Posts Tagged ‘World Building’

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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From my earliest days, I have always been fascinated with exploration.  While that does include physical exploration, it is not the whole of it.  I am as much intrigued by the concept of it, the history of it, the future of it.

Lets put this in perspective.  There has been talk about the prospects of a manned trip to or colony on Mars.  For the later, it is pretty much a one way trip.  Chances are you will be there for a minimum of many years.  If asked I wouldn’t hesitate to say yes – though my fiancée may have words to me about that.

The prospect of being the first to step anywhere that no one has been before, to boldly go, to explore new worlds and lands, that appeals to me.  Whether it be the sailing the seas during the Age of Exploration, or colonising an alien planet, I would have loved to have been there and done it.  Sadly it seems I live in a period of time where there isn’t much left to explore – yet.  We’ve explored most of Earth and haven’t quite managed to make it to the next step.

It does also influence my gaming choices – I prefer games where exploration and building are at the heart of it, going out into new lands, finding new things nad places.  Games like Civisilation, Master of Orion, The Elder Scrolls, Mass Effect (mostly the first one though), Age of Empires, Total War and ones of a similar ilk.

And it does heavily influence my writing as well.  That is largely why I write – so that I can explore strange new worlds, to go places that haven’t been visited before, except in my mind, and to share them with other people.  That is what exploration is all about, going new places and sharing what you have discovered.  And fantasy and sci-fi are two of the best genres to do that in.

And maybe, someday when I’m old and they have found a way to visit alien planets, I may even get to step foot on somewhere new and see sights no one has seen before me.

This is  repost of article I wrote a couple of years back but I thought was worth brining back again due to the Olympics being on.

The grand final of Australian Rules Football (better known as aussie rules or footy down here in Australia) is on this weekend and it got me thinking about sport in fantasy worlds and stories. Man has played sports as long as they have been around – the Greeks and Romans had their Games and the origins of a number of modern sports such as soccer, rugby and cricket are centuries old. I was delighted to see in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World the sailors playing a version of cricket when they were on the Galapogas islands.

Many fantasy worlds and authors seem to glaze over sports – I guess that when you are busy saving the world there is little time to kick a ball around. Gladiator style games seem the most prominent, though other types of sports do crop up. Raymond E. Fiest has a soccer style game develop though a number of books, which is a nice touch, while other authors make up their own bizarre and often highly dangerous types of games.

In an effort to make a believable world I realised I had to include some form of sports to it. Of course, being Australian, this will be flavoured by what we play here, notably cricket and aussie rules (though most likely not exactly as they are currently played). Other sports will have to be played in different nations, so there is amble opportunity for other styles of sports and games to make appearances.

Speaking of aussie rules – I highly recommend people check it out of they can. It is a truly spectacular sport which is happily slowly gaining followings in other countries. Initially this was spread by the Aussie Diaspora but it is being taken up in numerous nations and now has proper amateur leagues in such places as New Zealand, USA, Canada, the UK, Denmark, South Africa, Samoa, PNG, Nauru, Ireland, Germany and others. It’d be great to see it become a major world sport – a dream I have if I ever became a successful author would be to actively support such moves.

In between working to finish off a couple of short story collections, I’ve been doing some world building for an epic fantasy series that I’ve talked of before – The Oncoming Storm. Back some time ago I made a solid start to the first novel (almost 60K words) but it has been sitting idle for a while, something I want to rectify.

In contrast to my other stories, it is a more traditional fantasy, set to have knights and castles and princesses and all that. Yet, as ever, other ideas and inspirations have come in that threaten to change things up again. One thing especially among that are the Polish Winged Hussars, one of the most dominant, and striking cavalry forces of their time.

For a view of what they looked like I found this youtube clip.

So, I’ve been wanting to add something similar to the setting, but somehow retain the knights and also another group, the Warrior Brotherhoods, plus various other groups, which has led to a varied mix, and also decentralised, make up of the setting. I think I may have figured it out as well.

The setting comprises a number of states that form a unified League – while semi-autonomous, they are under a High King. Each state has their own nobles, with their personal collection of retainers. Normally this is where the Knights would figure, but instead I’ve made them more like the old Military Orders, such as the Knights Hospitaller, the Knights Templar, or the Teutonic Knights – independent entities that owe allegiance to no state or noble, but operate across all of them. The Warrior Brotherhoods operate in the same manner, but are a precursor to the Knight Orders, and aren’t made up of noble born like the Knights. The largest of the states, Liantria, home to the High King, is the one that uses the Winged Lancers. The nobles and their retainers form the various units of the Winged Lancers, and when combined they are a formidable cavalry force.

And one of these days I’ll get it all written up and a story finished…

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.

Its odd to think that just three weeks ago this project didn’t exist. Since then it has all taken off; the two main character have burst to life, the world is building itself around me, the first two novelettes have been written (and are waiting on polishing/editing) and a third is in the process of having its rough draft written. There are even ideas for another seven novelettes. Not a bad effort.

It all started through reading a few things a few weeks back. I had started making my way through The Complete Chronicles of Conan by Robert E Howard again, and was also reading a few threads on some forums about favourite fantasy cities, as well as about how ebooks were a good thing for a resurgence of the shorter forms of story telling.

At the time, as mentioned in a previous post, I was thinking about my writing style and realised I preferred the shorter, pulp style. I was trying to work out a way of constructing a fantastic city that would work in a pulp series – my first thought was to slip it into the White Bull series, but I realised that it didn’t really fit the style. And so the idea came to me to start a new, proper pulp heroic fantasy series. Thus was born the setting.

It all started with the characters, as you would expect for the genre. They very quickly stabilised into view, though remained nameless for a short while. Carse, also called Blade, pretty much hasn’t changed since the first impression of him, that of a tall, languid man who was in part a dandy, but beneath that was a thief, an assassin and a dabbler in magic. Fianna, or Peregrine, did change from initial ideas. I wanted to go with a shorter warrior compared to Carse. The initial thought was to go with a dwarf, but that quickly changed as I decided to stick to a mostly human setting. The next idea was a swordmaiden who came from the wild hill tribes, a stark contrast from the civilised city dweller that Carse was.

Before I came up with their names, I was just using Peregrine and Blade to refer to them, which have remained as their nicknames. I have been waiting something like twenty years to use those names. Initially I gave them to a pair of rangers, way back in the day when I was young and ‘borrowed’ liberally from whatever at the time I was reading. Those characters vanished long ago, but the names hung around waiting to be used.

The next item was to come up with a city to act as their home base. The fist story I wrote saw the city spring to life. Much of it is yet to be explored, and I look forward to finding out more about what lurks within it as the stories write themselves. But beyond that there is the rest of the world for the duo to wander, to explore and to have adventures in.

As soon as I have the third novelette written I plan to bundle them together and make them available for people to read.

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.