Tag Archives: world building

The Colors of Fantasy

For the longest time, the Fantasy genre has been dominated by protagonist that do not represent most of the world’s demographics. Often male, and almost always white. The roots of this are easy to see. The modern Fantasy genre was birthed out of the Epics and Romances of Europe. Fantasy settings were often just Medieval Europe with magic. And when you needed your villains, why, you just looked to the east where the swarthy and exotic races of Fantasy Asia lived.

All writing is influenced by the era it is produced. Once It was perfectly acceptable to have your protagonist be white and your antagonist not-white. Luckily, we do not live in one of those close-minded eras. I grew up believing the color of your skin doesn’t matter. The capacity for heroism dwells in the hearts of all of us, and the siren’s call of evil sings in the depth of all our souls.

So why do you still see Fantasy dominated by White protagonist? Is it because the majority of authors in the field are White? Perhaps it’s because the largest market for English literature is (in no order) USA, Canada, Australia, and the UK? Is it a subconscious act. Do these authors look at the Fantasy stories they were raised on and propagate what they read? Or is it a limitation of imagination that locks them into a Eurpoean-centric fantasy world?

Fantasy is an amazing genre. It doesn’t have to be limited to knights, castles, and wizards. You can set your world in a Victorian era, a bronze-age, a tribal landscape. You can conjure worlds that could never exist in reality, the work on principals of physics or theorems of magic that are impossible in our more mundane universe.

And the races you populate your world in can be just as creative. You don’t have to limit yourself to the constrains of the old. Why couldn’t the courtly intrigue of a seventeenth-century France be populated with Black-skinned aristocrats as they scheme and plot for power? The center of culture and learning could be a society inspired by the Indian subcontinent. And the fierce barbarians pressing at the edges of a might civilization could be White.

Or you can get really creative. Why limit yourself to the races that we have on Earth? Create your own. Take elements from different cultures. Let your imagination populate your world with a diverse mix of fleshed out societies. There are a rainbow of skin-tones, eyes, and hair colors to paint the canvas of your Fantasy world with. So create a world that wholly unlike our own, and share the amazing depths of your imagination with us.

And the most important thing to remember is that any human is clever. Regardless of how technological their society is, how learned their scholars are, how civilized their nation appears, even the most primitive of humans had the intelligence to grasp new concepts, to adapt to new circumstances, to innovate. That’s who we are as a species. So let’s celebrate our diversity in our writing.

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World Building: The Little Details

When you’re writing speculative fiction, you have to create a world. For some that means building on what already exists in our world, but for others (particularity in the Fantasy genre) that means creating your own, unique universe from your imagination.  It can be a daunting task and you can be tempted to take short cuts.

imagesMy beta reader for my WIP, the amazing Valerie Hemlin, gave me a wonderful bit of advice: readers want to “feel, smell, breathe, and taste the world he’s in.”

So what does that mean?  When your characters are having a meal, describe it, put little world-building nuggets into their meal. When they’re riding down a road, describe some wildlife, the landscape,. What colors are the flowers and the trees? What sort of wildlife populates your world? It is mundane or fantastical? Are there unusual sights or smells? Bring to life the world your characters are walking through.

MB_worldbuildingIf you can make it feel as vibrant as our world, your readers will fall in love with it. Half the fun of reading Fantasy, at least to me, is the world building. Worlds that could never exist in our universe can be brought to life by a skilled author.  People read fiction for entertainment, to escape whatever problems they face in their world. So take them to fantastic places, wow them with your creativity. Get them excited and talking about what they read.

Caliborn_worldbuildingSo don’t skip the little stuff. Don’t get too caught up in the grand plot that you’re unfolding. If people don’t care about the world you’re putting at stake, then why are they going to keep on reading? Make it real, make it believable. Let your readers “feel, smell, breathe, and taste” your imaginative universe.

Thanks to Valerie for sparking this blog post. Follow her on twitter @VHemlin, she’s very supportive of authors.

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Writing Tips: Sayings, Expressions, Curses

Sayings, expressions, colloquial phrases, and curses are all a part of a culture’s rich history. They can change from country to country, city to city, and sometimes even between neighborhoods. We use them without thought, peppering them into our speech.

colWhen your writing speculative fiction set in different worlds, whether it’s Fantasy, Alternate History, Sci-Fir or any other genre of fiction where you are creating a brand new world out of whole cloth, then you should consider how the inhabitants of your speculative world speak. How do they curse? How do they insult each other? What terms of endearments do they use? What colloquial phrases color their speech?

The fun of writing speculative fiction is creating new worlds and trying to make them as real to your readers as you can. So writing dialog that feels real, inspired by the tapestry of your world’s history and cultures, can enhance the verisimilitude of your world and help to draw your readers into the fantastical world that you have created.

COLLOQUIALISMSI am writing a Fantasy novel called Above the Storm. It is set in a world of floating islands above an ever churning Storm. The inhabitants travel by sailing ships that soar through the skies and upon flying beasts of burden. Some animals don’t exist in this world. It’s populated more by flying birds and fish, than by more terrestrial mammals. Weather is very important to the inhabitants. Both because a dark storm lurks below the that spawns dangerous Cyclones that ravage their lands, and because sailing is such an integral part of the universe. So the inhabitants use a lot of wind metaphors.

Be creative. Delve into your history. And don’t feel the need to explain your sayings. For instance, if a character, talking about her deceased mother says, “My ma weren’t no golden feather while she lived.” The context can tell a lot about what the character is saying. In the previous line, the character she is talking to mentioned what a terrible mother he had. The reader can infer that “no golden feather” means her mom wasn’t that great of a person either without me explaining the origin of this colloquial expression. Though a careful reader could notice earlier in the book when a story is told about the first Dawn Empress who lived two thousand years ago. She was a Luastria (bird people) and was hatched from a golden egg laid by the primary deity (Riasruo, the sun goddess). She had golden feathers, painted like the sun, and was considered a paragon of virtue.

collCurses and swearing can be even more fun. You might not want to drop a lot of f-bombs and s-words. For some fantasy worlds, they can work (GRR Martin), but if you’re not wanting to have such an R-rating work, you can uses curses and swear words drawn from your world building. Most curses relate to bodily functions, sexual metaphors, blasphemy (twisting something revered), and fears. If your world is populated by an ever turning Storm created by an Evil Goddess called Theisseg, your characters can say words like “Theisseg’s scrawny feathers” or “storming” or “storm-cursed.” Instead of having a character say go F yourself, they can say, “go jump into the Storm.”

Be creative. Have fun with them. Make your world feel alive with a history and culture that didn’t just start when you wrote chapter one. Half the fun of reading speculative fiction in all its fun and myriad forms is for the world building. Entering new worlds that you can get lost in and set your imagination on fire. When your readers fall in love with the world you created, you’ll began to grow the loyal fans that will want to read more about your world.

Author Nathaniel Sean Crawford has added his own ideas and examples of this idea from more popular sources than my writings. Click here to check out his article!

 

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