Friday, June 24, 2011

Writing Prompt #22

22) World-building. It’s a given when you write fantasy that you’re creating a whole new world, but we all do world-building. Whether it’s creating the laws of magic that govern your fantasy world or describing the layout of your character’s apartment, world-building is a necessity. What’s your latest run-in with the world-building monster?

Here’s Mine:

I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of some world-building aspects. I love characters and I’m known for appreciating good dialogue over a richly detailed world, but creating the physical reality of my characters is a must, so I drew up a map.

My current fantasy wip takes place on a chain of volcanic islands. As a geologist, I love the idea. Tectonic plates sliding over a hot spot on the earth’s crust? Fabulous! (Think Hawaii) So with that in mind I drew up a series of islands that might have formed based on the fictional (but hopefully realistic) movements of a tectonic plate. I feel like I did pretty well with it and was proud of how it came out.

Enter the problem:
When world-building and plot collide.

Several of my ereyns (think of it like a clan, or a ruling House) have been warring for some time, everything from all out battles to skirmishes. The enmity between the ereyns shifts back and forth depending on who has the most power, the best resources and so on. My current plot involves a situation between 3 of the currently major ereyns.

Because of the islands’ formation, they stretch out in an arc rather than clustering, and I had it designed so that each ereyn mostly occupied their own island. The problem came when I took a hard look at why they were fighting, and why they would continue to fight rather than reaching something of an equilibrium.

Now, we all know people will fight for any number of stupid reasons, and I’m allowing for that, but I also wanted a strong foundation for ongoing conflict between the ereyns. I currently have them all enjoying roughly the same religious structure, but, if needed I could rewrite that and add religious conflict in. Due to the fact that they all originated from one large ereyn on the main island, however, a similar religion isn’t all that farfetched. And the geographic area is relatively small.

The idea that makes the most sense to me is conflict over resources. Considering the logistics of bringing war to another island, and in the end controlling resources you’ve taken, geography becomes an important factor. You’re much more likely to take over your neighbor’s land first. That’s not to say that you wouldn’t skip to the next island if they suddenly discovered a new ore that’s great for making weapons, or someone has the ideal timber for making ships (it is an island nation, afterall), but it needs to be realistic.

Since I want to have an ongoing triangle effect, and the movement of the characters through the geography demands a certain course due to plot events, the single island in a line chain no longer suits my story perfectly.

I made the decision that the volcanoes forming the islands could have vents, so that the placement of volcanoes would not have to be perfectly linear. Toward that end, the real world-building began. I took the map I had drawn, cut each of the islands out and started sliding them around like puzzle pieces to find a new configuration.

The final conclusion? I’ll have to change the shapes of some islands once they get moved, which upsets me a little because I’ve grown attached to them, but welcome to hands-on world-building. :)

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