Monday, July 9, 2012

Fantasy Chat: Worldbuilding - Populating the World

 

Worldbuilding Series: Populating the World

Click here to read the first in our series: The World and Maps

I would say most worldbuilding starts out with the characters. They are the people (or creatures) who populate our stories. A story without characters probably isn't too much of a story, is it?

With fantasy, we don't have to resolve ourselves to normal humans. We can use our imaginations to create new human-like creatures, even new types of humans.

What do our people or creatures look like? Hair color, skin color, eye color, build. Are they small or large? Do they look like us? If they bleed, is it red? How do they walk? Are they magical? Or can use magic? There are so many intricacies we writers need to think of when we create our characters, especially magical ones. If you are reusing previously created creatures, how are yours different? Similar?

Fantasy involves so many different kinds of sentient creatures beyond humans, such as elves, dragons, orcs, trolls, fairies, etc. That's why it is so much fun--and so difficult--to write fantasy.

Think about the creatures you want to use. Imagine them. Write down their traits because it will come in handy. Seriously, if you write fantasy, especially with a lot of characters and multiple books, then it is really handy to have such details written down somewhere, so you don't mix things up.

When I was writing The Phoenix Prophetess, I knew I wanted the normal humans--there are some that range from Caucasian to African to Asian, but I wanted a human that was different too. I thought about this race living up north in the Great Beyond. The sun doesn't shine there much, so they would be very fair of skin. Well, I'm more of a moon child too, so I looked at my own skin. My blue-colored veins are pretty noticeable. Blue. What if these people have skin so fair that it makes them look blue? Yes! I also thought about my fascination with the blue people in Kentucky, so I had my new race. They have bluish skin and blond hair so pale it often looks white. Thus, the Great Beyonders were born.

Use what you know and don't be afraid to come up with something unique.

And you don't have to know everything right away. Personally, I often figure out some details later on in the drafts.

Have you ever created new creatures or races for your characters? Do you keep notes on what they look like?

Next month's Fantasy Chat: Worldbuilding: Cultures and Languages

16 comments:

Larry Kollar said...

My current fantasy world is 99% (or more) human ethnic groups, denoted by compass points. Goblins are all but extinct and elves (actually aelfi'in, "unfallen") have mostly withdrawn from the world. The term "all points of the compass" is an idiom for maximum diversity. ;-)

Most of the action is in the West at the moment. The Western folk have reddish skin, and black or brown hair. The word "human" is a derivative of a goblin insult, hiu'mani, meaning "red flower." This suggests that Westerners were the first humans to contact the goblins. (I've developed a ton of idioms and so on, nothing too obscure, of course.)

In the two ages that I'm writing in, Northerners are culturally indistinct from Westerners, and have largely intermingled in a major region. I need to work a little more on the Eastern and Southern folks, but largely know how they look and act.

I'm enjoying this series of posts, looking forward to the next!

Hart Johnson said...

I admire you so much for being able to do this. World building is totally overwhelming to me. JK Rowling has said some stuff that makes total sense to me--make the rules relatively simple, make sure to be consistent and put limits on what can be done (for instance bringing people back to like isn't possible--except in the very rare and very dark case of the horcrux)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

With science fiction, the possibilities are endless! And one of the races in my current work is also so pale they appear blue. Great minds think alike.

Jamie Gibbs said...

I've just finished reading The Way of Kings (Part 1) and one of the (many, many) things I liked was that Sanderson created new races of people with a whole palette of skin colours, and he also used giant crustaceans in place of herd animals and steeds. It was pretty epic.

DL Hammons said...

I knew there was a reason I didn't write fantasy. Too much to think about! :)

Christine Rains said...

It's so much fun coming up with new creatures, or putting a new spin on something old. I should really keep better notes when I do these things, though!

Jay Noel said...

I have not personally gone out and created new races or creatures in my writing. But I really enjoy reading about them.

Dariel Raye said...

Hi Cherie. I love the possibilities - probably why I've had a fantasy romance in my head for a while, now. I have a thing for mutant/endangered species combos - kind of post-apocalyptic. Imagine the things they can do :-)

Elana Johnson said...

Ah, this is why I would be terrible at this kind of fantasy. But sometimes I think I could do it, create a new type of person. Then I try, and I can't think of anything good, and I go back to my contemporary writing. Ha!

Lexa Cain said...

I love it when people come up with unique and original ideas with fantasy world-building. I've never really understood fan fiction. Why not make up your own world and populate it?

Michael Pierce said...

I've been working on creating different versions of people in my second book, mirror images of the main characters. But these mirrors have very different character traits, looks, rules, and motivations. It's fun to build and explore!

Tara Tyler said...

i have created personality types for each creature, but humans are extinct. had a couple of critters ask if a human would make an appearance. i dont have to have any humans, do i?

Carol Kilgore said...

"Use what you know and don't be afraid to come up with something unique."
Love this. It's true even in non-fantasy characters.

M Pepper Langlinais said...

I took a class in college--and later taught a version of it--called Parageography, which is "the study of imaginary places." World building, really, since besides reading about these places, our projects were geared around creating imaginary places of our own. As you point out, I used what I knew and based a lot of my world on ancient Greece & Egypt. And now, in my paranormal romance novel, I've extrapolated some of the Voodoo culture I grew up in for my main character's powers--but I've also used ancient gods & goddesses. It's fun! But the devil is certainly in the details because readers are smart and will ask something you've never thought about...

Nicole said...

I love this part of worldbuilding -it's so fun to create different races, rituals and histories.

tfwalsh said...

That's why I love writing fantasy - just letting my mind be wild and invent things I normally keep hidden inside my nogg'n:) My new novel has new creatures who i totally adore.