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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What's the Name of Your World?

World building is one of the funner things a fantasy or science fiction writer (to a lesser degree) gets to do. At least from my perspective, it offers me the freedom to design the very laws of nature to create a unique experience. So I thought I would let you in on how I developed the world of The Reality Chronicles.

There are two basic types of world builders. There are those who plan out the whole world, how it operates, functions, land masses, seas, forest, mountain ranges, language of people, etc., before they ever lay a word to page. Then there are others who start out with a very minimal idea of the world, and it grows and develops as they write. In truth, very few writers are totally one way or the other. Most of us will find ourselves somewhere between those two poles. But most writers will lean to one side of the fence. Even that can change from one novel to another, depending on how dependent the plot is on how the world is designed. I would designate the two types as pre-planners and organic-planners.

I fall more into the organic world builder. I find out more about the world as the story progresses. That is true of novels like Mind Game, which is more a traditional novel plot, but even more true of the Reality Chronicles, which started out as a short story, three more short stories, another short story added to it. Then a novel sequel to those. Then a third novel. Then went back to the first book and added ten more short stories. Because of the way it grew from that one short story, the world naturally grew with it as I added more and more.

The task in doing it this way, is to keep it consistent. Adding onto it as you go, it is easy to forget some detail that what you are adding that would contradict what you've done before. That requires keeping a good database of what you've added or defined, so any proposed additions or changes can be checked against what's gone before. But even someone who plans it all out before hand will find themselves making mid-story adjustments as characters and plots develop.

But when it comes to the Reality Chronicles series, two of the common questions I get is first, does the world have a name? And two, is it modern or medieval?

To the first question, that is no, the world as a whole doesn't have a name. This is counter to a lot of fantasy where the whole area or world will usually be called something. For sure, people like to have names for things. But when I wrote the first short story for this world, I didn't bother deciding whether it was in our world's history or an alternate world. I didn't name the town it was in. It was just about the story of a kid in a small, primitive town with a strange steam house. The story was meant to be an allegory of the Last Judgment. Figuring out the name of the town or where it was or the world it was in beyond the little bit you get in the first story wasn't critical to the story.

But then I added on four more short stories to that one. Sisko traveled to new places and towns, which I did give names to. Those first five stories gave a bare sketch of the world and how it operated. But by the time I had finished those, I had a good idea of how magic worked in that world, that it was an alternate reality from our own Earth, and the rules of how the ring worked, mostly, and what it even represented. But there was still a lot left undefined as those five stories become my first published novella, Infinite Realities.

Including I never gave Sisko's home town a name. That didn't come until I wrote the full novel sequel, Transforming Realities, currently listed as Reality's Ascent. When Sisko decides they should return to his hometown, I figured it was time to give the place a name. That's when I gave it the name Reol. When I added the other ten short stories to Infinite Realities and Splashdown Books published it as Reality's Dawn, I went back and added mentions of the hometown into the previous stories I'd written where appropriate, as well as using it in the newer stories. But if you read the original novella, you'll never see the name of Sisko's hometown.

The development of the political aspects of the world resulted in a city-state type governments. So a king in the Reality's world is king over a city and its surrounding territory. There is no king over all the land. And whether a city had a king or not depended upon the city, and how they set up their governments. You'll find some very much like a traditional kingship, and others more “democratically” organized. Sometimes this is mentioned, other times just assumed if it doesn't play into the story.

Because of that, the people tend to focus upon their own world, their own towns, and don't think in “big picture” ways. Because there is no overarching governmental structure, or developed sense of geography, no one saw a reason to give their whole world a name. At least, not one that was commonly used by most everyone. Theoretically, individual places might have a name for the whole world.

In the third book, Reality's Fire, the world grew again. Our characters headed west, across the forest, into a less “Christian” section of the world. New cities and mountain ranges and deserts are added, and a sea, an island called Pluto, and new races including a group who live in the caves of the north called Burrowers. When Transforming Realities was first published, I came out with my first map that I had visualized as I wrote the stories of the adventures. The third book added to it.

By the time I added the extra ten stories to Infinite Realities to create what had eventually became Reality's Dawn, I had already written two rough drafts of a new series in that world, which I've tentatively called, “The Dragons' Dying Fields.” These stories have greatly expanded not only the geography of the world, but its history and even how that world is connected with our own, as well as other alternate realities. Knowing that as I wrote the ten new stories gave me the ability to not only help introduce characters that appeared later on, like Joel, and fill out the stories of the characters better that were only alluded to before, but I was able to foreshadow what was to come in the next two books and the future new series.

One thing that never changed, however, is the world as a whole never received a name. In the first book of the new series, I play on that as well a bit, because the characters have no concept of a country or names of anything beyond a forest or mountain range.

When it comes to the feel of the world alluded to in the second asked question, I wanted to give it enough of a historical basis that it was grounded in some type of familiar reality, but change things up a bit. Being an alternate world gave me the freedom to do that. I focused on it having a medieval feel to the world, but there are more modern things about it. Primarily, I used common English we are used to hearing, without worrying about whether it sounded too modern or not. I did limit it some in that regard, but I wanted the language to connect with the readers instead of attempting to stick to an Earth-like language during the medieval times. Being an alternate world gave me the freedom to do this, though I know some will balk at it.

However, that doesn't mean I didn't do any research to keep it “real” in other respects. When I had a reference to toilets, I asked, “Did they have toilets back then, and if so, how did they operate?” So I researched it, and discovered yes they did, but usually only the rich had them. Common folk had a “spot” in a secluded area and used leaves for wiping. But often toilets were nothing more than a bench with a hole cut in it, and flies buzzing all around as you did your business. Not very sanitary. Castles were often better off, where toilets were on upper floors, and the disposed of mess dropped all the way to the ground so it stayed as far away from the seat as possible.

In another story, I wanted to use a dentist. Did they have dentist back then? Yes, though they were mostly crude and involved pulling teeth out more than anything. I took some liberties that in this world in that they'd developed the ability to use tools to “tap” the cavity corruption out of the tooth (to Sisko, it felt like pounding), and packed it with a substance that would keep it from getting worse, a primitive filling material. So you see a more modern type of dentistry than what actually existed in our medieval history, though Sisko no doubt would label it as torture, not healing.

Though I hadn't decided in the first story whether it was an alternate world or not, early on I decided it wasn't our Earth, and even though it had a parallel history, there would be some significant divergences in progress and abilities and historical facts. Enough real history to keep the reader grounded in a world, but enough differences to say, “We're not on Earth anymore, Todo.”

What I liked about that approach is the ability to just focus on the story, without worrying about getting a bunch of historical facts “just right.” Yet enough I could make some allusions and analogies to our world.

So that tells a lot of the story how the Reality Chronicles world developed and grew. You'll be reading more and getting into a lot more history and worlds within Sisko's world in the near future, when the first book of the new series comes out.

How did your world(s) develop?

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