Part One: OverviewSo, I decided this week to talk about creating new worlds. This applies mostly to Fantasy and SciFi stories but I'm sure every one can take some of these tips and use them in all manners of writing.
No matter what we talk about this week, the thing that you must remember over all is that it must be believable. If you make up a location and a world, the reader must be able to believe that somewhere it could be possible. That is why this week I will go into great detail about building a new world.
There are so many things to our own way of life of how we name places and people, government, money, and even how we dress - so why wouldn't other worlds have these same things?
Do you have to go into ridiculous detail of history and politics for your new world? Not necessarily. We'll discuss this more over this week. Again, it all comes down to balance and the point of your plot. If you plot does revolve around political conspiracy, then yes you will need to know a great detail about the government of your world and how it works and operates - then ultimately how to bring it down or defeat it.
However, even if your novel doesn't need all that political stuff, you still should have a general idea of government for your new world. As an example, in "The Faery's Tale" the faery kingdoms are ruled by a monarchy - King and Queen. I did a lot of research about nobility titles and how they are passed down or granted. While it is not a huge point in my story, I wanted the titles of the characters to be as accurate as I could. I took that knowledge of the monarchy and made up my own system for the elves. I do not mention the specifics of government necessarily in the story, but again, accuracy is the key. If I had a person who was "Prince, Duke of Something" I wanted to make sure I had the right family member bear that title. (Which by the way, is the second son of the King and Queen.)
This type of research goes into all areas of making your world. Even language comes into play here! No, you don't need to go as far as Tolkien and make up an entirely new language. But think about how your characters would talk - or what language they would speak (even if you don't know it). The dragons in "The Faery's Tale" talk like people did in Shakespeare's time. So I had to do research on that. The faeries do speak another language but I don't need to make up words to show that really. It's a matter of word choice. My characters don't use the same slang or curse words we do, so I have to really concentrate on what I am writing and what they are saying so that I don't slip up! Again, research could be good here.
I have another novel where the characters sound British to me - but how do I convey a British sounding accent without using the word "British"? My husband provided the idea that they should use common British slang to clue in the reader! How genius! But as an American I had to again do research to find out some British slang terms.
If your kingdom has a large shipping port, you must do research on that to learn the proper terms for ship parts and maybe even a bit on docking procedures - depending on how much time your story takes place at the docks.
More to it than you thought huh? It's the little things that make a new or made up world believable! This week I'll talk about many different things that layer together to make a new world. Like I said before, you don't need to go overboard in the story to explain their government or religion unless it is prevalent to the plot - but if you have a character who does pray - how would they do that? What Deity would they pray to? That part you need to at least figure out. What about myths a character might tell their children? That's a story in and of itself!
Don't panic! We'll cover a lot this week but you'll find it really is easy to do! Just need some research and a big imagination!
Part Two:CommerceCreating a new world involves many layers of information that you need to know so that when you write your story, you know every detail.
Think about all the different types of currency in the world - Dollar, Pound, Marc, Franc, Yen, Euro, Pesos, etc. When creating a new world, what type of currency would they use? Silver Pieces? Paper bills with the King's picture on it? Are there different types to represent different amounts? Like Gold Pieces are more than Silver Pieces, etc.
Now you don't need to go into a huge amount of detail here really, as money is usually just a side thing that characters interact with. However, it still requires a little bit of thought. In my novel "The Faery's Tale" they have three types of coins A gold herty, a silver yanta, and a copper jute. I had to decide what they were made of and how much they were worth. In my notes I compared them to US dollar amounts, but only for my benefit. In the story, I don't mention that at all, merely say at certain points (maybe a grand total of 7 times) how many coins the characters hand over to a shop keeper or how many the gain after selling something.
But I needed to know the amount they compared to in order to make sure it stayed logical in the story. At one point they pay for a room in a tavern that was 5 copper jutes per person but then they charter a boat later in the story so I made it that they paid 3 gold hertys. If I had not figured out how much they were in amounts I could understand, I would have messed up both those interactions with payment amounts that didn't make sense.
What sort of jobs would your characters have? This goes in tandem with what sort of class system you have set up and what sort of kingdom/country the character lives in. Think of major trades.
If you look at the world (or for even smaller, the states of the US) each state has something that predominates the economy as far as jobs are concerned. Maine and Alaska are known for its fishing type of jobs. The midwest (Nebraska, Kansas, etc) are known for farming. So what about your country and the surrounding countries? Are they predominately miners? Farmers? Sailors? Lumber jacks?
Why would this be important? Well what sort of occupation would your characters have and how would that affect them? Does the main characters family farm as is the norm, but he or she would rather do something else? That can cause some conflict! There could be a scene where their job plays a major role in the plot (like a blacksmith being able to make weapons for the revolt against the King or something!)
Trading with other Countries
Okay, now this might be going a little bit too detailed, but if you do have a story that centers around politics and relationships with other countries, it is important. It can also help to determine jobs and such for characters that the main ones meet during their travels.
So say the main country of the story is predominately miners. They could trade what ever it is they mind with a neighboring country for cotton or something like that. This then can relate back to the previous part about characters and their jobs. If a miner travels to the neighboring country, most likely he'll run into a lot of farmers or sheep ranchers - for the cotton.
This is just logical as it is rare that one country does everything it needs to sustain itself. And even if it does, it's good to trade with others in order to have peace and allies. Again, this might not be hugely important but it is still something to think about as you write your story. It could have a huge impact on characters and how they interact with each other. It's just another layer to your plot and characters - a small one perhaps, but important to get that realistic feel when creating a new world.
Part Three: Government and ClassYour story may not need a huge amount of research for this part, but you do need to figure out a little bit so that you can get titles, jobs, and position correct for your people.
There are many different types of government: dictatorship, republic, democracy, monarchy, communist, etc. Depending on your story you may only need to look up certain aspects of the government system or you might need to have a full understanding.
Like I said during the overview, in my novel "The Faery's Tale" I had to do research on titles in a monarchy. I didn't have to go into full detail about how a monarchy works politically, but I did need to know exactly how titles are passed down and rewarded.
My research allowed me to then make up my own system for another group of people and another novel. Once I had an understanding of how the title system worked, I was able to fiddle with it and make up my own system with my own titles.
If your story centers around government and political power, you'll have to do more research than that. I know that many fantasy/scifi writers out there are saying "Well I can just make it up so why research anything?" Well, in my opinion, I don't understand how you could make up a full system of government if you don't have at least a basic understanding of some form of government in the first place - especially since there are so many different systems out there. Find one that is similar to what you want, research it until your comfortable, then tweak that system to fit your needs. This will help you describe the people in your story and what they do. For example, if you have a governor of a certain region (state) but you want to call him something other than a governor - you'd still need to know what a governor does in relation to the rest of the government system.
Research is never a waste of time - and even in Fantasy and SciFi you need to do it! You're story will be SO much better if you do.
Many government systems or styles of people have a class system - the upper class or the rich and the lower class or the poor. This can be split up into more levels if you like. In my novel "The Story of William Archer" I have the Trade Class made up of blacksmiths, carpenters, etc., the Merchant Class made up of shop owners and business people, the Political Class, the rich but usually the lower end of the scale (like the smaller titled nobles such as Barons), then the Noble Class made up of the nobles, obviously.
What about your world? Where would people fit into a class system? Research on this can be very helpful as well as throughout history class has changed drastically. You can use a class system from history or make up your own, as I have. But, I needed to have an understanding of class systems and how they work first! Sure, I could have gotten away with just making stuff up on this one. It is possible to have a class system work reasonably well without any knowledge of other class systems. However, research will help you create a more BELIEVABLE system and make it work in tandem with the government system! It would be awful to have a class system and a government system that didn't work well together!
Yes, research until you go cross eyed! Okay, not everyone will enjoy that as much as me I'm sure! I love doing research and learning new things so this part is fun for me! If it's dragging for you that's okay. Just remember that in the end, your story (that you do love) will read much better, be more accurate, and read smoother if you take the bit of time to research first. It's WELL worth it in the end!
And for those that are looking at this weeks schedule going "Oh my God, I'll never write Fantasy or SciFi!" Please don't be discouraged! I am going into a huge amount of detail for this blog posts trying to cover every possibility you could encounter in a story. The end of this series, I'll give you a "Worksheet" to use when creating a new world. You'll see that it's really not that hard when you think about it! So - don't freak out just yet!
Part Four: Military & WeaponsThis entry is going to be pretty general as you can go SO many ways with it - the main point here is research! Know what you are talking about!
Military is military! Yea right! There are different ranks in different branches of the military for one thing. And there are differences between say the US Navy and the other navies of the world. This depends on people and technology. If your characters are in a third world country, it is unlikely that they would have a huge army with a full navy and air force at their disposal. But if you have a major power (government research again here!) then you would have a large military force.
Not every story will need to do research for this. It depends. I have a notebook of just research notes that has a list of military ranks (for each branch - Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force). I don't use them all the time but I did have to use them when I was writing "The Kinir Elite". As the title states, they are a band of warriors thus a form of military. I had to do research to figure out what rank the hero of the story would have being in charge of this group. Of course, since they are elves I didn't follow the chain of rank exactly but I couldn't have done it at all without a bit of research into how the military works.
Then of course, the Military has it's own lifestyle, slang, and attitude. I grew up with an Army Dad so, I knew a little about that already but not everyone does. For this research I suggest talking to an actual military soldier. Internet research is great and can give you some great information but nothing like the real thing! I call my Dad quite often with questions but you can call or get in touch with any one in the armed services. Every town has a recruiters office that can help you with basic things of the military (especially with what certain units or jobs entail). I would love to be able to talk to a British soldier just once (no my stories don't require this, but I'd still like to just once!). But I'm weird like that I guess - besides, I could always use it in a story down the road right?
Talk to people as much as you can and don't be afraid to ask questions! Every interaction has the potential for being written about! Seriously. Don't discount anything that happens to you or is said to you by another person. You never know when it can be used again!
Name 5 weapons right now! Sword, Dagger, Pistol, Rifle, and Axe. Guess what, there are different types of each one of those! I love weapons but even this sort of research gets pretty boring, really fast. I'd rather learn hands on than read about it!
Knowing the weapons that you characters use is very important. Even if it's hand to hand combat, you need to learn the moves, the style. (Boxing, Karate, etc) There are SO many different things you could spend a week just on this topic and probably not make a dent in the expansive list! So be selective on what you are looking for (like don't google search "guns", you'll get a bazillian links - research rifles or semi-automatic rifles - something more specific to what you want.)
Think about all the possible weapons your character could carry on them. In my novels, it usually consists of a sword or a bow of some sort. Daggars are a must. In "The Story of William Archer" I even have some black powder pistols come into play. So I have done extensive research on swords, daggers, bows, and recently black powder pistols.
The best thing about this is usally my research also uncovers the history of the weapon (which may not have anything to do with my story, but I still like to know - it's interesting) and it also tells how the sword is made and how strong it is compared to other things. That gives me a reference point when writing. Or maybe spurs a scene with a blacksmith/weapon maker - gotta know how they are made before I can write a scene about it right? Exactly. Knowing the strength of the weapon gives me a reference point so that when he hits the blade or whatever against something, I know what will happen to it. (A broken sword could mean trouble!) Researching black powder pistols I learned how hard it was for people to keep up with the weapon as any moisture in the powder would prevent the gun from firing! Every little detail that gets you really intune with a weapon is great - you can write a better more realistic fight scene, the more you know the weapons your characters are using!
You never what hidden gems you'll find during your research. I went looking for some more indepth information about Medieval Knights Code of Honor and found a treasure trove of information about the Medival Ages - clothing, lifestyle, nobility titles, castles, weapons, food, etc. I mean it had every thing! I went on a copy and pasting and printing frenzy today people! Sure, I may not have needed all of that right this second, but I could just see the potential for having it. I mean - castle terminology - super important to me as pretty much all of my novls medieval style castles in them. Details about a Knights armor - also important to my work. I just found stuff that I never thought to look for, but realized I really should know about! It was a great day!
Part Five: Religion & TraditionsContinuing on with this series, today we are talking about religion and the traditions that often go along with them. No, not all traditions are rooted from religion or faith but some of them are.
As is always, there are many different types of believe systems and religions in the world. But what about in the world of your characters? Do they have many religions or maybe just two or three? What about one "religion" but each person choses a seperate God or Goddess to dedicate themselves to?
Research here can be really fun, especially when you can take your basic understanding and turn it into a brand new, made up religion! In my story "The Kinir Chronicles: Book 1", right in the first scene I bring a deity into the picture. No, the diety is not an actual character, but Tyn makes the sign of Rosis the Goddess of Death on his chest. Rosis is someone I made up, off the top of my head - really at the spare of the moment. Tyn is a very religious or spiritual type of elf and so I had to do a bit research and a bit of imagining to figure out how his faith reacts. He is very concerned about death and even if he is reponsible for the death, he still says the Death Rites to Rosis, etc.
Now, in that particular instance I did not have to have a full understanding of every aspect of a faith or believe system. However, your novel might. Writing about corruption in a church? A rogue priest? An evil nun? Then you'd really need to know how it works in detail. Once again, even if you are making up a brand new concept out of your head, you really should have an understanding of some of our own religions in order to have it make sense or to have yours be relistic and convincing - powerful.
Even in "contemporary" novels, if you talk about religion, you have to get it right! One thing I absolutely hate is reading a novel where the author has totally messed up the belief system. Yes, I know that the character might not know or have their prejudices - but there is a tone and phrasing that makes me zero in on the fact that the author really doesn't know what he's talking about. Details are missing or something - I'm not sure what it is but regardless - I hate ignorance and stuidity. As a writer, if you don't know it as truth, then I don't think you should write about it. Yes I repeat, everyone is entitled to their own opinions and they can hate one religion or whatever over the other. It's their right. But and I stress the but here - how can you realistically hate something that you know nothing about?
Life is full of funny and sometimes odd traditions. I tend to lump traditions together into four categories - Birth, Graduation, Marriage, and Death.
Now within those four you can split it up more to have specific traditions for different reasons. Birth comes with birthdays, sometimes baptism, and for boys circumsicion. Graduation deals with anything from graduating high school to completeing a military training course to simply completing something worth celebrating about. Marriage is of course - marriage, anniversaries, the joining of families, etc. Death is just that death. There are many ways to die that can bring about different sorts of traditions.
So, once you have a basic religion set down for your characters, what will the traditions be and why? The Writer's Academy" used to have a lesson that talked about this. This is what I said in the lesson.
Simple example – do they call it a funeral or a death ceremony? In my novel “The Faery’s Tale” they do not get ‘married’ at a ‘wedding ceremony’ they have a ‘union ceremony’ to be ‘united’ to one another. That is simple in the fact that you changed the words but they mean the same thing.
The real imagination comes into play when you change the format. A real life example would be the difference of traditions between the Christian Wedding Ceremony and the Wiccan Handfasting Ceremony. They are both ceremonies of marriage but are quite different in many ways.
Another example between funeral ceremonies would be like modern funerals where the person can be either buried or cremated but in certain cultures during the medieval ages they would send the body down the river then set it ablaze with a flaming arrow. It is up to you weather you would like to use a tradition already available or make your own.
When it comes to births – do they have baptisms and if so at what age? What types of blessings or prayers are given to the child? Do they celebrate as we do with gifts on the birthday or not?
Use your imagination! Make it so that on the birth anniversary of a child that the parents and grandparents are given gifts from the child in thanks for teaching them life’s lessons. (I would not mind that myself!) Alternatively, make the wedding tradition be that the bride wears neon pink because the goddess Fruitcake of Weddings and Children likes the color pink! Whatever you want is golden!
No matter how silly or serious you want it to be, the main point is to have it make sense. Don't throw out there that the bride wears grey and leave it at that. Explain why since for most of us here on Earth, that is against the "norm" so your task is to make it the norm!
Part Six: Race & StylesMoving forward with this series here, I have good news! Part of this post does not require research! *confetti falls* Really, when you see the worksheet at the end of this, you'll see it's not as complicated as it sounds. I'm just going into major detail here and giving your examples. So it seems like a lot, but it really isn't.
This part requires no research! The wonderful thing about Fantasy and Sci-Fi is you can make this part up entirely from your imagination! The hard part is deciding what they look like and keeping it consitent and logical. Obviously you would have a dominent "look" but remember that races and genes get mixed all the time! So keep that in mind a you write and make up new characters. People are not always cookie cutter - well unless that is what you are going for, but it you'd have to explain why or your reader will think you're crazy.
In my novel "The Faery's Tale" I have one race of faeires that have green skin, antennae, no wings and most of time red hair. Another race, that lives under water, have purple skin and fins intead of wings. A third race has horns, brown skin, and dark hair and eyes. In the "Adventures of Ryn and Ciyme" I had to think of races (or even species) for dragons, lizard people, and humans! It is great fun to create new races of peoples! I find great joy in it, which is probably the main thing that spurred me into the fantasy genre.
The "research" I did was really image searching to find something to inspire me. I printed them out and put them with my notes to keep reminding me of the vision. You don't have to do this if you don't want to - I did during a slow moment when I was stuck in order to get the writing going again. It spurred three new chapters!
This may or may not require research on your part. What I mean by styles here is what people wear - how they dress. Again, logic is important here. You wouldn't want a group of people living in the desert wearing heavy wool sweaters!
All of my novels have clothing styles based on medieval style of clothing. I don't know why really, I just love the dresses they had back then. So I did a little bit of research to make sure I at least had the terminology right for certain headdresses and such. But you don't have to do this. It's your world so make them dress how you want them to.
I also do image searches to find images that inspire me. I print them out and put them with my notes of course. It goes a long way to make sure I stay consitent within a story and to really cement in my brain what my characters have on at any given moment.
The only other time I ever did research for this are was to determine the differences between a dress for a noble or rich woman and a dress for a poor woman. It varies greatly I have found - at least for the medieval ages period. Even still, a little tiny bit of research here could help if only to give you some inspiration and insite into what people wear.
Part Seven: Locations & MappingI have good news - this post doesn't require any research either! But it does require a bit of work and thought. What? You think this is easy? It is really, just takes a little bit of time to figure out that's all. It's well worth it to have your story make sense!
I'm sure there are other great map making programs out there, but this one is really versitale. You can even make layouts of the interior of buildings! Like the layout of the castle or someones room. It has icons and textures for everything you can think of!
I used to hand draw my maps but it was really hard to do. I give anyone major kudos that can do this. For me it was the point that while writing I would decide I needed another city plotted on the map or I had to move a city to the other side of the country. That would require me drawing an entirely new map! Which took time that I just didn't have. With the map makers, I can easily just click and paste a new point or move one around, save, and print. Takes much less time to update it that way.
These two really go hand in hand for me. I can't really decide how far apart cities are until I make a map, but I can't make a map until I have a few points figured out. I update my map numerous times as I write so that it stays up to date and I don't get lost in my own world.
Part Eight: Weather & ClimateBy now, you have a lot about your world figured out! But now comes a part that I think many people overlook or don't pay much attention to - what is the weather like in your world?
On our planet, the further north or south you go, the colder it gets because those places don't get direct warm sunlight. But what about on another planet or in another world? Would that same rule apply? What about the seasons? How do they change if at all?
Before you freak out - I'm not going to give you a lesson about revolving planets and cycles of the seasons and all that. Just keep those lessons in mind as we continue!
So, yes, we have different types of weather and climate depending on where you are in the world. You need to figure out how your world works too. Is it a cold planet because their sun is far away? Or a hot planet because it's so close? Does magic or supernatural events play a role in the weather? In "The Faery's Tale" I have one country that is winter all the time because the faeries that live there need to live in cold climates. They used a spell to make it winter all the time even though they neighbor a country that is mostly warm throughout the year. You need to figure all that out for you story too.
Now, you may never actually mention that "this country is this way because of this". The reader may not need to know that specific information. I don't mention that my winter country is that way because of a spell. I didn't feel that I had to as everything else in their world is magical so why not that too? But your world might be different. You may need to say at some point exactly why the weather is the way it is. The planet is hot because it has TWO suns. You don't have to say it exactly like that either. If your world does have two suns, then just mention it in a side point like "She felt baked as both suns shone down her." You get the idea.
Once that is figured out, you can logically have other weather things happen. Like rain, thunder storms, monsoons, tornados, hurricanes, etc. Hurricanes occur over large bodies of water so a country by the ocean would be affected by them more than a country surrounded by more land. Do you HAVE to have a hurricane in your story? Of course not. But if you do - you need to know information like that.
Not every scene you have needs to make a mention of the weather. But I still feel it is something over looked. Especially when it comes to new worlds that are made up, weather should be an important factor. I mean, another world would have the same general things as ours right? So the weather and the climate are still important. It can really help you make a scene or cement the lifestyle of a race of people. Think of how all this relates together - it is a warmer planet because it has two suns. So they have two main religions, one that worship the greater orange sun and the other worships the smaller red sun. And so on...again, the worksheet at the end of this week, will help you see how it all works together to make a convincing new world.
As a side interesting note - just a little tid bit to leave you thinking as you go plan your world's weather conditions: I heard that tornados in the southern hemisphere turn in the opposite direction than tornadoes in the northern hemisphere. (Not sure on the accuracy of this, but I still find it pretty interesting. I do know that the toilets swirl in opposite directions, so it makes a bit of sense.)
Part Nine: TechnologyI think that this part requires the most research of all when creating your new world. There are so many different levels of technology from our own history to get inspiration from - and then you can even mix and match!
In all of my stories, save for one or two, I have the technology similar to the medieval ages. No indoor plumbing, no electricity, horse drawn carriages, old style ships, etc. So I have had to do a lot of research on ship terminology and different sorts of carriages.
That may not seem like a lot but what without electricity how did they light their way? Depending on what time we are talking about there were candles, oil lamps, fire places, etc. I did research on candles once to find out what they were made of back then, how they were made, and how long they would burn! I wanted to be as thorough a I could. I was even able to put it into a scene as a side thought of the character. In trying to think of anything else than the character's current crisis, she began to clean her house and realized she needed new candles because they would only last another day or so. So while I didn't go into a huge detail about it, it was nice to now that when describing the room earlier with the "melted nub of candle sticks" I was pretty accurate.
Water is really important! How did they bathe back in the day before we have indoor plumbing? Those who were able to, would have a maid (or the Mother or wife) fill a HUGE tub (usually made of wood) with water heated from kettles on the fire. I learned this through research of course. It adds some great scenes in my stories on how much of an effort it is for the characters to enjoy a warm bath.
What about drinking water? Wells with the bucket on a chain! Squeeky water pumps that sat in the middle of town. Again, these types of things could make for great scenes in your story - a conversation around the well or someone is thrown down it! All sorts of scenarios can be cooked up with a little research to learn how things really were back in the day.
And then of course what about futuristic? Well this requires a different sort of research. You can make up your own futuristic technology - like flying cars or whatever - but it must be believable. This is where research into what cars can do today and what say planes can do today can be good. How could you put them together to make a flying car? Does the car have wings that retract when it's on the ground? You don't have to go into a huge amout of detail - like that the wings actually fold underneatht he car and cause issues with bumps in the road - but the reader needs to have enough information to believe it's possible.
I know some sci-fi writers that don't explain anything at all and just say the name of the advanced thing. This can present it in a believable way as it sort of just says "Yes, it's real cuz here it is." This can be an effective way to write futuristic technology but it needs to be handled a certain way. I recently read a book called "Hope's Folly" by Linnea Sinclair and the book mentions something called a "Carver-10" and a "Carver-12" In the context of the conversation about these items, you know that they are hand guns without the author going into a ton of detail about why or they're made of. In Star Trek, you have "Photon Torpedos". Well everyone knows what a torpedo is, and for those that aren't Trekkie fans or science majors that KNOW what a photon is, it's still enough to make your brain clue in that it's something "not normal in today's society" or as I say "futuristicy".
So even with making up future worlds a little bit of research is needed so that the technology makes sense - espeically if you only going a few years into our own future. It's 2010 right now so how much would we really change by 2050 (without a catestrophic world wide event of some sort)? But if you go into say 3050 - things could change drastically.
All in all, as I've said before, it's important to KNOW how things work before you can write about them with any real intelligence. That sounds harsh I'm sure, but it's true. I recently spent an entire afternoon researching about piracy and a pirates way of life. I probably will not use every single bit of information I read, but I do have a clear understanding of the lifestyle and what they did, and why. I can now write an effective character or plot with that information. And that's the key with Fantasy and Sci-fi -- well any story really -- have a clear, and accurate, plot.
Part Ten: Names & LanguagesAre you excited? It's the last part of this series! Well sort of. I will sum it all up tomorrow and give you a worksheet sort of thing, the one that I use, when creating a new world. You'll see that it's a bit easier than you think.
I mean naming the locations and places in your story, not your characters - although this could apply depending on how you want to work your story.
We did talk about ranks in the military and noble titles and this plays along into it a bit but more specifically. If you have military ranks and noble titles - but you made them up, why did you choose the ones you did? I read a novel once where soldiers added a prefix to their last name to show their rank. It changed their last name entirely. If I remember correctly, the prefix was a letter or two with an apostrophe so it would look like this : Last name: Palmer, with rank Ni'Palmer.
When it comes to naming or making up your ranks and titles, what reason did you use them? Were they chosen by some historical event or after a deity? (Like "Knights of the Goddess Harley" have a special way to show their status or something, that differentiates themselves from regular Knights.)
Now naming your towns and other locations (and even your characters) where do the people in your world draw inspiration from? The Gods? History (famous people or events)? A little of both? Knowing this bit of information can add a bit to your story and how the characters interact with their world. In my novel "The Story of William Archer", the towns are named after famous military heroes that fought for the country of Ollur when it was first established. Now, this does not have any real bearing on the story plot it self, but it does have importance to William. He loves Ollur and it's people and having him think of the wonderful history that made the country really cements to the reader how much William cares for his country. Your story may have the deities come into play which could tell the reader how your character has a strong faith or perhaps how the country itself feels about faith - as in the entire country holds faith and religion to a high importance.
This gives a huge clue into what type of people are in your story - what drives them. Like with William, he is driven to protect Ollur - and it's rich history - from a tyrant King. So, I had to make up little stories about the history of the country.
No, you don't have to do this! So don't freak out. It is just one more layer that you could add. Your story may not need this layer at all. In "The Adventures of Ryn and Ciyme" I just made up the names with no particular reason why. They were just a way to label the places the characters went to.
No, you don't need to make up an entire language like Tolkien did for his elves in "Lord of the Rings". You could yes, and I give you huge kudos for doing so! It's hard to do - I've tried and epically failed.
That being said, I'm sure you're wondering what I mean. I read a lot of fantasy and scifi novels that perhaps only make up a few words that cannot be "translated" into English. This can include things like drinks, food, other objects, or ideals (like honor or faith or love).
You could also use another language that is not your own! In "The Kinir Elite" I have Latin sprinkled throughout the story. Derac, is the captain but Kie calls him "Centurio" which does mean captain in Latin but is for a captain of a huge battalion not a small group. I also use the world "salve" for "hello or greetings" and a few other common things. I also have a phrase that the Elite say to one another at the start of the mission that basically says "Live Slow, Die Fast" (loose translation - supposed to really convey the meaning to enjoy life but do not suffer in death) - but I write it in Latin each time.
Also, in the "Faery's Tale" I don't ever say any words in the faery or elvin languages but I do make mention of the difference. When the faery's are with the elves, obviously they are speaking two different languages so to tell the difference I simply say "she said in faery". So the reader still knows what is said, but the other characters in the scene don't. (This is the novel where I tried to make up a new language and failed miserably.)
There are a few different options as you can see to show language without making up a new one. Again, you don't have to do this in your novel, but I do want to ask you this "Would an alien race from another planet or dragons in another world speak the same language as us?"
Part Elevent: World Worksheet
Yes, it's the end of the series - officially. We covered a lot over the last few weeks and I'm sure some of you are freaking out! That much information to research oh no! It's not as bad as you think, seriously. Your story may not require all of the things that we discussed and even if it requires all of them, it is really easy to research, especially with the worksheet I created. It at least keeps me from forgetting something that is important to the story.
I used my novel "The Story of William Archer" as it required me to fill in most of this information. The rest of it I made up based on the story for this post. The italic parts are my little notes for you to refer to, hints and things to help you use the worksheet. I also reference things in my research notebook, enclosed in brackets [ ]. This allows me to fill out this worksheet without writing my notes down twice. If you don't have a research notebook, I suggest you get one - or you can reference file names that are on your computer if you don't print them out.
*Kingdom/Country Name: Ollur
- copper kiln - $1,
- bronze tellik - $10,
- silver kelit - $50,
- gold frellik - $100
Trades: (common trades that the country is known for) Ship building and weapon making
System: (what type of government rules the country) Monarchy [see notes, pages 12-16]
Class: (where do people fit?)
- Merchant Class - shop keepers, tailors, etc.
- Trade Class - blacksmiths, carpenters, farmers, etc.
- Political Class - Barons, Knights (non-military), Viscounts.
- Noble Class - higher nobles like Dukes, Marquees, Earls.
Military: (repeat as often as needed)
Type: Royal Guard
- Rank: Guard (Name)
- Awards: Royal Rose Medal (valor), Royal Star (bravery above and beyond)
- Weapons: Pistol & saber
Type: Royal Navy
- Rank: [see notes pages 5-6]
- Awards: Royal Star (bravery above and beyond), Aquarian Award (after famous Naval General)
- Weapons: Pistol, saber, cannons (on ship)
Weaponry: (here you can say commoners and nobles but I say each class of people)
Merchant Class: simple pistols, crude swords, daggers
Trade Class: simple pistols, crude swords, daggers
Political Class: the best pistols, rifles, swords, daggers
Noble Class: swords (useful but mostly for show), daggers, some may carry their own pistols
- God of Water and the Sea, Illiat (you can also make a note of what their “sign” looks like, like the Sign of the Cross)
- God of War, Trellin
- Goddess of Fertility, Nephina
- Goddess of Earth and Farming, Ollura
Beliefs/Superstitions: gifts to the gods bring good fortune, not blood offerings, blood or live sacrifices bring bad luck,
Myths/Legends: Illiat, the God of the Sea – similar to the legends of King Tritan of the merfolk, (you can add more here for each of the deities in your story, but I’ll stop with just one to keep from boring you.)
Traditions: (I just made small notes here, but you can or may need to show more detail. I didn’t put all information here, again to not bore you)
Birth: Each year celebrate “birth anniversary” for one week until the age of 16, huge party for “sweet 16” for both girls and boys,
Graduation: Two day celebration
Marriage: Bride and Groom wear colors of their family, altar is decorated in both colors with the family crest (grooms) embroidered on it,
Death: A day of silence followed by a day of great celebration; color of mourning: red
Skin: light, peach colored
Hair: brown, black, blonde, purple
(add any other details about their race, like if they have pointed ears or horns or attenae, only 4 fingers, etc)
*Styles: (list for all classes and males, females, and children)
- Males: simple tunics and leggings, boots,
- Females: one layer dresses, simple belt, sleeves hug wrist, hair pulled up but no head piece,
- Children: same
Trade Class: *will also wear special clothing for their trade, like aprons
- Males: simple tunics and leggings, boots,
- Females: one layer dresses, simple belt, sleeves hug wrist, hair pulled up but no head piece,
- Children: same
- Males: Tunics with family crest embroidered on the chest, leggings, leather boots,
- Females: two layer dresses (tunic and under dress), loose sleeves, hair pulled up with beautiful clips,
- Children: same, girl’s hair pulled into braids with colorful ribbons
- Males: Elaborate Tunics with family crest on chest, expensive trimmings, leggings, expensively made boots with some sort of decoration (like fur on the cuff),
- Females: two layer dresses (tunic and under dress), billowy sleeves, hair held in exquisite head wraps and veils,
- Children: same, girl’s hair styled in curls or under a veil,
Located: North border: the ocean, South: Country of Welish, East: Country of Betern, West: Country of Martyn
Cities: Port Illiat (capital), Trellin, Rentin, [setting sketches pages 1-2]
*Technology: [see notes pages 20-21, 24-26, 27-30]
Names: Cities are named after Gods and famous military heroes
*Language: English with Ollurian accent (sounds like British), [see notes pages 43-45]
So as you can see, I only refer to my huge research notes a few times. The other stuff I made up or used other research notes to make up my own information. It's not as hard as it seems if you look at it this way. At least it isn't to me. I was able to fill in this page in about an hour, with very little research. Granted I already had a lot of research done, so I guess I could say it would take a day or two to fill out this entire thing.
Remember that your story may not use every single one of these points! (So it may not take you quite as long, just depends on how much extra research you need to do)The bolded titles with an asterix are the ones that I think are required for every story, but you can pick and choose as you like.
Part Twelve: MagicI know I did a long series earlier about world building, but I think it needs a revisit. I forgot one very important element in any fantasy series - MAGIC. (How on earth could I forget that? I know!) I made sure I talked about technology (especially for the sci-fi folks out there) but totally spaced about magic! *facepalms* I am so ashamed!
Magic in Society
How does magic work in the society you have built? How do people view it? What types of magic do you have? What are the rules to using magic?
Let's answer those questions one by one.
How does magic work in the society you have built?
- Where does the magic come from? Inside the characters? Outside?
- Do they have powers or can they use spells? Do they have both?
- Are they born with a power then develop it or do they choose for themselves and learn it?
- Who has magic? Everyone? Only a select few?
Once you have this figured out, you have to put it into your story without just saying it. Do you have someone just learning their magic? What does it feel like to them? Explain how the magic works that way. It is much better to show it through a characters view than to just write it all down in an 'information dump'.
Why would only a select few have magic? Is it because they are a woman or a man or a certain race? Think about all the different reasons (or created tension) caused by only a select few having powers for whatever reason. Then of course, you can always make the exception to this rule! (Like in a society where only men have magic - suddenly have a girl have it! *gasp*)
How do people view it?
- Is magic frowned upon? Punishable by death? Hefty fine for using it?
- Do people need to pay a tax to use magic?
- For those that don't have magic - how do they feel about not having any?
- For thos that do - how do they feel about having it?
Magic that is frowned upon could cause a lot of tension for a story. A magical revolution! What if in the situation above where only men had power but suddenly a woman did? How would everyone react to that? What sort of uproar would that cause?
It's easy to center an entire plot around magic but it's not the only way to write a fantasy novel. In 'The Faery's Tale', their magic is not the main plot - it is a side plot in a way as I have one character who was born without a power - and thus is tormented by everyone else for being different. Others stories have magic just the common place with the plot and subplots focusing on other things entirely. It all depends how the author wanted to write the story! That's the great thing about fantasy (well writing fiction at all really) you get to make it up!
What types of magic does your world have?
- Chaos and Order? Black and White? Good and Bad?
- Elemental? (Fire, Earth, Air, Water)
- "Mundane?" (Magic can be found in every day things too! Cooking, sewing, gardening, etc - think of how you can turn that into something MORE magical.)
What are the rules to using magic?
- Do your characters become tired when they use their magic or do spells?
- If they used them too much could they hurt themselves - even die?
- What about the ramifications of using their powers for "personal gain?"
- How long must they attend school/tutoring before they are allowed to use their power without permission or supervision?
- Do they recieve some sort of sign (medallion, tattoo, etc) that show what level of power they are?
- Is there anything that can prevent them from using their magic (besides other magic)?
When I say "prevent them from using magic" I don't mean laws or rules that say they can't but something that physically prevents them from using it. Iron is a popular element to keep a person from using magic. (Like Kryptonite to Superman!) Would your world have something else? A certain gem or plant? Another type of metal? How does your character react being around the object? Do they get sick or could it kill them? Pain? In The Faery's Tale, my faeires become nauseous around iron and a little 'off balance'. Slow reaction time, a bit of dizzyness, etc. If they try to use their power around or while touching it, they could die.
World building is an intense process - I know. But it's so worth it when you hash out the tiny details before, trust me.