wind. There are oceans, yes. If you can find them under the ice. Temperatures on the surface range from -40 to -50 degrees (Celsius), about the temperature of Northern Siberia in the winter.

The solar system my world is placed in has a sun slightly older than our own, a little larger, not quite as warm or bright. It has several planets orbiting around it, and one of them is a gas giant with several moons of various sizes. One, a little over nine-tenths of the earth’s size, is capable of sustaining life, but the drawback is that it very nearly matches the giant’s rotation cycle. As the gas giant completes a year, the moon orbits around the planet once, and in doing so stays at about the same position in relation to the sun. This populated moon has spent centuries spinning along quietly in its host’s shadow.

Long enough for its societies to collapse, its cities to fall. The preparations for the long dark were spoiled, generations after stopped learning from their parents. As the world rotated from stars to black, men lost their grasp on technology, forgot that the sun would someday return, and devolved into a much more primal race.

world building topics

I’ve been working on a (rough) list of all the topics that world building could cover in speculative fiction, which quickly became too long and ambitious to ever be able to cover in a month. Still, I think it could probably serve as a guide or inspiration. Most of these topics overlap.

Topic list:
Continue reading

a precursor to world building month

Once upon a time, when I was trying to avoid defining a plot, a beginning, or an end to the vague story-idea I had in my mind (a few years ago– internet role play, of all things, taught me how to move a story along, but that’s another issue entirely), I used to build static characters that only had situations, not actions, and worlds with details but not events. I made maps. I drew terrain, and defined linguistic patterns so that I could have realistic naming conventions for the cities.

Saint Know-All brought up the point that world-building can be completely distracting from the writing process, and I thought that I’d address that. World building is done to enrich your story. It requires action, and relevance to the project. It needs to contribute. After all, there’s not much point detailing characters that won’t be mentioned in the story. And world-building is important in genres other than fantasy and sci-fi.

Building a planet, galaxy, alien races, and government are all world-building. But so is defining the layout of a character’s house, the kind of furniture in the front room, the name of the street that said character lives on, the gossip that is spread around, and the statue that was defaced in the local park. No one can completely define the place they’re writing… and when you start mapping out blades of grass, you’ve probably gone too far. So first, before we begin our world building project, we’ll need to define its scope.

Simply put, where does the story go, what topics does it consider or touch on, and what are we going to see most often? Detail that.

For instance, if your character is a member of the local nobility, you should have a very, very good idea of how their system works, what the local issues are, and what duties fall to whom in the government. Even if a king isn’t introduced, you should know what kind of man he is and what he will and will not involve himself with. What people eat halfway across the world from said character will not be considered important, unless the character has a penchant for foreign delicacies.

world building woes

Recently I started reading an enormous book (700+ pages) that had, among other things, fantastic world building. History… no, it wasn’t just history. It was economic history, military history, artistic history, mythological history, the history of arcana, discrepancies between the histories and difference of opinion based on source. It spanned racial customs, clothes, weather, standards for different classes, idioms, the difference between different districts in a city, children’s skipping rhymes. It included little details, always relevant, always practical: a minor character took a room not far from a butcher, and the main character can’t help but notice the smell every time he comes by to see her. And the method of immersion into this world was so well done that finding more about it felt as if I were slipping into a steaming bath, or cuddling up to a down blanket. I get excited when the author writes a few pages of summary or explanation; I feel as if I can safely laugh at the show-don’t-tell Nazis now that I’ve seen it done so well, so efficiently, in such an entertaining and smooth fashion.

I have a difficult time reading new books. I can’t turn off my internal editor, which tends to focus on plot, theme, and composition. So when I’m trying to read for fun, I keep finding myself considering the question, ‘If I’d written this, would I be proud of myself?’. When I find that the answer is ‘no’, I tend to stop reading. And when I find something as detailed, complex, and well-done as this, I start raising my standards. My novel just got a little worse.

June was ‘Villain Month’. That seemed to go fairly well. I think I need a ‘World Building Month’ next, a concept that was mentioned a few weeks ago. I do want to finish this draft of my book first, but there are fifteen days of July left and roughly twenty thousand words to write. And I get anxious the closer I draw to the grand finale. That puts me at 1,333 words every day (including this one) until July. … On the bright side, it’s not as bad as NoNoWriMo.

Here are my goals, then:

  1. 1,333 words a day until the book is finished. I estimate that will let me finish the book before August.
  2. Finish ‘The Name of the Wind’.
  3. Write a book review.
  4. Possibly send girlish fan-letters to Patrick Rothfuss.
  5. Start the hype for ‘World Building Month’. Set it for August.

I’m imagining that World Building Month will be more useful to writers of speculative fiction than contemporary fiction. Even so, solidifying a good, living setting does deserve some attention. So, since Villain Month met with such approval, I’ll be doing the same thing. Anyone interested in signing up and joining in the event are welcome.