Category Archives: • World Building

The pitfalls of bad research…

In my current story there was a country called Kelvar.

It is covered in dense forests and has a population of tree-dwelling people who have produced some of the most skilled druids on the continent.

Last week a friend of my mother saw a preliminary map of said continent lying on the table, read the word “Kelvar” and exclaimed: “You’re a Tolkien fan, aren’t you!”

Uhm, yes, I thought, I like Tolkien, but I would not consider myself a hardcore fan who can count off all the character names down to the horses. “Why?” I asked.

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The language you choose…

…determines the result of your story.

I’m currently translating fairytales, and I found that they have a very unique rhythm.

Just take the beginning and ending of a typical fairytale. It always starts with “Once upon a time…” and more often than not ends with “…and they lived happily ever after”.

Why doesn’t it say “A long time ago…” and “…then they got married, the end.”

Because then it wouldn’t be a traditional fairytale format, that’s why.

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Character Sheets

I’ve been introduced to the idea of character sheets for writing quite late into the process. I knew character sheets from gaming, where you record the strengths and weaknesses of a character, and note changes like level ups and so on, but for writing this never occurred to me.

I did have a list, though.

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Twisted Religions

Religions fascinate me from a storytelling point of view. Every real-life religion has a ton of stories. There’s a creation myth, exploits of the various gods or associated characters, and a bunch of tales to illustrate how one should or should not behave. Then there’s a code of conduct, a set of rules to be adhered to, and possibly a dress code.

Coming up with a religious system for a story seemed like a lot of fun. I’m thinking ceremonial hats and a holy scepter at this point, muahaha. No, but seriously, inventing a religion warrants some thought, as the beliefs of a character will influence how he or she reacts to certain things. Read more »

Aaarrgh, it’s gone!

I’ve misplaced my map.

Aaaaaaaah !

I have a map of the places where my Spice Trader stories take place, where I note their route as they go along, and draw in places that are mentioned or referred to, alternative routes, and so on. Read more »

Magic is fun!

There’s a lot to be read online and offline about the system of magic in world-building.

Alright, maybe not that much, but all of it is very interesting to me. I like magic. Always did. When I was little I was always in awe of fairy godmothers and sourcerers who could change the physical universe with a wave of their wand or a smart rhyme.

The success of Harry Potter and the popularity of Gandalf in recent pop culture just shows that I’m not alone there. But coming up with a system that makes sense in itself is an artform. Do wizards just know how to do stuff or do they have to go to school? Is using magic physically exhausting? Can you buy or sell magic? Can you use some magic but not other magic? Does it require a wand or a potion, or only the right thought or word?  Read more »

Accidental Race Creation

I’ve been busy world building again.

This time, I didn’t even mean to (honest!), it just happened.

I was writing away happily on the spice trader stories (which still don’t have a proper working title), when I quickly needed a character in a hurry. Usually I have no trouble coming up with random people, because most of the time they’re created to serve a certain minor purpose and don’t reappear again.

Seras needs to overhear something in a tavern, for example. Put two guys on the next table, make them discuss whatever Seras needs to discover to further the storyline. Give them faces, hats, cloaks, boots, throw in a mug of ale – done. Read more »

World Building: Why maps are so important

Every good story needs a setting. Whether that’s a real one (say, New York), a pre-made one (for example The Forgotten Realms) or a completely new made-up one.

Sometimes it just serves as a background for the story to take place somewhere. Sometimes it becomes an entire universe in itself (like Discworld). The important thing is to get it right. If your entire story takes place inside a roadside diner, does it really matter whether it is in Texas or in Iowa? But if your characters are tramping across a continent, you need to know where the hell they are, or you will trip yourself up. And your readers.

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