Medieval Demographics Made Easy

It’s common for fantasy stories to have a medieval backdrop – castles, men (or women) on horseback and fire torches instead of battery operated torches. Of course, writers don’t have to use this setting. They can do whatever they want, because it’s fantasy! That’s the beauty of the genre.

Anyway, by accident I stumbled on a great resource for those of you who do have a medieval type world (like me). The page is called Medieval Demographics Made Easy and I believe it will help anyone get started on a world that is believable.

30 Days of WorldBuilding

With my recent decision to scrap a couple of projects I’ve been working on, one in particular, I’ve been thinking about what projects I’m going to concentrate on now.

Not being one for working on too many projects at a time, I’ve decided to go with two manuscripts.  One is a much loved project that has been finished, but needs replanning and rewriting – The Marlinor Trilogy.  The other is new and different to what I’ve worked on in the past – the non-fiction children’s picture book.

At opposite ends of the scale, I think that will work in my favour.  There certainly could not be any confusion between the two as they are different in every sense of the word.

The non-fiction picture book is in the first draft.  I’ve been considering ways to make it entertaining for the intended audience and will put those thoughts into action once I’ve finished the book I’m reading.  I also need to complete my research on writing proposals in order to submit the project when it has been completed.

The trilogy is a different story.  It’s complex and, although I know the characters, world and plot of book 1, I need to plot out the other two books.  I plan to start again and rebuild the characters and the world, which brings me to the reason for this post…

The author of the following quote and subsequent link claims that if you put 15 minutes aside each day for 30 days, you can build a complete world worthy of your story.  She has written a post for each day in the form of an exercise where she gives an explanation of what you’ll be doing and why and then she’ll set you a task to do.  I haven’t checked the whole 30 days, but I believe this could be helpful in putting all writers on the right track.

And if you want to build a magical world, there’s a link to some extra information at the bottom of the sidebar.

A lot of times, people want to write a novel and think “I want to write fantasy, but there’s so much world-building I would have to do– I haven’t done any of it!” As everyone signing up for NaNoWriMo or any writing challenge quickly learns, this is really the self-editor speaking; it’s another way of saying “I can’t.”

So, give yourself 7 and a half hours this month– 15 minutes a day– to build a world. It’s not going to be Perfect or Set. Why would it be? You haven’t actually written the story yet, you haven’t tested its limits. But it’ll give you something to start with, something to feel comfortable about when you start.

via 30 Days of WorldBuilding by Stephanie Cottrell Bryant

Fantasy World Names

Yesterday I discovered that there’s an online fantasy game which uses the same name as my fantasy world. The fact that the fantasy game’s name describes the land is even more disturbing, because should my novel be published I wouldn’t want anyone to think I stole the name even though I’ve been using it for over 10 years and well before the internet existed.

So what do I do?

I considered changing the name but felt loathe to do so because I haven’t stolen anything and why should I change something that means so much to me?

But then…I came up with another thought (which is dangerous). A few weeks ago, I gave my fantasy world a complete new history. At the time, I never gave the names of the two kingdoms a thought but perhaps this is the time to think on that.

I’ve already got some ideas running around in my mind so I will give this some thought and let you know what I decide to do.

The Oliver Cromwell Website

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ll be doing a bit of research on a certain time period in history and The Oliver Cromwell Website has started me off on the right foot.

Naturally, I knew the name but I wasn’t sure of anything else. I’ve also been to the library and borrowed four books on the subject. They are children’s books but I prefer to start off with basic information and then build up from there. I’ve already learned a lot but don’t be surprised if I leave a few links to some of the sites I visit.

My World’s History

An editor asked this question: Why do your characters speak the English language?

My first reaction was: Because they do. Because I do. So what? Who cares what language they speak?

My second reaction was to go to my message board and ask the question there and see what people said. I will admit that I thought the reaction would be the same as mine…but it wasn’t!

The replies were mixed but the majority said that if my characters are in a purely fantasy world then it doesn’t matter. The reader assumes the story has been translated from a strange, unknown language into a language they can read.

But… if the characters are from our world, and they find themselves in a fantasy world… then a reason must be given. Mostly everyone said that the first thing (well, no, the first thing would be “where am I?”, the second would be “how do I get home?” and the third…) the character would ask is “why do you speak English (or whatever language the book is printed in)? If they don’t ask the question, then the character isn’t curious enough and the reader will loose interest in them.

OK, this reply proved to be a headache because my main character is from our world! This meant I had to rethink the history of my fantasy world. Why did they speak English? What could be the logical explanation? What was the easiest explanation?

The easiest thing to do is to say “magic did it” but to be totally honest, I feel this is a cop out. I know it worked for other writers (including Stephen Donaldson in Mordant’s Need) but I feel that today’s readers expect more. So I started writing down different options open to me. There was always an issue with each option that I came up with (or that someone else suggested) until… my partner gave me the perfect option and a writer friend helped me fill in the blanks.

After several days of stressing over this issue, I’ve found the solution. Not only will the solution work well for Book 1, it will make Book 2 much better than I planned.

No, I’m not telling you what the option is. You’ll have to buy the book when it’s published but I will tell you that I now have to research Oliver Cromwell. 🙂

Building a Fantasy World

It’s your story so why not create your own world.

Personally, the thing I especially like about writing fantasy novels is the opportunity to create my own world. The people and the place can be exactly how I want them to be because it is a fantasy world, I don’t have to follow rules. The world, as we know it, is shoved in a dark corner somewhere and a brilliant new world is built from scratch.

Some people hardly think about the world in which their story is set and just make it up as they go along. This, however, leave room for major errors unless detailed notes are taken along the way. Others have a wishy washy idea about what they want but nothing set in concrete. Then there are those that believe that this is one area of your writing that you should invest a lot of time and effort into. I fall into the last catagory and I really do believe that you will get a lot of personal satisfaction from doing it right before you start writing your novel.

During this process, you may discover that you develop something much bigger than you’ll ever use in your novel but that doesn’t matter. The more solid your world is in your own mind, the more you will be able to portray that world to your readers and the more believable it will become.

How to Get Started

First, ask yourself the obvious questions like:

Where will the story take place?
How much ground will the story cover?
What are the most striking features of landscape, climate, animals, etc. in this area?
How will these features affect travel time, communication, etc.?
Are there are non-human inhabitants and are there any areas they particularly claim as their own?
Is magic used by the people in general or by a select few? Maybe it won’t be used at all.

Go here for more world building questions.

The Map

This is important, you need a map. If your story stays in the boundaries of one house, you need to draw a floor plan showing each and every room, show windows, doors, hallways, staircases.

If your novel is built around a town. Draw a map of the whole town. Name the streets, show parks, shops, houses, alleys, local hang outs, schools and all other areas of importance to your story.

If your novel is based in a fantasy world. Draw a map of the entire world. Show lakes, rivers, towns, mountain ranges, you can mark explored and unexplored territories and any other areas relating to your story. Think about things like how many suns/moons circle your world, the fauna and flora, the animals and the seasons.

Preparing a detailed map before you start working on your novel makes it easier when you need to know where your characters are heading, or what you’ve said is at the end of the street, or what will be found in a particular room. Basically, it takes the guess work out of the writing and leaves you to concentrate on more important things.

The Inhabitants

Who or what live in your world? Are they three eyed monsters who only eat green leaves? Dragons who breath deadly vapours? Wizards who cast many a spell or just ordinary humans?

Make detailed lists describing each inhabitant and what their role in your story is. If you have non-human characters you will need to know what form they take. You could even draw pictures of what they look like but this is entirely up to you (and your ability to draw!)

You also need to think about basic things like how time passes and how distance is measured. Do the inhabitants think in terms of days and weeks, miles and kilometres or is their world governed by the passing phases of the moon and distances counted in leagues?

Cultures

There are many different people in our world and just as many different cultures so in your fantasy world it would be reasonable to say that the same thing would apply.

Referring to your list of inhabitants, define their individual cultures. Think about everyday clashes within the inhabitants as well as clashes amongst all of the inhabitants.

For example, if you have people that use magic but only a selected few have this ability – will there be conflict between the people who do use it and the people who don’t? Will the users feel they are superior? Will the other people (the non users) feel resentful? Now think about another race in your world, perhaps they live underground. They have their own social hangups with each other but they also want to enslave the magicians for their own reasons. Would this dilemma force the community who use magic to stand together or would the non-users turn their backs on their own kind?

Once you have decided these types of things, you will be providing yourself with a solid foundation for when you start building your character’s personalities.

Your Characters

You have a world and the final step you have to take is to populate that world with characters. You’ve already provided the basis of these characters by the conflicts you’ve decided on. Now you can start to build on their individual personalities.

Go here to find out more on Characterisation