World Building in Fantasy

There are many beginning writers who delve into the realm of fantasy and then have to think about the facets of building a fantasy world. What does into it and why? Some authors become quite detailed in scope and breadth using all elements to create a detailed world that adds to the plot and character development. Some writers use fewer details and rely more on reader imagination.

Imagination goes only so far on a fantastical world. This list will help writers consider the types of things to develop for their stories and worlds. I am not claiming this is a complete list, but definitely a good start, it’s something I learned from author Emma Bull in a fantasy writing class I took.

Sentient Races – How many sentient races does the world support? What do they look like? What sort of physical attributes and abilities do they have?

Nations – Are there countries and nations?

Political Systems – Consider the system they live in and does this system change from different nations?

Cultures – Not everyone is alike. Distance, features, resources, beliefs, systems all add to cultural development along with many more things. What are the cultures like?

Traditions – Traditions take on many shapes and forms and come from a variety of places, family, religion, cultural and so on.

Religions – Religions have “rules” and “traditions”. For believability, create limitations and guides for your constructs.

Holidays – These may be religious, or national, or cultural. What holidays if any does the world have?

Time – How does your world track time and it’s movement? How does time pass? Is it the same as Earth or different?

Calendars – Does the world have a calendar? If so, what?

Languages – In fantasy, languages create a level of realism to the world. However, if you’re not an accomplished conlanger or linguist, this can be a struggle for writers. Perhaps consider key phrases or words to lend authenticity without having to create a full language for each race, culture, or nation. It’s helpful to base the languages on real ones.

Commerce and Trade – How does trade work? What sort of economic system is in place?

Currency – What are the currencies of the world if any?

Education – What education systems are in place? How do they work?

Skills/Jobs – There are a number of established skills and jobs in any story, what are they in your world?

Science/Physics – Many fictional worlds have fictional sciences and physics in particular that defy the natural law we know and understand. To create fake science, it should have limitations and rules. Real science does. There are methods and practices for discovery and exploration. Real scientists have methods of testing and reasoning. Employ rules and limitations and it will become believable to the reader. It will make sense. If anything goes, there is nothing to worry about and nothing to get the reader invested in the characters.

History – Every place has history and what people know about it varies from place to place. A fantasy world should have history and lore, myths passed down, but these should be limited in scope and possibly even wrong sometimes. This may serve the story if a character must learn something from the past, but doesn’t figure it out or at least not right away.

Agriculture – How is food cultivated and distributed? Are there farms, technology to generate sustenance?

Magic – Fantasy and sci-fi do not require magic, but when it’s utilized in a story there should be limitations and rules. If anything goes, the reader has no reason to worry or become invested in the character arcs the writer presents. Create limitations and rules. Construct how the magic works.

Geography and Topography – What does the world look like? Where is everything? What sort of resources, animals and plants exist?

Technology – Does the world have technology and if so what?

I don’t consider this list a complete list on world building, but it may provide a starting point and generate questions for the writer to answer as they build their worlds.

Chapter 1 The Fallen Heather A Busse

Hark the tones wail from the twisted forms of the fallen. Have mercy Singer of All, have mercy Berehan the horned God.

“Lament for the Damned”
Chief Librarian, Rariny

Rariny, 5690 AY

Bones rained from the sky. Skeletal remains stormed across the land and piled in marrow puddles. Blood clouds gathered above an obsidian mountain range off the Strait of Famoniena. Lightning crackled fissures into the firmament and wind blew through the porous stone of Verdugo Palace. Night darkened towers stood sentry against the bleak landscape. Fires raged in the distance.

Talons clicked against the arm of the Rarin Throne watching Punishers line the great hall as they filed in from two massive doors. Filigree shapes depicted Berehan with a musical score in hand. From the far side of the room, King Nysrog could see music scales notated in the wood. Queen Mestamina advanced upon the throne reserved for her next to him. The assembly preened their leathery wings and sharpened claws against jagged teeth. A nervous energy passed through them. He understood, no Punisher enjoyed the job though with Mestamina Nysrog had found solace.

A flutter in the king’s heart brought joy to his tone, the same as the day he first met Mestamina all those millennia ago. Thorns crowned her purple hair, love swam in the depths of her silky black eyes. Delicate horns poked between the crown’s sides. Silvery and shining, reflecting the flames burning in giant cisterns about the room. A silver scale gown covered her alabaster figure with a slit in the back large enough to let her tail and wings through, modest enough the courtiers’ gazes didn’t linger overly long. She was the dawn to his dusk. The light to his dark. Their eyes locked and across the Song their tones thrummed in time as one.

Mestamina carried a mallet in her talons. The instrument Nysrog used to judge the condemned and mete out sentence. The assembled daemons shuffled, forked tongues flicked the air, nostrils sniffed. Talons scratched horns. Wings bristled. Through the windows of The Otla, Nysrog’s Castle, wind blew acrid air, sulfurous and torrid. Fires raged in the Boiling Bog to the south. The wind had carried the scent of flesh to the king.

“My King, I have brought the weight.” Mestamina approached the throne, regal and tall, more slender than most punishers on Rariny. She handed him the mallet and their eyes locked, fingers brushed and claws entwined.

Nysrog noted her desire. The black flames of her eyes flared, an inferno smoldered within. His tone stirred in response. “You have my eternal thanks.” He grasped the weight. It seemed a singularity resided in the small tool, a mass unparalleled in Aulei. Barely wider than his hand. Nysrog cracked his neck and rolled his shoulders. The device had grown heavier over the years. He wished to drop it into the deepest abyss and dared not. “Let judgment begin.” He leaned to the side of his throne and struck a rounded disc. It knelled and the crowd went silent.

Two hulking daemons dragged the recent fallen in through the black doors of the throne room. Prince Ayperas dragged the slack body of a Dai Ithran wizard in his arms, dragged instead of carried. The daemon refused to touch more than he had to when retrieving them from the Fallen Shores. The filth, the smell. Their sins rankled. A foul scent to eviscerate the spirit, worse than rotten carrion.

Nysrog remembered the days he had served on the front lines, under his father’s rule. Here, green Ayperas, armored in plates of rarinus toiled, dragging the guilty in one hand and holding a face guard with the other. The black metal breathed for each daemon as protection against the onslaught of putrid decay each sinner brought in them. Their tones contaminated and poisoned. The daemons only smelled fields of flowers on sunny days through the shields. Thank Berehan. Their captives saw and smelled horror, tasted the filth of their horrid deeds on their tongues. As was proper.

Prince Ayperas dropped his charge before the throne. The wizard howled. An inky mass dripped from his eyes and seeped from his bald head. His spindly fingers clicked against the stone floor, eyes wild, seeking refuge. Daemons formed a ring, not that they had to block the man’s path. The fallen had no ability to escape or move even an inch further than Nysrog cared to allow. They showed him solidarity and for that he keened gratitude to them in the Song, his tone flourished thanks.

Grand Duke Ventir with his razor sharp fangs and dark gleaming eyes followed after the prince, dragging a woman by her hand across the floor. She kicked and screamed. Her plump hands grabbed at the floor and tried to stand. The Grand Duke ignored her. “I don’t belong here. There’s a mistake.” She wailed and thrashed all the way to the throne. Curled auburn hair plastered against her face dripped sweat. “I’m an Althean! I dance in the Song. I praise the gods.” She trembled staring wide eyed at the assembled host.

Nysrog put a hand on Mestamina. The lies. The lies cut deep. He swayed, vision blurring. She squeezed his hand and held it, tracing his tough skin. She knew how it hurt to carry this duty for the gods. Her fierce affection acted as a balm for Nysrog. “The Seers never lie. Put her in the pile over there.” A mass of offenders writhed in a circle on the floor near the windows. None of them had the power to move further than a few feet from where they cowered and whimpered. Nysrog stamped his foot and their cries became nothing more than a muffled buzz.

“Bring forth the fallen tones.” Nysrog struck the disc and the instrument knelled.

The Dai Ithran shrieked the moment Prince Ayperas hooked a claw into the wizard’s robe and dragged him closer to the base of the throne. Cloth tangled the scrawny Dai Ithran’s limbs as he struggled to break free. His head and hooked nose bounced off the rarin floor. The bony man wailed when Ayperas let go. “Your majesty, Barucho Rolavarre of Dai Ithra, stealer of tones has fallen from Berehan’s Grace.”

“No, wait! I can help stop the triune assault!” The Althean groaned the moment Barucho spoke. Nysrog examined the creature of light and saw recognition in her eyes. She knew this wizard and the triune he spoke of. “Please hear me!”

Barucho’s words cut off as soon as the weight struck the metal disc. The gong ripped sound from the fallen’s throat. The wizard’s skin dried and paled, more translucent than vellum paper. Wraith-like he scrabbled across the obsidian floor towards the pile of fallen. Barucho’s robes turned to ash, slaking away to expose the darkness inside him. A gaping void twisted in the fallen. The group cried and begged for mercy, shrinking away from Barucho. Ayperas’ booted foot halted the wizard who wriggled under the weight. Nysrog clicked his forked tongue and scratched behind his large horns. “There is nowhere to run or hide on Rariny little Barucho. The River Crucify I think.” Nysrog flicked his claws and the prince of Rariny hauled the wraith out of the throne room.

“Mestamina, my love.” She turned to him, an angel in demonic flesh. “Take the Althean to the questioner.” His queen gave a short nod and soon had the sobbing woman out of the king’s sight. Nysrog was no fool. Barucho had information and so did the Althean. And then like all the fallen, the two had a debt to pay to Aulei for their crimes. Nysrog was nothing if not thorough in weighing out justice. He tapped the mallet against his knee and motioned for the next fallen tone. He’d suss out the details for this triune.

Disclaimer – all images on this blog were found on Pixabay.com under the Creative Commons. Any copyright violation is completely unintentional, pulled from Pixabay and for many images, I contributed money to the posting artist.

Publishing: A Beginner’s Guide by Heather A Busse

Like many writers, I am a member of several online writing groups and before I went back to school, before I ever had anything published, and before I began earning my whole income from writing and editing I too had no clue about what it takes to “make it”.

Yep, long sentence ^ and that is a darling I might one day kill. But that isn’t the point of this post. No this post is about navigating the shit that is professional writing, editing, and publishing. You see, the rules change. It depends. Grab a pen and paper, or just bookmark this information, or ignore it. It’s your choice.

If you write fiction and want to get your work out there for readers to consume, you’ve probably asked about getting published. There are options and with each option a set of criteria or guidelines to know before you spend any money or sign any documents.

Traditional Publishing

With established traditional publishers, particularly the large publishing houses, writers must query through an agent. An agent will represent your work to the publishers they think will most likely want to purchase your book. This means gaining the attention of a professional agent.

Agents and publishers have criteria for what they’re looking for in a book. Some only handle romance. Some handle children’s books. Some handle a variety. It depends on the agent and the publisher. Consider the best fit for your book. Who is representing books like yours, who is publishing books like yours? Those are the agents you’ll want to query when your manuscript is completed.

Say you get an offer? You’ve created a story from stone, written the manuscript. You had writers and readers workshop it for you and provide feedback. You revised it and hired an editor. The editor polished the stone into a gleaming diamond. You queried agents and received rejections. You revised a bit more. Finally, an agent accepts your book and starts approaching publishers. One of them has an offer.

A traditional publisher will often have a contract where they buy the rights to your work, they receive the lion’s share of the sales, they have editors, artists, designers, and will work with a printer to produce your book. They may even have some marketing prepared. *Though a writer will have to help in that too. Some publishers provide an advance against the sales. This is money that they pay the author before the book sells. The amount varies from very little, none, or quite a lot. It depends on the projected success of your book. This advance goes back to the publisher once your book starts selling. If it doesn’t sell, the publisher is most often out the money. If it sells and sells well, the publisher gets the advance back and you get royalties. Your agent gets a percentage of those royalties. Payday for everyone!

That’s the basics for traditional publishing.

A few things of note. NEVER give a publisher money up front. That’s a vanity press. They’re not earning money from selling your book, but from you paying them. Same for agents. If they don’t successfully sell the book, they don’t make the money. This is subsequently why agents and publishers are so persnickety. They often go with what sells for their specific business focus.

Self Publication

With this method of publication, it’s easy for writers to take shortcuts and produce some of the worst writing readers have ever seen in print and on eBooks. I don’t recommend it. As a writer, you’re building a brand and reputation. Eventually, you may gain enough notice that famous publishers and writers see your work. If that happens and your catalog of titles was never revised or edited, they might not work with you. At the very least, they will poke some fun. Your work may become the talk of literary critiques in print and in the media. It may sweep all of the social media readers’ groups and wow have I seen readers and writers slam poorly written and edited books.

Write your manuscript. Have readers and writers provide feedback (for free), revise it, get an editor and pay them. You’ll thank yourself later. Make payment arrangements with editors who are willing to work with you. Some few are willing, but many are not as they’ve been shorted in the past. If you find a professional willing to help, create an arrangement and pay on time.

Hire an artist for the cover and someone who can format your book. You’ll want your book formatted for print and eBook. Many platforms like Ingram Spark and Amazon have eBook and print on demand options. You’ll want a full wrap cover for print. Hire an artist. It’s worth it. You will have art especially for your book, instead of obviously slapped together cut and paste public domain stock photos. Professionals have original art. Be a professional.

Market your book. Start talking with readers and writers about it. DON’T spam it. Network! Get your name out there on social media, do readings, join groups, create a blog. Talk with others, so people will know about your book. If you can afford it, definitely do some paid advertisement, but self promotion can help. Many writers attend conventions and sell books that way too.

The big thing about self publishing is owning your rights fully and also being fully responsible for all aspects. You’re mostly in control of schedules and production. I say mostly, because artists, editors and other people you may work with along the way have their own lives and schedules too.

At any rate, I hope this helps and best of luck!