Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Building a World: Week 1

Top down worldbuilding starts with little details but fills in later.
After a successful year of reviewing movies, I’ve decided to take my blog in a slightly different direction. The original intent of this blog had been to be a writer’s blog. At the start of the year, I managed to cover a lot of content on writing. As time progressed, that lost focus while I maintained my regular posts on movie reviews though those were sometimes late.

For 2013, I plan instead to devote every Tuesday to a post dedicated to work building one of my worlds. I will be using this blog to discuss the process and I’ll be sharing pieces of my world, how I’m developing the world, and various resources I’ve encountered in the process.
For those of you who don’t know, I have a Twitch account. I use the account to stream myself playing a variety of games. Though I promise no schedule for streaming, I will be using my Twitch account while I write these blog entries. And, to meet Twitch’s guidelines for gaming streams, I’ll have a special game running at the time as well as discuss on stream how this can be applied to gaming.

Building a World: Week 1

There are several ways to approach worldbuilding. In this blog series, I will not be focusing so much on how to worldbuild, but rather discuss my process of worldbuilding. Part of my goal here is to not only build up my world, but start to finalize and compile the details of my world. I have a massive binder filled with notes and pieces of my world. I have computer documents scattered all over the place with details I’ve come up with. I have approximately eight manuscripts worth of writing with details of my world that I can skim through. I also have an assortment of short stories. There is a lot of information to work with, many of it is contradictory.

With worldbuilding, there are two main approaches. I’m gloriously “stealing” this information from wikipedia

  • Top-Down Worldbuilding: Starting with the larger aspects of a world such as continents and countries and creating the details within those aspects. (1)
  • Bottom-Up Worldbuilding: Taking a detailed section of your world, such as a single city, and building the world around that city. (1)

For the most part with my blog, I will be doing top-down. There are, however, parts of my world that are finely crafted and I will need to better fit them into the world around it. For those areas, I will focus on a bottom-up approach.

My world is a fantasy world with three distinct magical systems and three major races. There are other races and the magic system has a unified rule that allows some manipulation to imitate different forms of magic. However, these are merely the exceptions to the rules.

This is why the first rule with worldbuilding is to have core rules, rules that cannot be broken. Today, I want to talk about the nature of death and life in my world. Much of my world revolves around what happens when someone dies. In The Rose and the Crown, the story gets into what the humans believe happens when you die and what the fae believe happen when you die. Are they the same? No. Does it matter to the reader what really happens? No. Does it matter to me, the writer, when I am working on a story? Yes.

It is important that when I tell the story, I’m being consistent. If I have one story in which a character dies and the ritual is followed one way, and in another story, it is different, the reader will pick up on this and wonder if I am doing things right. You never want to break the trust in your readers. So, it is important to know the story behind your world even if the reader never encounters it.

So, in my Aldaric world. This is a place where all souls go when they die. This area is timeless and is inhabited by the keeper of the dead. She is a special soul who sacrificed her ability to move between worlds in order to guide souls to the next point in their life.

This allows me the possibility to have souls reborn and allows me to have souls move to a place in which they remain for the rest of eternity. However, it also means that souls cannot be destroyed in my world. No matter what I do in my universe, this rule cannot be broken. From this, I can then extract different cultures and work from there.

  • The fae believe that the soul moves on to a new world.
  • Humans believe that the soul can move on, but requires a specific ritual must be followed to prevent the soul from lingering in the current world.
  • Aquians, my third race, believe that souls are reborn in the form of a new life.

It is important to begin starting your process by creating a list of hard rules that you cannot break in your universe. By creating this list, you have a handy reference anytime you need to add something new to the world around you. Never break these rules, even if you are sure that the reader will never realize they were broken.

Next Week
I will dive into the Fae Kingdom, my most developed culture, to reflect a little bit on bottom-up worldbuilding and explore how to blend real world cultures and folklore in a fictional setting.

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