August 15, 2018, 05:25:37 PM

Author Topic: Experiences with worldbuilding  (Read 22492 times)

Offline Lanko

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Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #135 on: December 15, 2015, 02:40:04 PM »
I'm making everything as I go with the story, and it's working well so far. Of course, I'm gonna have to wrap up some things later, specially when revising.
But I managed to create some unusual things on the go that I wouldn't have thought of if I had planned beforehand in cold blood.

Curiously, I got 4 of the 5 aspects of that link. I created a specific ritual for burials (that will influence a big plot twist later), a ritual for coming of age for warriors and hunters and a religious ritual. It all came on the spot, and better, through a character, so I could also show the ritual and develop a character when they input their thoughts on it.
Also, I like to play with things like "is/was this magic or not?" like Bernard Cornwell does so well.

Power came naturally as well, probably helped that one of the characters is the chieftain of the tribe and the other is her daughter, and also can show how it affects their relationship. Also, what she learns observing her mother will be important later.
The other character is a boy coming of age and becoming a warrior. The story is more because of his father's pressure and explore that side, but indirectly, it shows how much influence and power the military have on this society. I didn't think of that until writing this here!

The place. Hm, I made a place where a forest is totally frozen, trees made of ice and everything, but nobody goes there. But from what I read on the article, it seems more how much vocabulary the author have and the simile/metaphors he/she is able to create. It seemed more related to the quality of the prose.
I had a few good moments describing places like that, but mostly it's tedious and not original, but you really can stare at your screen for hours at this kind of thing, so I just "will push the story, will rework later".

Food. Food is a source on conflict in the region, because it's short. Every tribe wants the control of a lake (or valley, if I change it later) in the center of the region, because they believe it's "magically blessed", because food there grows much faster. Others say it's just more fertile. So I can play again with "is it magic or not".
But whoever holds it gains more power, as their tribe grows and less people die of famine in the winter. More people = more warriors as well. So food also has an aspect of power, as it helps further develop it. Hmm, now that I think about it, there could be a religious one as well.
Of course, in other nations this changes completely.

And the missing topic. Magic. I'm still not sure if I will use it. I want to, but despite writing tons, still haven't figured it out anything.
I don't want people who can use it simply because they were born with the "ability". But I also don't want everyone to be able to learn it. Quite a bit of a challenge there.
I thought of using runes, magic gems that could be attached to objects and even to yourself, etc, but so far nothing.

Interesting, writing all this here made me see things I hadn't so far, like the interconnection between food/power/rituals. Could explore it better later.

Maybe I can solve my problem with magic with magical food  ::)
« Last Edit: December 15, 2015, 07:32:18 PM by Lanko »
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Offline Yora

Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #136 on: December 15, 2015, 03:10:44 PM »
Also, I like to play with things like "is/was this magic or not?" like Bernard Cornwell does so well.
Oh yes, that's so important. Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't trying to get you. And just because monsters and magic are real doesn't mean that you can always believe what people thought they have seen.
Just a while back a videogame was announced about a Celtic warrior woman who has severe scizophrenia and believes her halucinations are spirits talking to her. Why would you describe your work that way?! So much potential and all of it thrown away in the very first announcements of the project.
A great thing about spirits and magic is that they are very powerful when it comes to deception and illusions. That's what makes magic different from science. Fantasy is about what's taking place in the mind and the heart, not about what is meterial present.

And the missing topic. Magic. I'm still not sure if I will use it. I want to, but despite writing tons, still haven't figured it out anything.
I don't want people who can use it simply because they were born with the "ability". But I also don't want everyone be able to learn it. Quite a bit of a challenge there.
What I did is to make magic just like any other complicated skill, like juggling or math. Everyone has anything that is needed to do it, but very few have what it takes to be really good at it. Everyone can calculate, but not everyone can grasp logarithms or integrals. I could learn to understand it, but it would take maybe years to really get used to it while others grasp it in just one hour. I have few problems with the basics of quantum mechanics and relativity and am comfortable with thinking in multidimensional spaces and warped time, but nobody ever was able to make me understand what a logarithm is. With limited lifetime and education being expensive, magic training is simply reserved for people who show to have a talent for it. The teachers won't waste their time with students who learn ten times slower than all the others. If you have a lot of time and money, you can get anyone to learn at least some basic magic, but even then most of them will never be great at it.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2015, 04:55:15 PM by Yora »
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Offline Lanko

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Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #137 on: December 15, 2015, 08:51:43 PM »
I still think that would end up resulting in an enormous amount of mages and magic would end up too common. Despite the difficulties that would cause only a few to truly master magic, there would be a ton of medium and mediocre mages.

Of course, that all depends on the kind of story, setting. I like that in whole Middle-Earth that are only two wizards (or at least the others don't appear), despite having many magical items and beings.
Even in Chronicles of Arthur, there are at most 5 people in the whole Britain islands that can "use" magic.

I loved the approach Dragon Age:Origins took with the Grey Wardens. You can get 5 people to join and all of them may die in the Joining ritual. Although that's a bit too much on luck for my taste.
But I really enjoyed the risk of death to be able to obtain something that the common inhabitants don't have.
The Circle of Magi was also another good approach, with the Harrowing ritual when you either succeed in facing a demon in the Fade or is sentenced to Tranquility. The possession is also good, with too much use , or careless use, of magic.

I also like to use the X-Men for a good base. Not the "unique born power", but the fact that people fear them.
I have a hard time believing people that can conjure blizzards and fireballs would simply walk around. Or worse, people who could influence the minds of others. Wouldn't the people be afraid of something like that? Wouldn't the king, advisors and other important powerful people seek to do something about that?
It's strange when I read/play books and games that have lands flooding with necromancers and demon worshipers at the same time the kingdom has an stationary army with dozens of thousands.

I actually struggle to believe that old people, like Gandalf/Dumbledore keeps getting more magical power as they get older, while their bodies, energy and strength weakens more and more. Where do their magic get energy to summon a lightning bolt inside a cavern?
But I guess it can be also some kind of symbolism, with old age representing wisdom of the world, the nature of people and such, of things that the young cannot yet comprehend.

I also like the approach of the Grey Wardens, when at the end of their lives, they get tainted by their power and starts decaying more and more, to the point of a lot of pain, suffering and even madness.
I think that's how these old wizards should end as well, unless he manages to do something extraordinary. Weak, suffering from after effects, mana/magic/whatever resource used consuming them slowly as they age and get weaker.

So I guess my approach to use magic would have some life or death situation. Someone who passes it gains a lot of prestige, recognition, etc, even a lot of respect for service to the kingdom or their region, considering that kingdoms could do a "magical arms race". Even then, you can still die during training, fail, etc.
But also everyone knows it has it's drawback, as you are stronger while young/maturing, but magic ends up  backlashing painfully at old age.
So that could turn off a lot of people, even very ambitious ones, who wouldn't like the risk of dieing, much less suffering to death later.

Another approach would be magical items. This means probably anyone could use them, unless something specifically, like some kind of "code" or "digital impression".
I was thinking of using runes, but now that I think about it, magical items could be constructed using a diverse array of materials, something like engineering an electronic device.

That means pretty much anyone could learn how to forge them, but the materials could be so rare, or the "magical plans" complex, requiring expensive equipment as well, that only kings/rich or holy orders would be able to afford, and in very small quantities for limited people.
And nothing like the "ultimate sword of world doom" that kills thousands in a blast or a swing.
I guess that's how LoTR did with Frodo's armor, the glowing sword, and some other items.

Hm, it was really nice actually discussing and writing this down. It was on my head, but a lot of other points appeared while writing it.
And writing it down actually gave me some other ideas as well  :)


 
« Last Edit: December 15, 2015, 08:56:46 PM by Lanko »
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Offline Yora

Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #138 on: December 15, 2015, 09:09:12 PM »
In my world the ability to use magic is greatly affected by the ability to see into the spiritworld. One comes automatically with the other. And being able to perceive multiple worlds at once that work in very different ways does significantly change how a person thinks. At best they become slightly excentric while they still have the discipline to behave and talk like normal people, but at worst they are completely mad by everyone else's standards. Over time and with experience they become less and less human.
A village shaman may be highly respected out of traditions, but most people wouldn't even want to become like them, regardless of what power they might gain.
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Offline Yora

Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #139 on: December 18, 2015, 01:23:47 PM »
I found this wonderful website about lesser known mammals and their evolution.

So much material for when you want to create your own made up animals.

Offline Yora

Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #140 on: February 25, 2016, 01:56:16 PM »
Since I am perpetually struggling to come up with good tales to tell about the world I am working on, I am constantly trying to refine it to make it a more fertile ground for adventures.
I just discarded my latest map again (for the umpteenth time), and while trying to arrange things in a new way, I made the discovery that with each revision I almost never add any new elements to the world. What I am doing each time is cutting more and more elements away that I am realizing are redundant. My list of monsters dropped from about 120 to under 50 and my 20 different cultures are now down to 10 after a lot of merging and discarding. And instead of two dimensions of weird horror creatures there is now only one.

And I have to say each time I am more happy with the world than I had been before. When I give advice to people asking for beginner's tips on starting with worldbuilding, my first point is always to have a clear theme and focus and the second point is to decide which cool ideas are really useful to realize that focus.
Have you also made the experience that your settings shrink over time as you refine them rather than grow?

Offline night_wrtr

Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #141 on: February 25, 2016, 02:19:19 PM »
Yeah, Yora. I've noticed that goes with all the things I have written down and created, like various races and beasts, history and mystical things that are all part of that iceburg below the water's surface. The good thing after revising again and again, that I have combined a lot of things I liked from those others parts of the world and included them in with the things that will actually show in the book. It has made my cultures and setting more solid that way.

Offline Yora

Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #142 on: February 25, 2016, 02:44:53 PM »
After all, that's the literal meaning of refining. Successively removing all impurities until you're left with only the pure substance you're after.  :D

Offline Yora

Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #143 on: April 01, 2016, 09:42:49 PM »
I was just replying to a comment on yesterdays article on worldbuilding by Sam Sykes, which had me having a bit of a revelation:

Tolkien did not spend decades worldbuilding in preparation for two novels.

What he did was writing drafts for stories that he never quite finished putting into a form that was suitable for publication. Pretty much all the "worldbuilding" for Middle-Earth is past events and ancient heroes. Events and heroes who were at the center of his previous unreleased stories. When you read the Silmarilion, there is actually very little worldbuilding in the form of cultures, economy, or politics to be found. It's all plot, with one segment of creation myth.

Offline ArhiX

Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #144 on: April 01, 2016, 10:44:06 PM »
I was just replying to a comment on yesterdays article on worldbuilding by Sam Sykes, which had me having a bit of a revelation:

Tolkien did not spend decades worldbuilding in preparation for two novels.

What he did was writing drafts for stories that he never quite finished putting into a form that was suitable for publication. Pretty much all the "worldbuilding" for Middle-Earth is past events and ancient heroes. Events and heroes who were at the center of his previous unreleased stories. When you read the Silmarilion, there is actually very little worldbuilding in the form of cultures, economy, or politics to be found. It's all plot, with one segment of creation myth.

@Yora

I just had this moment of enlightment now... Like really...

This is like... one of the most insightful things I have heard actually. I feel, like my last 5 years of hard work was a very bad joke. It's like... For nothing. Wasted time.  :-X How could I be so blind - that the best parts of my world are character-driven. Not researched or theory-crafted. Events and Heroes.

I would kiss you if I could.

And... that's basically how the worldbuilding should be done. Especially, when someone wants to write.
I mean - building religions, trade routes etc. might be fun. But why do it in a 1st place? Just for the sake of worldbuilding? What do we know from our history? Events and heroes. Everything else is just a background actually...
"The world is full of stories, and from time to time, they permit themselves to be told."

Az arche mahi Azem. Sevishta. Aiwithura. Azata. Pareshi...

Offline Yora

Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #145 on: April 02, 2016, 11:03:08 AM »
Unless it's done entirely for its own sake, worldbuilding is a tool. The kind of worldbuilding you need depends primarily on the kind of stories you want to set in it. For my own setting, my worldbuilding improved greatly once I realized that I don't need historic events and characters at all. My stories require knowing a lot about the way of life of the various peoples and the ecology of the forests, because they deal with common people interacting with their environment. Superstitions, tabus, and the practices of spirit worship and sacrifices aren't decorative elements but the primary subject matter.
In stories about emperors plotting in their war rooms such details could easily be completely ignored. But what use do I have for background information about dynasties and past wars?
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Offline ArhiX

Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #146 on: April 02, 2016, 02:24:06 PM »
Yes - it really depends on the world and the stories you want to set inside it. My stories were always - big events happen/mighty heroes die. Making the world, and then putting it inside is a long way. One can just create the stories first, and let the world grow on them.
"The world is full of stories, and from time to time, they permit themselves to be told."

Az arche mahi Azem. Sevishta. Aiwithura. Azata. Pareshi...

Offline Nora

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Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #147 on: March 18, 2018, 04:13:25 PM »
Unearhting my own old post!

This is a bit related to a personal experience, as I've made stays myself (what a trip!), and worn them, in order for them to fit under the regency dress I was sewing (I know!!). However, with all my intent and learning about sewing 19th century style underwear, I was not aware of how pockets worked for example!
This video is really good, it details how working women dressed, from waking up to being ready to go out. Simple, and still managed to teach me something :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUmO7rBMdoU


I mean, it's one thing to know the name of the garments and their general outlook, but another to notice for example that there isn't a single button in her entire outfit!
« Last Edit: March 18, 2018, 05:30:46 PM by Nora »
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Offline JMack

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Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #148 on: March 26, 2018, 12:07:07 AM »
Awesome video, @Nora.
Change, when it comes, will step lightly before it kicks like thunder. (GRMatthews)
You are being naive if you think that any sweet and light theme cannot be strangled and force fed it's own flesh. (Nora)

Offline J.R. Darewood

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Re: Experiences with worldbuilding
« Reply #149 on: April 05, 2018, 03:53:26 AM »
Unearhting my own old post!

This is a bit related to a personal experience, as I've made stays myself (what a trip!), and worn them, in order for them to fit under the regency dress I was sewing (I know!!). However, with all my intent and learning about sewing 19th century style underwear, I was not aware of how pockets worked for example!
This video is really good, it details how working women dressed, from waking up to being ready to go out. Simple, and still managed to teach me something :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUmO7rBMdoU


I mean, it's one thing to know the name of the garments and their general outlook, but another to notice for example that there isn't a single button in her entire outfit!

Wow those are some serious layers.