Friday, February 7, 2014

The Adventure of World Building Part #1

As an English Major one of the things I am confronted with is the dreaded question - what do you want to do with your life? I long ago decided on Academia as my passion, but I have other passions to vent desires and needs that grading papers and academic level writing cannot fill. What might that be? Writing books!
I have had many friends who have been working on their novel, be it ones they wish to pursue in a legit fashion (that being with a publisher, rights, etc...) and ones they are happy to produce through informal channels, ie:, their own blogs, etc...

Let me say here and now that both are fabulous and that each comes with their own pros and cons. Given that a majority of fan fiction-esque writing(s) stem from settings with established rules and settings, some of this content might not be applicable. After all, why look up world-building rules when you have a fully cooked setting, right? Having said that I hope that certain aspects of what I discuss will be of use.

In the interest of fairness I will use some scenarios from the content I am working on for my own novel, Three Crowns Under Heaven. This isn't mean to be some shameless plug (indeed, a novel does not even exist yet!) but rather I hope it just shows a) me putting my (soon to be!) money where my mouth is and that b) I have applicable examples to give.

1 - Know Your Weather

This might seem like I am starting with something arbitrary but think of one of the most well known (and, some say, terrible) lines ever made. "It was a dark and stormy night ..." The use of weather might not seem like something you need to think about unless you need something grandly dramatic, but think about this. I live in Tyler, Texas (as should be evidenced that this blog is for the University of Texas at Tyler). Recently Texas weather (as well as weather in other regions) has been up-turned by the on-set of bitter, problematic, terrible freezes. While you don't need a Degree in Clouds to know the precise weather for your setting, it is worth understanding that you might not be able to have rain storms in specific areas. Also, it could provide context for why one community is thriving and another is not.

EXAMPLE: I am basing the setting for my own work on a country with the same geographical outline as China. This means if I have a city-state that is in the same environment as Xi'an it will assuredly not have the same weather as a region like Tianjin. In my own story this discrepancy in the weather is why livestock and certain crops are used for food in area X and why lush, flowery fruits and crops are grown in area Y. One setting relies more on herdsman and thus might have religious iconography that view the Farmer in a better light than in other regions. All because one region has an annual rainfall of X and the other has a rainfall average of Y. In my own setting one community is undergoing a drought and hence the priests and land-owners think their community has angered Heaven where-as in another region (one over-flowing with fertile foods and fruits) they think their own (terrible) actions have gotten the Celestial A-O.K!

Hint - If you know the KIND of environment your setting takes place in (like, say, "something like Germany") do yourself a favor and pick up a travel guide for Germany. These texts of often detail season weather, local scenery, foods in the region, etc...

Next time, Part 2 - Where Does Money Comes From Again?

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