Tuesday, January 25, 2011

World Building

Yes, finally, the long awaited post on World Building. I hope you aren't highly anticipating it, because I'm not sure it can live up to that sort of expectation.

So World Building...what is it? It's basically creating your setting. In the fantasy genre, this is literally building a new world. However, even literary and contemporary stories have a setting. The setting includes things like the local school, nearby stores, businesses, etc. However, I mainly write fantasy, so we'll focus on the fantasy genre world building.

So using the example of Spirit Riddled, how did I create the world? Well the world was hidden in the question: "What if people with magic were viewed as demon possessed, sort of like the Salem Witch Trials, rather than seen as a higher class in society?" The core of the society is in that question: a society that views people with magic as demon possessed. This brings up several other aspects of the world. In order to have demons, the world must have some sort of religion. So now we need a religion and a clergy that push this belief that magic is evil. So what happens to these demon possessed people? Do we just decapitate them immediately? Hmm...well that would not be much of a story (see we're thinking about Conflict and Plot here as we world build), so we need a religion that does not want you to directly kill these evil demons (unlike the Salem Witch Trials). But they still need some sort of trial. Some way to purify them....like abandoning them and leaving them to their Creator's will. So where do these abandoned go? Well now we need to create some sort of undersociety, thieves, murderers, criminals. Where we have criminals we need people to fight them--like a guard or police. To have a guard or police we need a government.

See how this works? Think about one aspect of society leads to another. Everything is related to create a society where people with magic are evil.

The question doesn't always lead to a world, as is the case with my new story about Joshua. However, sometimes I just get a really good idea for a world. In this case, in the back of my mind had been sitting a world without any characters, without any plot. A world Joshua became perfect for.

I don't want to give away the details of the world, but there are a couple of points to be kept in mind when creating a fantasy world.

  1. You don't want it to be cliche. Most fantasy worlds take place in a medieval environment. Change it up a bit. Think about other time periods.
  2. Technology, technology, technology. Make sure its consistent. You can change the way technology develops--allowing certain things to develop before others. But you need to think about it. You don't need to be a technology expert, but just remember: you don't get interchangeable parts from blacksmiths.
  3. Location. How do you make your fantasy world not cliche? Maybe you shouldn't place it in the equivalent of England. Where do you live? Maybe your fantasy world should take place in the fantasy equivalent of Colorado. For a unique fantasy environment, I recommend Brent Week's Night Angel Trilogy. It's certainly not in England anymore.
  4. Clothing. Seriously. Clothing should not be overlooked. This can help make your world unique. Maybe it does take place in England, but in an England with an Indian culture. So you're people are wearing saris or dhoti.
  5. Government. There are many types of government in the world, and you're not even limited to what actually works in our world. Take two governments and mush them together. Be creative. Look at ancient governments like Republican Rome, Greece, Carthage, China, Egypt, and even Biblical governments.
  6. Religion. You can't really ignore it. All societies on Earth created some sort of religion. It doesn't have to be central to your story, but religion affects the way your characters think and behave. Even if your characters don't believe the religion, the fact they live in a society with that religion in it, will affect them. Fantasy writers can't really get away with ignoring religion. If you want to ignore it, write SF.
  7. Culture. How do men treat women? Are they equal? Different? Does your society have distinct classes? Or is everyone equal? How do they treat their elders? Their children? This can and will tie into both religion and government. Everything is connected and that's the way it should be.
Really this is all to say you should just think about your setting, your world, your society.

Take the time. Make a story bible. Think about it. And make your world unique.

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