I AM THE CREATOR OF WORLDS! AHAHAHA! (Getting Lost in Worldbuilding)

Discussion in 'Tips and Tricks' started by Lauriam, Apr 5, 2018.

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Which Worldbuilding topic do you want me to address more fully in May?

Poll closed Apr 30, 2018.
  1. Environment

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  2. Magic Systems

    25.0%
  3. Races

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  4. Religion and Mythology

    25.0%
  5. Politics

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  6. Language and Names

    12.5%
  7. Diversity

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  8. Architecture, Music, and Art

    37.5%
  9. Economy, Export, and Trade

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. Lauriam I hope I didn't keep you waiting...

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    As some of you may or may not know, I'm currently in the process of writing my first book. Well, I say 'Writing,' but I don't have a single word on paper yet. Because right now, I'm having a blast building my world. You see, my story is a fantasy novel, and it takes place in a strange world of magic, under two moons, and let me tell you, this process of building the world is both exhausting and strangely exhilarating, and I'm loving every (frustrating) minute of it. XD

    There are so many things to think about when building a world, and they're all of them critical to the story, even if you wouldn't at first think of it. From the simple things, like tides, to the big things, like magic, it all plays into the narrative, and is, in fact, the cornerstone of any fantasy novel. Imagine Lord of the Rings without the Norse-like country of Rohan, or Harry Potter without the House Elves and Goblins. Even works outside of fantasy need good worldbuilding, like in sci-fi or dystopian genres. Star Trek without the honor of Klingons or the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition would just... be dull. XD Any work of fiction that either takes place outside of the modern or historical world - or that takes place in the real world but with an added element of magic or mysticism - needs some good worldbuilding in order to turn it into something special, rather than a carbon copy of the real world with elves and dwarves thrown in.

    Worldbuilding is so diverse and intensive that I barely know where to begin, and there are so many aspects to each category that I could fill several guides with it easily... In fact, I think I will. In this thread, I'll briefly touch on each category I'm working on in my own worldbuilding process, and then I'll put a poll in for which ones you want to hear about first, and I'll start working on those topics for my next several guides. And if you have any specific questions you want addressed in said guides, feel free to post them here, and I'll talk about them, 'kay? Sound fun? I think it sounds fun. XD So, onto the worldbuilding!

    1. Environment

    The environment is something people don't tend to put much thought into - it's basically the equivalent of discussing the weather, after all - but it's an incredibly important aspect to the world, and will probably help to shape the cultures in ways you didn't think about. For instance, the world in my story has two moons. Which means that the climate is naturally much colder than on earth, and the tides are brutal. In addition, a moon-cycle calendar system would be vastly different than our calendar, so the concept of a year will be drastically different for my world than the concept of a year on earth. The arrival of the second moon is also relatively recent, which means the world went through some massive seismic activity within the past several thousand years, creating volcanoes and fault lines and other, real world stuff. All of this environmental knowledge will let me play around with inventing new animals, plants, and world cultures based on the cold/volcanic/seaside countries peopling my world, and gives variety to an otherwise one-toned world.

    2. A Magic System (Can be synonymous to mystical forces or sci-fi pseudoscience)

    Hand in hand with the environment is the magic - after all, what is magic but an extension of the world itself? In Harry Potter, magic is something certain people are born with the ability to use, making it a sort of biological thing...? I guess? While in works such as Star Wars, magic (in this case, the Force) is a form of energy that flows through all things, and is able to be directed by those attuned to it. In the best worlds, magic directly affects the world in which it works, rather than just being "earth plus some people can levitate stuff." Consider Avatar, frequently held up as an example of excellent magic in worldbuilding. The ability to bend is a clear part of the culture, with certain jobs (like doing the freaking laundry, of all things) made different by the magic system of the world. If your work has a magic system in place, the magic should be a part of the world, instead of an afterthought.

    3. Races

    Races go hand-in-hand with a fantasy novel, and let's face it, they've all been done before. Elves, Dwarves, Fairies, Giants, Fauns, Centaurs, talking mice, it's all been done. And unless you plan to invent a completely new humanoid life form called a Speezleblork with two heads, three eyes, and a language comprised of blowing and popping bubblegum, you're not going to escape from the precedence set by those like Tolkien or C.S. Lewis. That doesn't mean you can't make a race all your own, though. It's all about playing with preconceived concepts about the race, and changing things to match your world. This is especially easy if you already have an environment and magic system set in place. For example, one of the several races in my series is a race of Star-Elves. Now, to properly set this up: There is an all-encompassing magical force in my world referred to by the people as the Spirit of Magic, a semi-sentient, somewhat "Deus Ex Machina" energy force that likes to save people when disaster strikes. So, several thousand years ago, an asteroid crashes into the Western half of the elven lands, and nearly destroys thousands of people. The Spirit of Magic intervenes, and not only saves the Western elves from certain death, but changes their physiology, an unintended side-effect of the wild, untamed magic the Spirit of Magic possesses. Now, the Star-Elves are fundamentally different from their Eastern relatives, both in appearance and in their ability to survive in the new environment created by the fallen asteroid. They've adapted and evolved into a new race.

    4. Religion and Mythology

    Part of building a new world is setting up new mythology and religions for your races to know and believe. Every culture in the world has these things, and our world is literally built on them. Our planets, our days of the week, our months, even our spiders are all named after gods and figures from mythologies such as Greek, Norse, and Roman. Our holidays hail from a variety of religions and customs; pagan, christian, social tradition, or often a mash-up of any combination. Our parables and idioms themselves often hail from religion and mythology: Everyone knows the warning story of Icarus, and the "writing on the wall" is a direct reference to a Bible story. Your world should mirror this; there should be stories that everyone knows, phrases that everyone uses, and things or places named for the gods the indigenous people serve or had served in the past. There should also be many religions in your world, with majorities and minorities and balances of power and a direct impact on the people of the lands. And this brings me to the next point...

    5. Politics

    Politics are genuinely fascinating, even if they are scary in the real world. XD We're not talking about the real world, though, we're talking about YOUR world. But politics should exist there, too. And I'm not just talking about the governments you set up, although those are a branch of it. But when I say 'politics,' I mean the general way people interact with each other and the neighboring kingdoms. Do you have a religious majority? How does this majority affect the laws of the kingdom(s) in which it's based? How does it affect the way the people of said kingdom do business? Is religion a cause for war among some of your nations? Is a religion the cause for a civil war or secession? Or, moving away from religion, how do the races in your world view each other? Is there a "superiority" race that looks down on the others? Is there a race facing discrimination from many others? What kinds of 'slurs' will your races have to face? Which of your characters are likely to butt heads over bad blood between their ancestors? These are things to think about when building a world, as it will, again, make your world seem more real and less... invented. XD

    6. Language and Names

    Now, if you're like me, you've gone all-out and are like "I'm gonna actually write brand new languages like Tolkien did, and all the names will be from that language!" But if you're really like me, you'll spend ten years telling yourself this and come out of it with only vague concepts of what they might sound like, because you don't even have the time or motivation to stick with your Duolingo Portuguese course, let alone create six new languages from scratch. XD But even if you don't go the Tolkien route and build brand new languages, it's still important to have a basic sound-profile for your races. Something to give their cultures distinction from each other. For example, I've got characters from one nation who have names like Khash, Sahndra, Sahr, and Mahlik. Harsh sounding words with lots of ah's, k's, and s's. I also have characters from another nation with names like Arta, Malera, and Ilia (have to put that in a new font because of I and l, lol) and I have characters from another nation with names like Doranian and Teralyn, and so on and so on. Giving the different races and cultures their own distinct sounding names will make your world diverse.

    7. Diversity

    Speaking of diverse, another thing to keep in mind when building your world is diversity. Now, we've already got some of this settled, if you've built your races, religions, and politics correctly, but it never hurts to address it specifically. There's more than one kind of person in the world. There just is. And there should be more than one kind of person in your world as well. Your world should be built of many different kinds of cultures, beliefs, skin colors, political views, and sexual orientations. Otherwise, it isn't just bland, it's also playing into the problems our own world is facing regarding misrepresentation or no representation at all. And, to throw in some personal incentive, you'll reach a wider audience with your work if you actually, you know, aim to please more than one audience. XD You gotta be careful, though, when writing for real-world races or minorities you're not a part of, because if you try to include another person's problems and you do it wrong, you could cause more harm than good. Fortunately for us privileged folk, there is such a thing as a Sensitivity Editor, a person who you hire to read your work and tell you if something you say is offensive or problematic. But yeah, even in fantasy worlds where you make up your own races, you still need to include diversity. Don't make all the Speezleblorks pink, okay? Green Speezleblorks are people too. XD

    8. Architecture, Music, and Art

    These things are much harder to incorporate into written works, when you'll have to describe everything with words and people don't usually appreciate heavily descriptive paragraphs informing you that the building the MC is entering is super cool. But they are still a part of the culture of the world, and you should have ideas for what these buildings will look like when you sit down to write that MC as he goes into said super cool building. Some things to keep in mind when approaching architecture, music, and art, are the other aspects you've already built: Religion, Environment, and Language. Remember that Architecture in the real world is built for two purposes: Looking nice, and surviving the weather. Your buildings should have a unique style distinct to the race that built them, but they should also be able to stand in the kinds of weather your world will throw at it. So, in a harsh winter setting, no flat roofs. Seriously, I hail from a part of the world with moderately heavy winters. Lots of snow + flat roofs = both the roof and the snow might end up in the living room. XD Music and Art, meanwhile, are likely to reflect the religion and mythology of the setting, though not always. Music and Art could be excellent ways to show your people as free-thinking individuals, creating random or abstract art that isn't directly referencing the Destruction of Sauron, or writing songs about the everyday lives they lead, like Treebeard's song of his love for the wilds. It is possible to create Architecture, Music, and Art in a written work, it'll just take a little more creativity to fit it in than some of these other things.

    And so, there you have it! A brief breakdown of what it takes to build a real, breathing world for your novels! Like I said in the beginning of this guide, I'll post a poll for you guys to choose my next topic from among Worldbuilding, and if you have anything specific you want me to address, go ahead and post it here and I'll keep it in mind when I go to write my next guide!

    Thanks for reading! <3
     
  2. Lauriam I hope I didn't keep you waiting...

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    Soooo I forgot to mention a very important category. XD I'll add it here and to the poll. XD

    9. Economy, Export, and Trade

    What is the state of the economy in the various countries in your world? Are there trade relations between them? What is the main export for each country? These are three important questions to answer when building your world, and will impact your races more than you would think, as well as impact (and be impacted) by the other steps in your world. For example, my afore-mentioned race of Star-Elves were always meant to be an isolated race; living in a mountainous region (environment worldbuilding) rarely straying from beyond their borders and barely tolerating visitors to their own lands, (cultural worldbuilding) and their buildings make use of lots of metal and rock (architecture worldbuilding). Meanwhile, the human country my MC lives in has been plagued by dragons for several decades and so devotes most of their militia and defensive structures to defend against air attacks and fire, which means they need to use lots of metal and rock themselves, but they also live in mostly farmlands without many mountains. But the MC's country is supposed to be deep in debt, while the Star-Elves are supposed to be exceedingly wealthy. Geographically, these two countries are neighbors, so the solution was simple: The Star-Elves main export is mining, and they sell materials to the MC's country in exchange for crops and livestock - something the MC's country is struggling to keep from being burned by dragons, lol. So the country is running low on food for the people because most of what they've got is being taxed by the king and traded for metal and rock. Economy, Export, and Trade, there ya go. XD

    I'll add it to the poll now. XD