Archive for the ‘World Building’ Category

I was reading various news articles yesterday and I came upon one about a naturally occurring eternal flame burning behind a waterfall – and science has no idea how it is produced.  Which got me thinking about how a place like that would fit perfectly in a fantasy setting.  Fantasy worlds often have places of wonder in them, where strange phenomena produce all manner of natural marvels.

Now given that they are rare and unusual, even for fantasy worlds, they would attract attention, and any visit there is not likely to find the place abandoned, unless in a really dangerous and out-of-the-way place, and not always then.  Consider the climb up Mt Huashan in China, arguably the most dangerous tourist walk in the world.  People have been travelling along narrow plank walkways hammered into the side of cliffs for 700 years there.

So even the most remote places of wonder could have visitors.  You could have hermits and mystics and pilgrims there, merchants taking advantage of it to make a profit or even villages and towns built up around it.  Consider something like an eternal flame.  Maybe an enterprising dwarf tribe has set up there and have used it to power their metalworking business.  Free fire means lesser costs coupled with superior dwarven quality.  A win for all.  Well, the dwarves at least.

So when creating these places of wonder in your worlds, consider how the locals would react to it – and how they might try to make a profit from it.

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As a history buff, this is the kind of thing I find interesting – beneath the Sea of Galilee in Israel, a massive, mysterious stone structure has been found, and no one is exactly sure as to its purpose.

It is also big – 70 metres across and 10 metres high. It was first spotted by sonar scan in 2003, and even a dive on the site hasn’t really worked out much about it, who made it, its age or purpose.

The full write up is available in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.

As a writer, I like scattering such unknowns around my worlds, random monuments to past ages and cultures that remain mysterious and unexplained.

I have started a new section of the website that will explore the various nations and cultures of Sharael, having a brief look at their histories, appearances and more.

To start it off are the Maedari, about whom I mostly write. Strangely, though they are prominent in all the stories, I haven’t written one yet set in Maedar.

I will be slowly adding to this – and there are a lot of nations and cultures to add.

Professor Halir Ashford. Historian, Explorer and Adventurer. One of the favourite characters I’ve written so far. And a character who really shouldn’t have existed beyond a minor mention. It happens from time to time; characters take on a life of their own and demand a bigger say in things.

His story starts back with a novel I was planning (but never got around to starting). I needed someone to introduce the main character (Heric ‘Harry’ Ban, likewise a character that came about unexpectedly) to the adventure, and so I came up with Halir. he had been a friend of Harry’s father back during a war and was now a professor and historian. The novel was abandoned and the character would have been forgotten except for another novel I started sometime later, Winter Wolves.

Winter Wolves was my first serious effort at plotting and then writing a novel, and was designed to be a showcase for the setting and for Harry Ban. I even managed to complete a round draft. There was a need for a character who would draw Harry into events, and for that I went back to Halir and brought him along.

Though I finished the rough draft, I never got around to fleshing it out, instead, as is my want, I moved onto other projects and suddenly Halir took over somewhat. He got himself two lengthy short stories, Gifts and Sacrifices, and The Tomb of the Tagosa Kings, and then he got himself a full novel in which to star – Tears of the Mountain – which is the first novel I’ve completely properly.

It won’t be the last that Professor Halir is seen either.

Dragons are a ubiquitous element of fantasy. They are one of the first things most people would think about when the word fantasy is said to them and it is quicker to list fantasy series without dragons than it is to list those with them in it.

Dragons are also rather varied, with many authors putting their own take on it. TVTropes says it best in their Our Dragons Are Different entry – this trope deals with big (maybe) strong (possibly) scaly (sometimes) flying (perhaps) fire-breathing (at times) lizard (usually) monsters (traditionally).

Normally I’m one to buck typical fantasy elements but I have to admit that there are dragons in my setting, though as with others I’ve put my own spin on them. Dragons in Sharael are vast and powerful and ancient. And seldom seen. They also don’t have to deal with knights, their traditional foe, as knights never have (and never will) exist in my world. They also appear a little different than your standard dragons. While the fit the large scaly reptilian clause, they are based on a lizard native to Australia – the Thorny Devil, also sometimes called the Thorny Dragon. As the name suggested they are covered in thorns and coloured in shades that help camouflage them in the desert.

This is what one looks like.

Imagine one of them much, much larger and with wings and you have an idea what they look like.  If only I was a decent artist I’d give one a go….

Of late I’ve been making good progress with the rewrite of Tears of the Mountain, averaging two to three thousand words a day. Until last week, when I got sick.

Nothing terribly major, just the latest head cold that was going around. Unfortunately it stuffed my head up good and proper so that my brain decided it was a good idea not to do any thinking and my work rate plummeted putting my schedule way behind. Even after recovering enough to get back to writing it took me a while to get towards being back to speed again.

Writing for me is a bit like driving a car. Once you get out on the highway you cruise along smoothly and keeping up a good output isn’t that hard. However when you stop for whatever reason, you have to work to get back up to speed again.

It did get me thinking about sickness though in stories, especially fantasy stories. It does crop up now and then but is not really nearly as prevalent as it should be in a pseudo-medieval setting. Health was not all that good back then – medicine was as much superstition as anything. Plagues and diseases regularly swept through regions as things like causes and hygiene were unknown. Sailors got scurvy. Soldiers were more likely to die of diseases and sickness than in battle. Modern problems like obesity weren’t as common, being more restricted to the nobility who did have plenty to eat.

Of course the standard answer is that ‘magic did it’ in response to health issues. There would have to be a lot of magic healers on hand to deal with everything though, and it is more likely only the nobility would see them.

It does bare thinking about in terms of my world, that more people should get sick in the stories.

Trolls are one of the more interesting mythological and fantasy creatures to play around with, mainly because they are such blank slates.

While Elves are Elves (pointy-eared, long-lived, hang out in forests), Dwarves are Dwarves (short, bearded, live underground and dig up stuff), Dragons are Dragons (big, reptilian, flying and fire-breathing), it is not the case for Trolls. All Trolls Are Different as TvTropes put it. The reason behind that is because mythological they were so varied that it allows each author to put their own unique slant on them.

There are two that are my favourites – the trolls of Discworld and the trolls of Warcraft.

Discworld trolls use the more common stereotype of the big dumb troll, but not for obvious reasons. They are made of stone, with diamond teeth and silicon brains. The warmer the temperature, the slower their brains work until they can practically turn to rock in very hot weather in the daylight. In optimal conditions (ie very cold) their brains work much better and one troll, Detritus, almost worked out the Grand Unified Theory of Everything while freezing to death. Detritus is one of my favourite Discworld characters. A minor character at first, first seen working as a splatter (like a bouncer only much harder), he eventually joined the City Watch and ended up a sergeant.

Warcraft trolls are much differnet. Tall and lanky, they walk hunched over and speak in Jamaican accents, mon. They also sport tusks and mohawks, are incredible ancient and once had empires stretching across most of Azeroth, practising head-hunting, voodoo and cannibalism (though they got very good at it, so don’t need to practice anymore). The only word to describe them, as a die-hard Hordie, is awesome. And they get to be druids in the expansion – yay trolls!

I’ve been wanting to work trolls into my world for some time, but as yet haven’t found the correct form for them. I want them to be uniqueish, with my own slant on them, but not a clone of something I like. I’m thinking of folding them into the more traditional roles that elves fulfilled – forest dwelling creatures who are highly magical (which would explain their regenerative properties given the way magic functions in my setting), but obviously not looking like elves (or warcraft trolls.) Hopefully I can finalise the details before too long.