Saturday, September 11, 2004

Thoughts on creating a Fantasy World Part 1 - Starting Out and the Importance of Research

Before I get to what I want to write about Hurricane Ivan has been upgraded to a catagory five storm, my brother is stationed with the Air Force in Tampa. I'm hopeing he gets through this okay and is evacuated with plenty of time. Anyone in Florida or has relatives there I really hope you and your loved ones come through this okay. Three hurricanes in one month is just too much.

There's a lot I could say about building Diona, enough for a years worth of blogs (so you'll probably hear about this some more) and I thought I should share some of my thoughts, experiences and mistakes with you.

I first started creating Diona back in late 1999 or early 2000. Back then it was incredible simple and really not that good, I've since scrapped everything from it except the name and the map outline (Diona happens to be the name of a small village in the Sahara that I came across in a National Geographic article and I liked the name). Mistake #1 that I made was jumping into it with no planning or research, I sketched a map and thought "Hey, it'll be easy to fill up the world!" I was very very wrong. First of all I had no idea what sort of world I wanted, I knew I wanted mages, and magic critters but that was it.

David Eddings in his book the Rivan Codex says to start with a map. Now I don't think a map has to be the absolute first thing you do, it does need to be done very early in the world building process, because a blank map with just the continents and other geographical features is incredibly helpful for planning where to put different people and determining the borders of countries.

I very quickly learned that I am utterly terrible at creating names from nothing, the majority of the names I use are historical names from various cultures (Irish, Finnish, Icelandic, Old/Middle English). And names are very important, a lake on a map isn't that interesting without a name and of course characters need names. That was how my research for Diona started, looking for names. As I searched I started finding more and more useful information for world building and I realized how awful a lot of my stuff was, I had no real plan a lot of what I had was really unoriginal and some of it was just plain dumb, so like I said before I tossed most of it and started over. I made a long list of everything I needed and started filling it in, four years later there are still a lot of gaps in it and things that really need more detail and filling out. It's a work and progress and probably always will be, from what I've read Tolkien never stopped working on Middle Earth so I may never finish working on Diona.

The first thing I did when restarting was really start thinking about what structure I wanted for my world. By this point I already had the character of Noadi forming in my head and knew I wanted her to live in a small village of semi-tribal people not controlled by any kingdom. For her to live in an area like that it had to be a place away from more settled areas, mostly wilderness, etc. This led me to thinking about vegetation and climate, where should I put forests, jungles, swamps, plains, etc. so I started reasearching that, one thing just keeps leading to another area of research. Vegetation led to farming which led to how advanced technology should be and so on.

Currently I'm working on really nailing down how shamans work, I've been working on some runes, casting circle layout, shamanic drumming (easy since I play drums so I really couldn't leave it out), what spirits they can communicate with and how, what spells they can cast and how, how companion animals work. I've done a some of this before but now I'm really working on the details to get it right. Most of these details will never show up in Shaman but I can guarantee a lot of it will show up in my comic or art.

That's it for now, I have lots more to say but I'll leave that for future blogs.

Some helpful places to go should you be interested in world building.

  • World building resources is a list of world building resources, the page has been around a while so there are a few dead links but the majority of the page is great stuff.
  • Suite 101 Worldbuilding has several good articles on world building.
  • The Language Construction Kit has how to create your own invented language and alphabet.
  • Medieval Name Archive an SCA site with huge lists of names.
  • Fantasy Mapmaking 101 creating good maps.
  • The Rivan Codex great book by David and Leigh Eddings that has a lot of the background material on the world that created for the Belgariad and Mallorean and the introduction has a wealth of information in it. If you want to see how a pro writer creates a world check this out, I've reread my copy several times since I got it last December. However I would not reccomend it to anyone who has not read one of the books based in this world because it wouldn't make much sense due to the many references to the actual series.
Post a Comment