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Author Topic: Experiences with worldbuilding  (Read 26950 times)

Offline Raptori

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Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #30 on: February 27, 2015, 10:02:13 PM »
Say the person with the largest post.

But it's a big topic with complex intricacies. Not something to be reduced to a few buzzwords and and phrases of common sense.



Yep, and the posts seem really interesting and in-depth. I want to read them properly but for some reason keep finding myself skimming them instead  :-\
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Offline DRMarvello

Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #31 on: March 07, 2015, 02:36:54 PM »
Having done it three times now, I have a good feel for what passes for my "process" in world building.  ;)

I use a "just in time" method for world building as well as for inserting story world information into the text. In other words, I create what I need when I need it.

That said, the first story in a new story world requires a fair amount of up-front world building. That first plot won't gel for me until I can clearly envision the story world and its potential conflicts. I need to have a feel for the series arc, and that doesn't happen without a global view. For my trilogy, I did a ton of world building at the beginning, and then a bunch more between each novel. I'm sure I'll do more in the follow-on novels. For my contemporary fantasy series, almost all of my world-building was related to the paranormal beings and magic because I was able to use the modern world as a backdrop. For my western fantasy, I started with a specific point in history (~1895) and layered magic and fantasy creatures onto it. That took a lot more work than I imagined because I had to do a ton of historical research in addition to fantasy world building.

For me, the trick has been to use broad strokes in the beginning, and then focus on the details surrounding a specific event. I was very concerned about releasing the three books of my trilogy as I wrote them, but that didn't turn out to be a problem. It was easy to extend the story world as I went, and keeping things vague at the beginning helped me avoid writing myself into a corner later.
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Offline Yora

Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #32 on: March 08, 2015, 04:29:13 PM »
I finally got done naming all the towns and cities I already knew to exist in my Ancient Lands world. I've been struggling with that for months! I think large part of having it done now comes from significantly having lowered my standards.  :D I just don't care anymore if they all sound stupid, bland, and replacable to me. And who knows, perhaps in 10 years people might call it my distinctive style of evokative names, that makes the world stand out from the crowd with its unique flair.  8)

The main reason I was bothering with naming 25 cities and 8 rivers in advance of them being used is that I like to drop hints that are references to a larger world beyond the immediate story. And since I want them to form a coherent picture over time, I prefer to know the basic identity of these places. Now I could just put down some notes and come up with names the first time they get mentioned in a story. Except that I can not come up with names while I am in the middle of writing a story! The whole process comes to a halt for at least 10 to 15 minutes and usually that's the end of my work for that day, giving up in frustration in the middle of a sentence. Using a placeholder name and getting back to it later just doesn't work for me.
So I bit the sour apple and set down for 4 hours, doing nothing but trying to find some halfway decent names. While it goes against the conventional withdom "you should not pour for hours over insignificant details", I still think it helps me very much.

As a suggestion for people struggling with names, I recommend picking some real world country or region and using that as a reference for how personal and place names sound. Elven names are based on the letters, length, and syllables of Swedish, the water people names based on Malaysian, the beastmen names on Mongolian, and the lizardmen on Indonesian. It doesn't even have to be a culture that matches the cultural archetype you are using as reference for your group. It's simply a guideline to make names that sound natural and real and are also consistent within that group. On wikipedia you can get lists for all major cities in pretty much every country in the world. Take one you like and switch a few letters, or take two and put parts of them together, then play around with individual letters to make it sound smoother.
Also consider place names that consist of two words that are separated by a space. This is one of the few cases where English kept the traditional practice of Germanic languages of writing compound words as a single word without space. So when you keep the name in two parts, it stands out. Tolkien did it a lot with elven place names, and he made the little extra effort to assign specific meanings to the prefixes. Anything that starts with Amon is build on top of a hill. And there's also a number of Barads and Dols. It's not difficult to do and a nice touch when you're dealing with lots of castles.

And a great secret tip that should not be shared around too much: While apostrophes are terribly overused and cliched, hyphens are not.
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Offline JMack

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Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #33 on: March 08, 2015, 04:57:18 PM »
Using a placeholder name and getting back to it later just doesn't work for me.
This may seem crazy, but at 10,000+ words in, I'm regarding all names (characters, cities, rivers, etc.) but about 10 as placeholders. This is because I'm discovering the things that are important in the world beyond the "hill", "fort", "town" prefixes and suffixes. I find it incredibly freeing to just slap something in and keep going, unless it's something really important to the music I'm hearing in my head.

But, I'll need to pause, maybe 25K words in, and do exactly what you just did. The thought of completing my first draft with placeholders is a bit much.
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Offline Conan

Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #34 on: March 08, 2015, 05:32:46 PM »
I mixed a nautical theme into some of the chapters of my debut fantasy novel. An ocean can be a constant in any alternative world; allowing for unknown creatures emerging from the depths, swarthy sea-folk dialogue, ease and speed of travel, and an isolated stage to dramatic events whereupon can be expunged effective author narration and meditative, melancholy soliloquies of integral characters to gain sympathy and sense of authenticity from the reader.
I hope.
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Tied up and twisted; gnarled and knotted with wrinkles; haggardly firm and unyielding; his eyes glowing like coals, that still glow in the ashes of ruin; untottering Ahab stood forth in the clearness of the morn; lifting his splintered helmet of a brow to the fair girl's forehead of heaven.

Offline Raptori

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Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #35 on: March 09, 2015, 01:14:47 AM »
Ugh naming. Hate it. In the end, we went and created a custom filter for this sound change applier. It applies the kind of natural changes that cause languages to evolve over time to create a new word based on the root you provide. Since we wanted something vaguely similar to the Romance languages (French, Spanish, Italian) we used Latin as the root language, and it works pretty well.

Whenever we want to name something, we come up with a name in English, translate it into Latin, then apply the sound changes to convert it into the language for the region we're focusing on (which is called Aestura). There aren't quite enough individual changes at the moment, so some words aren't altered by the sca, we'll probably come up with more over time so that it's more comprehensive. For our currend WIP the story stays entirely in one city, but if we need to we can use the crude English names and then just put the new ones in once they've been properly developed.
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Offline Rukaio_Alter

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Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #36 on: March 09, 2015, 01:53:15 AM »
I'll throw my hat into the pile of 'really hates naming stuff'. I'm also horribly guilty of, like Yona said, refusing to come up with a name until I've reached the point in a narrative that I actually need one and then spending about 10-15 minutes on it, completely shattering my writing flow. I really ought to do like Yona has and make a grand list of names but, every time I work up the urge to do something like that, my brain tells me it's more important to work on the book itself so I do that instead.

I'll admit, I don't really have any problem naming cities, since I've got a fairly easy naming device for towns in my world and I also have patterns for most non-human races/cultures (when I'm not outright ripping off names from other languages like Hebrew), but I don't have any real rule for humans, so they're always a massive pain. I did briefly try giving humans a variety of names from different parts of Europe, but I eventually got really bored and frustrated with that, so now I'm just giving them names that I think sound cool. Hence why I have characters with names like Kalaith Gauvain, Grace Devione and Dauger Volke.

The other trick I tend to use when naming more minor characters is to use names from obscurer properties I like (usually films or anime/manga). For example, I named several orphan kids after characters in The Devil's Backbone and a whole group of military commanders after countries in Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic. Some of them I'll probably need to change before I publish and you'll obviously need to avoid the obvious ones like Han Solo, but it's a neat way to include shout-outs and easter eggs. And I doubt that many people will try to sue you.

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Offline Doctor_Chill

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Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #37 on: March 09, 2015, 03:24:35 AM »
When it comes to naming, the only problem I have is coming up with accurate Polish/Romanian/Austrian surnames or whatnot. Drives me bonkers, which is why it's the least thought about piece in my world-building aspect.
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Offline Yora

Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #38 on: March 09, 2015, 11:23:05 AM »
If you want accurate names, just look for lists of most common personal and family names for different countries. And then probably start at the bottom so they are not too common.
I also made a big list of personal names years ago. Mainly drawn from such lists of real world names, but any time I find an interesting fantasy name somewhere I add it to one of the cultural spheres where the sound of them seems to fit.
Even with a few dozen names for each group it's still always way too few, but it's a way to start to get a feel for the sounds.
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Offline Nyki Blatchley

Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #39 on: March 09, 2015, 01:17:25 PM »
I love naming - it's one of my favourite bits of worldbuilding. I try to avoid anything too closely parallelling RW languages, unless it's a context where there's a good reason for the parallel. Instead, I try to establish the basic sound and structure of the language the names are drawn from, and then create names fitting that structure. Meanings are less important - after all, the majority of RW place and personal names don't have meanings that are obvious in their contemporary languages. Unless it's a culture where name meanings are important, I'm suspicious of fantasy names that have too much meaning attached to them.

Offline Yora

Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #40 on: March 09, 2015, 01:33:36 PM »
Yeah, we got a lot of place names in Germany that sound like they have a completely nonsensical meaning, but they are just corruptions of much older names whose meaning has been lost long ago.
Which is something I found quite odd when I started learning Japanese. Since the writing system is based around fixed symbols with a specific meaning, and time a pronounciation changes, it changes consistently in all words that are using that symbol. You may not know how a place name was pronounced a thousand years ago, but the way the name is written has not changed at all and the meaning of each character is mostly still the same as it had always been. As a result, Japanese place names are incredibly mundane once you understand it. "Eastern Capital", "Narrow Island", "Pleasant Harbor". Same with Chinese.
Family names are the same and even many personal names are the same thing.

Which can be pretty fun, but only works for names that are in the same language as the book is written in. In an English book you might play around a bit with French, German, and Spanish words, but even then the chances are high that most readers won't understand it.

I decided to not use any names like Highport or Westgate because there are just so many different cultural spheres in that world that are relatively self contained and have completely different languages, and I think it wouldn't feel right if just one of them uses English names but nobody else. Especially since none of the cultures are in any way inspired by western Europe.
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Offline Justan Henner

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Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #41 on: March 09, 2015, 03:09:44 PM »
Unless its for the sake of a punchline, my naming (at least my character naming) follows only a single rule: It must be easy to read in English. I take names from all over the world, but I avoid anything that has a pronunciation unlike it's spelling. Things with unusual phonemes (to an English speaker), like Nyugen,  Arroux, Persson, rarely make the cut, usually ceding favor to shorter names like Ped, Lu, Trin, Gahn, and so on.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2015, 03:11:50 PM by Justan Henner »

Offline Yora

Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #42 on: March 09, 2015, 03:20:14 PM »
Yeah, though it's a real shame because English can't do words that end in E.
Or even more generally speaking, English has very weird phonetics in general and there's a lot of sounds you'll find in most languages you just can't really spell with English spelling.
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Offline Raptori

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Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #43 on: March 09, 2015, 03:33:47 PM »
Yeah, though it's a real shame because English can't do words that end in E.
Or even more generally speaking, English has very weird phonetics in general and there's a lot of sounds you'll find in most languages you just can't really spell with English spelling.
And that's all before you take into account the huge variance in pronunciation in English  :P
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Offline Justan Henner

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Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #44 on: March 09, 2015, 03:49:49 PM »
Yeah, though it's a real shame because English can't do words that end in E.
Or even more generally speaking, English has very weird phonetics in general and there's a lot of sounds you'll find in most languages you just can't really spell with English spelling.
And that's all before you take into account the huge variance in pronunciation in English  :P

Sure, but it's not about making sure my reader has the correct pronunciation, it's about easy readability. Persson probably isn't a great example, English speakers could still read that without pronouncing it accurately, but there are a lot of english-phonetic translations of foreign words that are just a mess. Why unnecessarily confuse or burden your target audience?

Nguyen is a good example. It's easy to understand if you're familiar with it - if you know it's pronounced closer to "Win" or "N-Win" it's easy to read - but if you aren't familiar with that pronunciation, as a native English speaker you're unlikely to get there on your own.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2015, 03:59:39 PM by Justan Henner »