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Category: Setting

Every story needs its own world

Posted in Artwork, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Setting, Structures of Earth, and The Affinities of Magic

Every story needs its own world and, if you're writing fantasy or scifi, that world has to be built.

I started Structures of Earth not quite two years ago, then put it on pause to write the Chained Adept series first (see background). At the time, I had a vivid image of the river town where the action was happening — the capital city for the country in which the story is set, rather the way London functions for England.

But where was that country, and what place in what world did it occupy?

One thing I learned from The Chained Adept — it's fun (and not too hard) to build a world map for a series and much better to do it at the start rather than to try and retrofit one after most of the story is done. That way, the “real world” constraints can ground the story and drive some of the plot logistics issues.

The world of The Affinities of Magic is a new world, and it needs its own maps. I took Fractal Terrains 3 out for a spin last night and started seeding the world settings until I found one I liked.

The world of The Affinities of Magic

Here's what that globe looks like if you unroll it, with a pointer showing where my temperate northern hemisphere initial city is located. (I haven't designated any national/imperial boundaries yet.)

One thing is already clear — there will be large differences between the cultures on the inner sea and those with access by water to the rest of the world. That inner sea may be 4200 miles wide, but it's still a restricted body of water, warm equatorial water, and the ecosystem in and around it will be unique.

See? That's something I didn't know before I generated this map. Hadn't even thought about it.

Read More Every story needs its own world

Maps are your friend

Posted in Artwork, Mistress of Animals, Plot, Setting, and The Chained Adept

One hemisphere of the world of the Chained Adept
One hemisphere of the world of the Chained Adept

There's nothing like a good map to keep you honest as you tell your story.

When you want to know if someone can ride from point A to B in one long day, without being mounted on SuperHorse™, then you need to know how close those two points are, and how much terrain a horse can cover in a day.

If you want to create a caravan that will make a regular circuit of more than a thousand miles of territory, better work on your mileage-per-day/days-per-market/days-lost-to-maintenance tables. Not to mention your fodder/grain/grazing capacities on the route vs the needs of the freight-carrying animals.

National or sub-national boundaries typically feature mountains or water hazards, not arbitrary straight lines (the mid-Western and Mountain states of the United States not withstanding).

Now, most of us use scraps of paper with just the bare minimum of information and illegible commentary, but I am cursed with the desire for reusability and just enough computer obsessiveness to want to make a “real” map, with real landscapes, for my fantasy series.

Besides, I can't draw worth a damn anyway, so it might as well be computer-generated.

Read More Maps are your friend

Building the world of The Chained Adept – Part 1: Maps

Posted in Fantasy, Science Fiction, Setting, and The Chained Adept

Writers of fantasy and science fiction books have special needs. Not only do we have characters to create from scratch, like every novelist, but we have entire worlds to build — not just the verisimilitude of the historical past, but entire planets, spacecraft, or fantastic realms. Our desks are littered with bad sketches of landscapes, terrible character portraits, and far too many scraps of idiosyncratic cosmogenesis.

You know who else has these problems? Dungeon masters.

Old school dungeon design software
“Old school” dungeon design software

The world of Dungeons & Dragons and subsequent games created a need for game masters, those referees who control the world of their game for their players, to make maps, create character cards, and so forth. Not surprisingly, there's an ecosystem of software to support this.

A couple of months ago, I invested in most of the software modules from ProFantasy and started playing around. I needed to design a complete secondary world for a new series, The Chained Adept, and it wasn't going to be modeled on Earth at the geology level (although I planned to keep the flora & fauna so that the readers wouldn't need to master an entire ecosystem of vocabulary).

I started by designing a planet, using Fractal Terrains 3. By providing a handful of parameters and tinkering with the results, you can create an infinite number of alien planets.

The World of the Chained Adept
The world of The Chained Adept

Read More Building the world of The Chained Adept – Part 1: Maps

Breaking the logjam

Posted in Characters, Setting, Structures of Earth, and The Affinities of Magic

LogjamMen
Sometimes I'm asked, “How do you come up with these invented worlds so you can write about them?”

I don't think that's the right question. I think the real question should be, “How do you make these invented worlds seem real?”

I'm working on Structures of Earth, the first book in the series The Affinities of Magic. I plan to write several books in this series, and I'm approaching the first book as the foundation story, the prequel to the long string of stories to follow. I have a plot and a team of characters, and a good bit of the book written, but for the last while my brain has been raising alarms, saying “Stop. Something's wrong.” Read More Breaking the logjam

Creating worlds – Heroic Fantasy vs Science Fiction – Part 2

Posted in Setting

Part 1 of this article is here.

In classic science fiction, the story is about an idea and its results. Given X, how is human society affected? If people lived forever, how would society change? If energy were unlimited and free, what would be different? If time travel were possible, what would that mean regarding alternate realities?

Some authors would do their darnedest to keep X as close to known science as possible. Hal Clement, for example would discuss at length the physics of heavy gravity planets and stars so that X would not be “fantastic” and he could explore the notion of a race of sentient beings evolving in those conditions. Other authors cheerfully threw physics out the window and just made up a few new rules (“yep, turns out we can read people's minds after all”) so that they could get on with exploring the results of X. As readers in the genre, we agree to accept the premise of X in order to explore the ramifications within the world of the story. Read More Creating worlds – Heroic Fantasy vs Science Fiction – Part 2

Creating worlds – Heroic Fantasy vs Science Fiction – Part 1

Posted in Setting, The Hounds of Annwn, and Works

I need to set the stage for this article first…

I go back a long ways. I remember the “paperback revolution” when I was a child because I could finally talk my mother into buying almost as many books as I wanted. Ace Doubles were just coming out, and I read more science fiction than anything else in my book-heavy childhood. I never went to school with fewer than 3 paperbacks, in case I ran out during the day. All this to say that I know my classic science fiction well.

Fantasy during that period, on the other hand, was largely a wasteland of Victorian juvenilia and the occasional odd foray by a literary sort (think: James Branch Cabell) or a conventional science fiction author — until high school, that is, when at last the authorized paperback editions of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit became readily available in America. I bought them all immediately and devoured them, and they changed my life in unexpected ways. Read More Creating worlds – Heroic Fantasy vs Science Fiction – Part 1