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Mendalla
Posted: Thursday, December 3, 2020 10:19:03 AM
Mendalla
Rank: Forum Facilitator

Joined: 4/23/2014
Posts: 1,256
Location: Somewhere amongst the trees
World building is something we all do as writers.

For s-f and fantasy writers, it is part of our bread and butter. Creating imaginary worlds is a staple of the genre and the best fantasy and s-f often relies as much on successful world-building as plot development and characterization. Sometimes, the world is even more interesting than the story.

But even writers of "realistic" fiction like historical romance or contemporary thrillers build their world to some degree. They may research history or geography or culture extensively, but they do it with a view to creating a setting and context for their characters and stories. Liberties may be taken and hard decisions made about what to keep and what to change in order to suit the story.

Since I am primarily a fantasy writer on here and have been working on a world for some time (before I joined SS, in fact), I thought I would kick off this thread to discuss worldbuilding as part of the writer's craft. I will talk about my own work, but invite everyone to chime in with their thoughts and what they have done with regards to "building worlds".

First up, to set some context, the Stories Space stories that fit into my fantasy world (to date):

The Night of the Wind

The Goddess Dances

The former is an actual adventure set in that world with characters I have plans to come back to. The latter is basically one of the world's myths, and I will likely reference Talala and Tantovar in future stories.


The Goddess Dances - Winner - Cheers to 10 Years Flash

The Berry Girl - Third place - Summer Word Bank
Mendalla
Posted: Thursday, December 3, 2020 10:45:55 AM
Mendalla
Rank: Forum Facilitator

Joined: 4/23/2014
Posts: 1,256
Location: Somewhere amongst the trees
I also had worked on a "horror universe" in the vein of The Cthulhu Mythos at one point, too, but kind of let it slide. Still it could come up here.

The Cthulhu Mythos is an interesting example of worldbuilding, though. H. P. Lovecraft did not set out with a definitely plan. He just wanted to have a sense of something bigger behind his stories so started dropping names and odd references to fictitious books and places. The locations, like Arkham and Innsmouth, were mostly drawn from his life. Arkham is mostly Providence and Salem, for instance. The names were sometimes made up (e.g. Cthulhu, Shub-Niggurath), sometimes borrowed from older works (e.g. Hastur). Most importantly, though, he left it as an open-ended shared universe. Friends and fellow writers like Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Henry Kuttner, and Robert Bloch used Lovecraft's elements in their stories and Lovecraft in turn borrowed elements that they added for his stories. In one memorable exchange, Lovecraft gave Bloch permission to kill him off in one of his stories (Bloch's first published story, IIRC) and then killed Bloch, under the alias Robert Blake, off in The Haunter of the Dark. Bloch wrote a further followup but IIRC, it did not come out until after Lovecraft's death put an end to the game. Basically, it was ad hoc worldbuilding and each writer kind of had their own take on it.

And so it continued, with various writers like August Derleth, Lin Carter, Ramsey Campbell, Brian Lumley, and even Stephen King borrowing from and adding to the Mythos. Derleth did try to codify it for a time, but that just made it less interesting and later writers tried to move away from Derleth's ideas.

Of course, it is pretty much the opposite of the worldbuilding in fantasy, which is often quite rigorous and carefully developed. Look at all the publications the Tolkien estate has got out of just compiling all J. R. R.'s notes and unused bits regarding Middle Earth. And George Martin has clearly put in a fair bit of time on A Song of Ice and Fire.

The Goddess Dances - Winner - Cheers to 10 Years Flash

The Berry Girl - Third place - Summer Word Bank
Mendalla
Posted: Tuesday, December 22, 2020 7:16:06 AM
Mendalla
Rank: Forum Facilitator

Joined: 4/23/2014
Posts: 1,256
Location: Somewhere amongst the trees
T. S. Eliot once wrote, "The naming of cats is a difficult matter. It isn't just one of your holiday games."

World building, especially in fantasy and s-f, can be like that. Unless you're a linguist like J.R.R. Tolkien (who knew and studied a number of Nordic and Germanic languages in his academic life), coming with names that sound like they belong together without have a whole made-up language to work with can be a big job.

I have been trying to keep the made-up names for my fantasy world kind of organized without going to the effort of making up whole languages. I am kind of going for a Hellenic sound for some, but others have gone more Germanic or English.

The name of the town in Night of the Wind, for instance, began as "Eversham", aiming for a rural English feel. Except I then named the fictitious city in my real world fiction "Eversham" as well and decided it fit better there. So I needed a new name. Having "gor" and "gar" as city name ending already, I decided that must mean "community" in the Tymuri languages (Tymur is the Northern continent of my world, kind of a mash-up of Europe and North America geographically). Madrygor has long been a major city in my imagined world, for instance. So, I came up with Avenigar. Does that mean something? Probably. Nethandra knows what though.

And I have no idea how or when I came up with the name Nethandra. It is the name of both the chief deity, a mother goddess, and the world in these stories. It has been in my head for so long, I really don't know the origins anymore. However, I have wrestled since with naming other deities, originally thinking they should all end in "dra" or similar. And I am still thinking that her consort, the sun god, will have a name along those lines though I haven't named him in a story yet. But I strayed for other deities I have used in stories, such as Denytha (the moon goddess and the patron of magic) and Talala (the "Dancing Goddess", patron of the arts and the city of Tantovar) so that convention is out the window now.

I could go on. I am even no longer entirely happy with the name of my protagonist, "Dev Jackalbury". It was was conceived when I had Avenigar as "Eversham" and meant to sound vaguely, but not quite, English. Does not quite fit that anymore, though, but I will live with it and sort it out sometime. He's not from Avenigar anyhow, but grew up further North, which I haven't really detailed beyond it being a rough, rugged region where a lot of their mineral resources are mined.

Enough for now. Any thoughts on naming things and using "made-up" words and languages? Ideas on how to keep the words feeling "real" without making up an entire language?



The Goddess Dances - Winner - Cheers to 10 Years Flash

The Berry Girl - Third place - Summer Word Bank
Rumple_deWriter
Posted: Monday, December 28, 2020 8:29:25 AM
Rumple_deWriter
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Joined: 8/24/2011
Posts: 837
Location: lost in the ozone west of Apache Junction
Good topic, Mendalla. They got me to thinking about Terry Pratchett's 'Discworld' the flat planet resting on the backs of four elephanbts standing on a giant turtle hurtling through space. Within that framework, he developed different lands, technologies, cultures, races, and species. Some of them are at least sorta human others less so: trolls, dwarfs, igors, along with vampires and werewolves who swing both ways, so to speak. among others. Obviously, I'm a big fan.

Over the years, I've cranked out two still unpublished novels. One is set in NYC while the other is in a small to medium size rural town. For me, the land was as big a challenge as the characters but I enjoyed doing both.

Hope you can continue with this thread and some others join in.

glasses8

OF WAR, AND PEACE, AND MARY BETH: my contest winner, honest

For Whom the Good Tolls an 'RR' and it's short, no kidding[/url]

Mendalla
Posted: Monday, December 28, 2020 8:34:23 AM
Mendalla
Rank: Forum Facilitator

Joined: 4/23/2014
Posts: 1,256
Location: Somewhere amongst the trees
Rumple_deWriter wrote:
Good topic, Mendalla. They got me to thinking about Terry Pratchett's 'Discworld' the flat planet resting on the backs of four elephanbts standing on a giant turtle hurtling through space. Within that framework, he developed different lands, technologies, cultures, races, and species. Some of them are at least sorta human others less so: trolls, dwarfs, igors, along with vampires and werewolves who swing both ways, so to speak. among others. Obviously, I'm a big fan.
glasses8


Strangely, I have never read much Pratchett, even though my late buddy Mike was a huge fan and I did read and love Good Omens, which Pratchett co-wrote with Neil Gaiman (of whom I am a big fan). Of course, world-building is one of Gaiman's fortes as anyone who has read American Gods (he wrote the novels and is an executive producer on the TV show) or the Sandman comic series knows. Gaiman is, IMHO, required reading for anyone planning to write fantasy in the 21st century. His works are so far beyond the "medieval people on a quest" stories that have been the stereotype since Lord of the Rings came out and go into some amazing worlds. Even his nominally children's-YA novel Coraline (it's one of those kid's novels that adults can enjoy, too) has some incredible world-building going on.

I am still toying with the societal and tech level of my world. I don't really want the usual quasi-medieval fantasy and I seem to be leaning more and more into Renaissance with a classical touch. For instance, the character in the story I started today plays a harpsichord (I use the Franco-Spanish name clavecin just for flavour), which is late Medieval to Renaissance in origin.


The Goddess Dances - Winner - Cheers to 10 Years Flash

The Berry Girl - Third place - Summer Word Bank
gypsy
Posted: Tuesday, January 5, 2021 5:49:45 AM
gypsy
Rank: Forum Facilitator

Joined: 10/13/2010
Posts: 1,970
'If the aliens lay eggs, how does that affect architecture?': sci-fi writers on how they build their worlds


Interesting article in The Guardian on the world building topic.

And some great insight from the various sci-fi writers interviewed.

So this might be of interest and help those of us who are a bit uncertain (me, for example), of what world building can entail.




The subject who is truly loyal to the Chief Magistrate will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures. Junius



Mendalla
Posted: Tuesday, January 5, 2021 6:07:50 PM
Mendalla
Rank: Forum Facilitator

Joined: 4/23/2014
Posts: 1,256
Location: Somewhere amongst the trees
gypsy wrote:
'If the aliens lay eggs, how does that affect architecture?': sci-fi writers on how they build their worlds


Interesting article in The Guardian on the world building topic.

And some great insight from the various sci-fi writers interviewed.

So this might be of interest and help those of us who are a bit uncertain (me, for example), of what world building can entail.


That's an impressive list of writers. I read Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice (never got around to the rest of the trilogy) and what an impressive universe she built for that. Transhumanism, space opera, military sf, and even a bit of cyberpunk. The main character is an AI downloaded into a human body. They used to be the brain of an entire ship but shit went down and they ended up with the body of one of their soldiers. Have not read any Reynolds yet, but have heard good things about him in sf circles. Also does transhuman space opera.


The Goddess Dances - Winner - Cheers to 10 Years Flash

The Berry Girl - Third place - Summer Word Bank
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